Just a few thoughts here, which are not intended to be scientific. These are just some musings that I’ve put together as a result of my experience with the working class, of which I am proudly a part.
There are a few commonalities of all the people committing gun violence against large groups of people: they are mostly white, male, young and working class.
It’s time for us to finally come to grips with the fact that the capitalistic thinking of this “free market” world, in which the only value a human being has is directly related to her/his market value, is lethal. If a person’s self-worth is hinged on how much money and power they have, or even how much money their work can generate for someone else, then you can expect those who have neither money or power to react negatively.
Sometimes, all working-class white people “have” is their whiteness. They don’t have jobs. They don’t have enriching school environments. They don’t have secure housing. They don’t have adequate health care. But they do have whiteness, and at least that’s better than the people of color in the same economic lot. Why is that better? Because our country’s system of white supremacy says so.
White supremacy isn’t guys running around in white hoods in the dead of night, though that certainly is an outcropping. Instead, white supremacy is “…an historically-based, institutionally perpetuated system of exploitation and oppression of continents, nations and peoples of color by white peoples and nations of the European continent, for the purpose of maintaining and defending systems of wealth, power and privilege,” as Challenging White Supremacy Workshop puts it.
It’s easy to see this simply as an analysis of historical events like Manifest Destiny-inspired expansionist, imperialist policy or even the slave trade. But the fact remains that there is a certain segment of our population the system always supports, and most of us ain’t it. Additionally, the more “respectable” a sub-sector of our population becomes, the more it has adopted the language, attitudes and social morays of oppression. Sometimes it’s because of self-preservation. Sometimes it’s for more cynical reasons.
Not every light-skinned person was considered “white” in our country’s history. From the beginnings of this country’s formation, there were stark, definite class divisions, most evident in the indentured servitude class. But as stronger bonds between Native Americans, black slaves and light-skinned indentured servants began to form, the elites, fearing overthrow, began to confer more and more benefits under color of law on those lighter, “Christian” workers.
This country’s codification of rights for lighter-skinned people is as American as apple pie. We have always been a nation of people who see “success” as those rights afforded to those who are more white, more moneyed, more “accomplished.”
White supremacy is also compounded by the fact that property and rights were also conferred upon who was elite and MALE. We know about this misogyny. We know about the suffrage movement, about the impact of objectification and pornography, about disparate pay rates, etc. It’s long been analyzed that being the alpha male is greatly valued in this society. I don’t have to tell you that.
Capitalism requires a survival-of-the-fittest mindset. It is an economic system built of bullying the weakest and most resource-poor among us. Your value is directly proportional to how much wealth, power and status you have. And if you’re not one of these elites, you don’t even get to make autonomous decisions for your taxes, community and even your body: everything has to have a profit motive. That includes the systems of privatization of our commons, our schools, our roadways and water. That which we value, that which we own collectively ultimately has no value if it cannot be commoditized.
When you consider the plight of our white working-class, you begin to understand the death struggle.
Little wonder, then, that human beings are scratching and clawing for relevance and recognition. That there are guns involved is incidental. And we can regulate the sale and registration of guns all day long, but so long as human beings have no value unless it’s relative to capitalism, we will continue to witness mass murders in our public spaces.
I expect people to twist my words and try to extract a meaning here that doesn’t exist. Let me be clear: I am for sensible regulations on gun purchasing and ownership that don’t impinge on our Second Amendment rights. But by focusing only on “gun rights,” we are conveniently sidestepping the impact of capitalism on the way we interact with each other. And let’s not forget who stands to gain from the strife over gun regulation: the munitions industry.
When are we going to focus on who actually starts the violence? It is violent to be poor. It is violent to be under-educated. It is violent to experience police brutality and militarized police. It is violent to watch your children suffer and starve. It is violent to face foreclosure. It is violent to be pink-slipped while the company opens factories overseas. It is violent for society’s elites to push aside the needs and articulated demands of your community and decide in favor of their neoliberal pals’ profit motive.
How much are human beings supposed to take? Isn’t it time for another way?