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PORTSIDE  August 2012, Week 1

PORTSIDE August 2012, Week 1

Subject:

Not Senseless, Not Random: The Deadly Mix of Race, Guns & Madness

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Date:

Mon, 6 Aug 2012 21:31:43 -0400

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Not Senseless, Not Random: The Deadly Mix of Race, Guns
& Madness

by Rinku Sen

ColorLines August 6 2012

http://colorlines.com/archives/2012/08/how_long_before_islamophobias_toxic_spread_destroys_america.html

It could be terrorism, but we don't yet know. It could
be someone who has a beef with Sikhs. It's too early to
talk about gun control. These statements ran in a
continuous loop through my head yesterday, even when I
wasn't watching coverage of the mass shooting at an
active gurdwara in a suburb of Milwaukee. Throughout
the day, the hollowness in my solar plexus signaled
grief and the tightness in my throat signaled panic,
and I felt deep, deep resistance to the notion of
saying anything about it. What is there to say that
isn't a cliche?

Details are going to emerge in the coming days, but I
already know what they'll amount to. A white man, in
his 40's, nursing resentment over 9/11 for more than a
decade, planned for a long time to kill some "enemies."
The guns will turn out to be legally acquired, or if
not, so accessible as to make the law meaningless. The
man will turn out to be mad. In the debate, people will
argue that the cause is racism...no, it's gun
control...no, it's mental health. It is impossible for
us to navigate the deadly tangle of all three.

The Sikh community has been thrown into high visibility
under the saddest possible circumstances. Sikhs are
generally of Indian origin, practicing a monotheistic
religion in temples called gurdwaras since the 16th
century. Sikhism is not a sect of Hinduism or Islam.
Sikhs grow their hair as a signal of their devotion to
God.* The religion emphasizes unity and peace among all
people.

I've known many Sikhs, though there are only 750,000 in
the U.S. I'm often struck by how devout and considerate
they are, regardless of age or gender. I have learned a
lot by following the Sikh Coalition, as well as United
Sikhs and the Sikh Activist Network. Sikhs have been a
prime target for racist violence since 9/11, and this
is not the first murder of a Sikh by a misinformed,
angry white man. Earlier this year, 92 members of
Congress pressed the FBI to start counting hate crimes
against Sikhs.

Only CNN attempted continuous coverage yesterday, and
I'm grateful that they tried. Yet that coverage was so
generally devoid of Sikh voices that it just reminded
me how ill- equipped the media are. The "expert" they
turned to most often was the sincere but inadequate
Eric Marrapodi of CNN's Belief Blog. He kept saying
that Sikhs were not Muslims, but were often mistaken
for Muslims and "unfairly targeted." The first time he
said it, I thought, wow, that's unfortunate phrasing
and he'll stop using it after he realizes or someone
points out the implication that Muslims can be "fairly"
targeted. But no one ever got a clue. Islamaphobia was
never mentioned, much less condemned for the ignorance
and violence that it spreads.

Murderous insanity can infect any community, and maybe
that leads people to call these senseless acts of
random violence. But of course they are neither
senseless nor random, and the vast majority of such
incidents here involve white men. Racism holds a
terrible logic, for a concept with no grounding
whatsoever in science or morality, yet too many white
people don't see any patterns.

I think about the young woman who taught me to speak
English in a tiny rural schoolhouse, the widow who gave
me my first peanut butter and jelly sandwich and the
father of my best friend who was so kind to me while I
was growing up. Yesterday, did they quietly hope that
the shooter wasn't one of theirs? Probably not, even
though the link between violence, masculinity and
whiteness is well-established. White men seem to be in
deep crisis, and white people would do well to deal
with it, as Tim Wise points out again and again. I
implore of my white friends, when your nutty uncle or
classmate goes off about some set of foreigners, you
must make a fuss, cause a family crisis, become
unpopular, speak up. We cannot do this for you.

I despair for our country on days like these. How long
before paranoia and fear, recast in the language of
moral fortitude (stand your ground!), cut too deeply
into the beautiful American friendliness,
open-mindedness, and generosity that I have grown up
with? How many Trayvon Martins, Brisenia Floreses and
Balbir Singh Sodhis must there be before white folks
question whether suspicion of brown skin is justified?
Must I arm my mother and send her to the shooting range
if she wants to wear a sari in public? In two weeks, 20
families have lost a beloved member. Are we going to
have 20 more every month for the foreseeable future?

There are things we need to do.

We must limit gun access. Gun proponents recite "guns
don't kill people, people kill people" as fluently as
immigration opponents cry out "illegal means illegal."
Gary Younge pointed out on July 20, after Aurora, that
it's never a good time to talk about gun control in
this country, and people are dying while we refuse to
act. That has to change.

Americans need a real education about the world. If our
public schools aren't going to provide it, then it
needs to take place on TV, in churches, in the
newspaper.

We need to make sure that the mental health system is
well funded and progressive enough to provide support
wherever it is needed.

But none of that will be likely unless, in our grief
and fear, we also muster up clarity and outrage. Right
now - before the public debate is recaptured by
questions of which politician said what to whom.

*A previous version of this post incorrectly suggested
that only Sikh men grow their hair to show devotion to
God.

[Rinku Sen is the President and Executive Director of
the Applied Research Center (ARC) and Publisher of
Colorlines.com.

A leading figure in the racial justice movement for the
last twenty years, Rinku has positioned ARC as the
movement's national home for media, research and
activism. She has extensive practical experience on the
ground, with expertise in race, feminism, immigration,
economic justice, philanthropy and community
organizing. Over the course of her career, Rinku has
woven together journalism and organizing to further
social change.

Rinku is the Vice Chair of the Schott Foundation for
Public Education, and is a Boardmember of the
Philanthropic Initiative for Racial Equity. She is the
Chair of the Media Consortium and sits on the boards
for Restaurant Opportunities Center-United and Working
America. Additionally, she is a Prime Movers fellow
through the Hunt Alternatives Fund.

Rinku is a highly sought-after speaker on a broad range
of racial justice topics. She is the author of The
Accidental American: Immigration and Citizenship in the
Age of Globalization and Stir It Up: Lessons in
Community Organizing. Rinku has regular columns at
Colorlines, the Huffington Post, and Jack and Jill
Politics. Additionally, her commentary and work has
been featured in Forbes, The San Francisco Chronicle,
Market Watch, International Business Times,
TomPaine.com, AlterNet, Racialicious, The Root, the
Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder, and the Windy City Times,
among other media outlets.]

==========

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on the left that will help them to interpret the world
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