The useless, predictable tragedy that occurred 352 miles southwest of Dallas County mesmerized and then terrified us. The jolting images of those hope-filled faces caused our hearts to drop. The news that some of these same children were unrecognizable caused our hearts to fail.
There are a million and one forums of discussion around this subject. Since Linda Lydia asked Hailee and me to speak to the NAACP Youth Council, we decided to examine gun violence with a concentration on race and race relations.
For us, the question is whether substantive gun laws will follow the latest sensational slaughter. This issue deserves volumes, but we will us start with some relative facts about guns and race.
Nationally, Eighty-four percent of gun owners are white. This data was provided as a basis for the May 25th NPR news article, whose title immediately drew attention. “While the gun control debate amplifies, the over-whelming emotion in Uvalde is grief.”
The American National Election Study (ANES) from 2012 says that whites make up 63 percent of the U.S. population. As a result, their representation among gun owners is higher than their share of the general population by more than 20%.
Conversely, and unfortunately, Blacks make up 13% of the American population but 39% of the nation’s incarcerated persons.
While that comparison may seem insignificant, diving deeper into the numbers will help you understand our reasoning.
“Polls show that whites also make up the majority of those who oppose stricter gun regulations. In a July 2015 Pew poll, for instance, 57 percent of whites said it was more important “to protect the right of Americans to own guns” than to “control gun ownership.” Among blacks and Hispanics, that number was just 24 percent.”
Although common national stereotypes dictate that blacks and browns are more prone to violence, three-fourths of minorities agree that gun control is a factor that ranks highest. The perception that Black and Brown males are predominantly gun-wielding and dangerous is a tool used by gun lobbyists and sales agents to create a sense of urgency. Crimes against person are more about proximity than race in every instance.
In their logic, “law-abiding” whites need guns to protect them against “legions” of black and brown criminals. When you say gun control to this segment of Whites, immediately imagine facing non-white predators without firearms and ammunition. And for them, that’s a harrowing thought. The NPR piece went further.
“Research finds that support for gun rights is strongest among whites who are racially prejudiced. In a study conducted by Kerry O’Brien and colleagues using data from the ANES, “racial resentment,” a common measure of racial prejudice, is correlated with both gun ownership and opposition to gun control.
Similarly, those who score high on racial resentment are 25 percent less likely to support “making it more difficult to buy a gun” than whites who score low.”
As we have watched the level of “White resentment” rise in the Trump Era, we can only conclude that the likelihood of severe gun control laws are far from reality.
We have hardly evolved as a nation since the 2012 Sandy Hook event that preceded Uvalde. The only real difference in a decade is that we traded the beautiful photos of innocent white children for beautiful photos of brown children.
The inconsistencies and garbled explanations from Uvalde, especially among law enforcement officials, are troubling. The insidious, conspiracy-loving, realist side of us still asks questions.
If the Robb Elementery children had been in a Highland Park elementary school, would the result have been the same? Would there have been such a delay? The two groups only lived 352 miles apart, but the value gap is historical and wide. Dr. Eddie Glaude, who wrote a book describing America’s value gap on race, suggests our only hope regarding gun laws, social justice, and social equity.
“The task at hand is not about securing the goodness of the American Idea or about perfecting the union. It is about according dignity and standing to all Americans no matter the color of their skin.” Apparently, perfecting a union that was imperfect in its framing trumps dignity and standing for all Americans.
So to answer your question. No, we do not believe any substantive, life-saving legislation will come soon. We could be wrong. We pray that we are! But America’s race problem and guns appear to be inextricable.
Hailee Hall, NAACP Youth Council Region VI Youth Representative contributed to this story.
Vincent L. Hall is an author, activist, and an award-winning columnist.