Monday, 11 July 2016

American Tragedy

Once again we are sat watching a tragedy unfold in America. I’ve lost count of the amount of times that we have had the conversation around gun laws, gun control and the ‘right to bear arms’ that is the crutch upon which the powerful gun lobbies prop their feeble arguments. I don’t understand that mentality, but that’s not really what this blog is about.

It’s about Black Lives Matter, and their campaign. And, the concurrent ‘all lives matter.’ This is how I saw it explained earlier:

Image Source: facebook.com

I am not Black, obviously, and I don’t live in America, so I’m not able to comment with any degree of clarity. This isn’t about judgement, it’s about attempting (in an albeit clumsy manner) to show my support and, admittedly limited, understanding. And that is surely what all campaigns like this want? Understanding and unity?

I read somewhere that if you have to question the Black Lives Matter campaign, then you are part of the problem. A sort of deeply ingrained, almost subliminal racism that is not consciously acknowledged, but is reinforced by society at large. I mean, think about it; who plays the ‘baddies’ in movies and TV shows? Upper-class British men, and Black American men. But, the difference is, we don’t have the gun culture that America clings on to, like a barnacle on the side of a sinking ship.

Image Source: twitter.com

Popular culture creates and reinforces the stereotype; rappers and R&B stars have, historically, bragged about guns, and being thugs and gangsters (I can’t bring myself to type that with an ‘a’); so are the stars reflecting society, or is society reflecting the stars? I touched on this issue in a previous blog. When we are bombarded with these images on a regular basis, we become inured to them, and then we accept them as truth. We need to actively and critically look beyond the media representations and determine the real truth, not the “truth” that sells newspapers.

The shooting of Philando Castile is truly shocking: there was an American commentator on the news on Friday, questioning the video evidence, trying to argue that “we don’t know what he was reaching for as we only have the testimony of the woman next to him that he was reaching for his ID and License.” This commentator said that police only fire when they believe that there is an immediate risk to life, their own or others. So, he said, this officer must have believed that Castile was reaching for his gun, despite his girlfriend clearly saying that he had informed the officer about the firearm, and that he was retrieving his documentation as requested.

This is the kind of institutional racism that is causing the problem; the fact that a Black man, who owns a gun, immediately poses a threat. Because it’s a popular culture image that we are fed, day in and day out. I would argue, as I did previously, that if we want to reform society, it has to start with our cultural experience. They say that ‘art reflects life’, but I think it’s the other way around, and that life reflects popular culture. How else to explain the emergence (pardon the term) of the vajazzle?

Maybe I’m wrong; I have never been a victim of racism, or discrimination. I have never been arrested, unfairly or otherwise; and I live in a country that has markedly lower levels of gun crime. I’m lucky, but it shouldn’t be down to luck. Every person deserves to be treated fairly, and sadly, many aren’t. Many are prejudged before they can be judged. And that is wrong.


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