Gun control is not enough: The white power status quo is killing us

Gun control is not enough: The white power status quo is killing us
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A 22-year-old white man in Colorado Springs walked into an LGBT-plus nightclub over the weekend and opened fire. Anderson Lee Aldrich killed five and wounded 25 more before a patron subdued him. The shooter survived and was indicted on Monday on five counts of murder as well as hate crimes charges.

But others aren’t waiting around. Critics say that a young white man doesn’t bring an AR-15-style semiautomatic weapon, a handgun and extra rounds of ammunition into an LGBT-plus venue, located in a relatively conservative city, if he doesn’t hate the people in it.

Others say the shooting is an example of what experts sometimes call “stochastic terrorism” or the incitement of violence against an individual or group. The Editorial Board’s Rod Graham put it this way:

If a group of people hear from Republican authority figures and thought leaders that Democrats are satanic pedophiles, somebody is going to eventually grab a hammer and march over to the residence of their local Democratic representative.

READ MORE: Update: Suspect named in mass shooting at Colorado gay nightclub that killed at least five

Rod was referring to the recent attack of Paul Pelosi, the spouse of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. The assault has been described as an attempted assassination. I think I can speak for Rod when I say we can swap out “Democratic representative” for any minority group, like the LGBT-plus community, and come to the same conclusion.

I agree with all the above, but I want to add an observation.

When we talk about “hate crimes” and “stochastic terrorism,” we should bear in mine an underlying assumption, and by bearing it in mind, we can see that the challenge before us requires solutions far greater than demanding that Republican rhetoric, which inspired Aldrich to murder, be toned down. That assumption is twofold.

One, that the status quo – what’s “normal” – is politically neutral.

READ MORE: White liberals are not free – but they are protected by white power

Two, that the status quo is nonviolent.

It is neither.

Political violence is normal

The way things are is not just the way things are. It’s a product of politics and history, all the choices made before us, and by us, coalescing into a knowable moment that we experience as the now.

The politics of the past is the politics of the present, just as the politics of the present will be the politics of the future. This is the true way of things. To deny this is to deny our humanity. To deny this is to run away from the freedom of making choices that suit us collectively. It’s to escape the responsibility of having made them.

The status quo is not politically neutral.

Neither is it politically nonviolent.

Hard as it is to say, violence is a force that shapes our norms. Some violence we deem legitimate, as when police keep the peace. Others we deem illegitimate, as when criminals breach the peace. But both shape what’s “normal.” The difference is the degree of acceptability.

However, because the status quo is political, and the status quo is shaped by violence, legitimate and illegitimate, political violence is an expression of the status quo. And given that white power (rule by heterosexual, Christian, preferably rich, white men) is the status quo, political violence is expression of white power. Put another way:

• The status quo (what’s normal) is white power.

• White power is political violence.

• Political violence is normal.

Anderson Lee Aldrich committed an act of political violence.

It’s going to take more than gun control to address that.

One way or another, we have, and everyone before us has, decided that one kind of violence is good while the other kind is bad. These choices are political. They were made in a political context. Their consequences, which we all live with unawares, are political, too.

To deny the politics of these choices is to deny the cause and effect of history – to ignore the material consequences that come with decision-making. To deny that is to throw up our hands and say whatever has happened and is going to happen is in God’s hands.

That’s what most of us do.

Running from freedom

Political violence is an expression of the status quo – of white power, of rule by straight white (and rich) men. Whether we think it’s good (police keeping the peace) or bad (criminals breaching the peace), it’s political violence. Why, then, does political violence surprise us?

I think there’s more going on than the natural horror of witnessing bloodshed – more than the despair at witnessing bloodshed over and over, as we have for the past 20 years. I think it’s about expectations.

And who has them.

When something is working for you, you don’t think about it. That it’s working is what’s expected. But when it fails to work, indeed harms you, that’s surprising, maybe even shocking. It’s supposed to work!

White power works for white people (who are most people in America). We never think about it. We don’t have to. It works! But occasionally, the political violence that is white power doesn’t work. It harms us, kills us! It causes young white men to go on rampages.

Yet we continue to be surprised. We continue to be, because we – meaning white people – won’t rethink the problem. We won’t make different political choices. We won’t even recognize, and admit, that we have already made choices. We won’t, because white power works. We think political violence can’t be a feature. It must be a bug!

It’s not a bug. Indeed, the question isn’t whether there is or isn’t political violence. (Political violence is the force that shapes our norms.) The question is how much. The answer is a lot. We tolerate political violence – heaps of corpses – because that’s easier than rethinking political choices that go into maintaining white power.

If we admitted responsibility, we’d have to do something.

White power normally works, though.

So we don’t.

By refusing to accept that we (white people) have already made choices that together produce the status quo, we are denying our humanity. We are running from freedom. We rather throw up our hands and say whatever has and is going to be is in God’s hands.

But the choice is ours.

Not God’s.

READ MORE: White-power violence inevitably comes for 'respectable' white people

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