Guns and White Male Privilege

AR-15‘White Male Privilege’ and Other Themes of Gun Culture is the title of a recent post by James Fallows on his blog for The Atlantic.  He has been writing quite a number of pieces about guns in the U.S. featuring not only his own thoughts but responses (of all kinds) from readers. (All the entries are worth reading.)  This paragraph from one of his readers especially caught my attention because of the connection it makes between U.S. gun culture and white male privilege:

The reason guns cannot be regulated in the USA is because of the violence, not in spite of it. The violence is necessary to maintain the fear, and the fear is necessary to maintain white male privilege. The idea that white men can and do shoot people causes every interaction with a white man to carry a tinge of threat: If you disrespect him, or merely fail to please him enough, he just might explode. When they say that two dozen dead children are the price we pay for freedom, what they mean is that they are willing to pay that price to preserve white male privilege. As recent events demonstrate, white male privilege is the preeminent policy goal for them, outweighing even honor, truth, and democracy. That they pursue it through terrorism should not be surprising; it was ever thus. That they cannot admit their true goal, even to themselves, is a side-effect of the defeat of the Confederacy. They cannot bear to be called a “racist” because to them, that term evokes “loser.” When the South lost, we tied the shame of defeat to the cause of racism, hoping to kill it. Instead, it appears we have killed shame.

“…because of violence not in spite of it.”  That takes my breath away.  But even more breath-taking is the connection to white male culture: “When they say that two dozen dead children are the price we pay for freedom, what they mean is that they are willing to pay that price to preserve white male privilege.” 

But wait, I think, and no doubt you do, too. Aren’t guns at least as prevalent in non-White communities across America? Isn’t the toll of gun deaths even higher? Yes, true and true.

But how did that come about? Isn’t the prevalence of guns also in non-White hands best seen as largely a defensive reaction against decades/centuries of White violence against non-Whites in the U.S.?  And now that we have built a cross-race culture of guns, the resultant fears unleashed on all sides can be (and are!) used to justify even more guns — even in schools.

And notice that the N.R.A. is a White organization through and through in its leadership.


About Doug Bennett

Doug Bennett is Emeritus President and Professor of Politics at Earlham College. He has a wife, Ellen, and two sons, Tommy (born 1984) and Robbie (born 2003).
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