In the U.S., a cruel indifference to life — especially the lives of Black people — has normalized what should rightly be understood as a crisis of gun violence, which endangers a disproportionate number of members of the Black community. According to the Department of Justice, in fact, “U.S. residents are 128 times more likely to be killed by everyday gun violence than by international terrorism; Black people specifically are 500 times more likely to die this way.”
Compounding this threat, white nationalism and other forms of white supremacy have continued to inspire racialized shootings targeting communities of color. These hate crimes, too, have all too often been normalized as just another part of the country’s broader epidemic of gun violence. According to an NBC News report, Black Americans “have been the most frequent victims of hate crime in every tally of bias incidents generated since the FBI began collecting such data in the early 1990s.” Anti-Black hate crimes rose nearly 40% in 2020, compared to 2019, according to a CNBC report. Many of these hate crimes involve firearms, and many of these horrific incidents have results in scars — physical, psychological, and spiritual — that will forever affect individuals, families, and even entire communities.
Hate crimes and acts of violent extremism have a toxic influence on the targeted communities. This is true not only for the most immediate victim of a particular crime, but also for that person’s entire community. As many experts on violent extremism have attested, that is the very purpose of these acts: to threaten, to intimidate, and to terrorize. The message, sent not only to the individual victim but to every member of a historically vulnerable community, is one of fear and hatred. And like all forms of terrorism, it tears apart the social fabric that a democracy cannot exist without.
No one should be afraid to walk down the street, enter their place of worship, or otherwise gather with members of their community out of fear that they will be gunned down by a white supremacist. No one should wonder if a stray bullet will turn a normal errand into an unfathomable tragedy. Yet it is increasingly common for massed groups of heavily armed individuals to engage in “open carry” by invading public spaces occupied by unarmed members of the community. The basic human right to live free from fear is directly threatened when hate-fueled individuals have easy access to firearms. For the sake of Constitution, the rule of law, civil rights, and racial justice, it is time for political leaders to act.