Charleston Showed How Racism and Violence Are American Values

Charleston Showed How Racism and Violence Are American Values

Why we need to change NOW

It happened again. Another mass shooting with the same reaction from American politicians. Democrats say we need more gun control, and Republicans say the shooter was mentally unstable. Neither party is going to do anything. Just watch.

Both parties are incredibly flawed in their reasoning and actions. Democrats immediately jump to gun control, because they see it as the easiest option and think that removing guns will reduce violence. Which doesn't really work. And Republicans always say that people commit mass shootings, because they're mentally unstable. Which isn't always true.

Gun control is always brought up after a mass shooting. It seems like an easy solution to reducing gun violence, but it's not. Simply making less guns available on the free market doesn't work. If it did, Washington D.C. wouldn't have the highest gun crime rate in the nation, and Barbados wouldn't have a gun crime rate twice that of the United States.

In the wake of the Charleston attack, Obama said we need more gun control, because we "don't see murder on this kind of scale, with this kind of frequency" in foreign countries. That is not completely true. Take a look at this graph, taken from an Independent Journal Review's article on mass shootings.

It shows that out of 12 advanced nations, the United States is 6th in rampage shooting fatalities and fatal rampage shooting incidents per one million people. So while the United States had the most incidents from 2009-2013, it only had the 6th most per one million people. Also note how out of the 12 countries, all but the United States and Belgium have restrictive gun policies.

Look at these facts and statistics as well, gathered from various anti and pro gun-control websites, as well as school and government reports-

  • The NRA reported that the U.S. murder rate lowered 43% from 1991 through 2008, while at the same time, the number of privately owned firearms increased by 70-75 million.
  • Washington D.C. has some of the strictest gun control laws in the nation, and has the highest gun crime in the nation. Utah has some of the least strict gun control laws in the nation, and has the lowest gun crime rate in the nation
  • Guns are used 2.5 million times a year in self-defense, according to a Northwestern University study. The Brady Campaign reports that 31,537 people are killed from gun violence each year. That means that guns are used 79.27 times more often to save a life than to take one.
  • A University of North Carolina study showed that twice as many children are killed playing football in school than are murdered by guns.

Aside from any sides' facts and statistics however, people are obviously still using guns to murder. But why is that? America's love for violence has to be at fault.

Take Grand Theft Auto 5 (GTA 5) for instance. In the game, you have to shoot and kill people, steal cars, run from the police, and beat up and kill prostitutes to succeed. And people laugh when they play it. They think it's funny to run over people in the street. I have yet to meet a single person, including myself, who has not laughed while playing GTA 5. We know it's not real, but we still laugh and think it's funny when we kill people. Why? Because America loves violent video games. Call of Duty, Assassin's Creed, Destiny, Halo, and Grand Theft Auto are all among the most popular video games today, and every one of them requires you to kill. I personally enjoy some of those games, and don't think they are necessarily bad, but it just goes to show how much we love violence.

The problem doesn't just lie in our video games though. It lies in our movies as well.

Consider that 80% of the top 20 movies on the All-Time USA Box office chart feature violent deaths, murders, and/or gun violence. That's the stuff that excites us. If The Avengers featured a bunch of heroes fighting bad guys with karate, no one would see it. If Transformers fought the Decepticons with bows and arrows, no one would see it. Our thirst for an incredible amount of violence is why Iron Man has three movies and Hawkeye has zero.

We all love the movies how they are because we can, and frequently do, imagine ourselves in the characters' shoes. Who hasn't imagined themselves as Iron Man, Hulk, or Captain America after seeing them in action? Almost everyone does, because we think it'd be awesome to save the day by beating up or killing a bunch of bad guys. We think it would be cool to be those heroes and commit those acts of violence. We get an adrenaline rush just imagining it.

Now, take a look at this graph and just think about what it means.

This graph, taken from a 2013 MSNBC article, shows that six of the deadliest shootings in U.S. history happened in the last six years. Since 1949, 28% of the deadliest shootings have been in the last five years, and 92% have happened since 1980. Meanwhile, gun control in America has gotten more strict. Is that the cause? Maybe. Or is it more likely that America's increased love for violent movies and video games- which took off in the 80's and 90's- might have something to do with it?

This is where both the Democrats' and Republicans' arguments on guns fall apart. The amount of privately owned firearms from 1991 to 2008 increased by 70-75 million, while at the same time, America's gun control laws have become more restrictive. The murder rate decreased by 43%, but mass shootings have become more frequent. If gun control worked, then Americans would have bought less guns, and the amount of mass shootings would have gone down. If those 70-75 million guns reduced the murder rate, then why did mass shootings go up? There clearly is another factor or factors at play here.

Our violent video games and movies have become a reality for too many people. You can see violence any time you turn on your TV or X-Box. People who watch movies or play games like this their whole lives know violence all too well. It becomes normal to see someone or something getting shot and killed in a movie. It becomes a reality. People like to imagine themselves or imitate what they see on their TV. It's why anime and comic-con conventions are so big and why superhero costumes and sports jerseys are so popular. We love imitating what we see on TV. If people watched shows and movies and played video games with little violence, where would they find something to model their violence off of?

I'm not saying that video games are necessarily the cause for America's violence. I understand studies show that they don't make people more violent. I'm just using them to show how much more America has come to love violence, and that if someone is already violent in nature, they could possibly use video games or movies as something to model their violent outbursts on.

Should we ban those video games and movies? No. They are fun and don't always have a negative effect on people, and we have the right to enjoy them. But should we, as Americans, try to pursue a values change? Should we try to reduce our love of violence? Should we try to make our violent desires less of a reality? I don't know how anyone can say no.

Speaking of things we need to change...

America has a problem with this.

Look, the Confederate Flag is a symbol of hate and racism. Period. The Confederate States of America formed and failed because they were relentless in maintaining a country that lived off of enslaving other human beings. Does the Confederate Flag stand for states' rights and a way of life outside of slavery? Sure. Are the majority of people who fly it racist? Probably not. But it's like the Nazi flag. The swastika itself is not a racist symbol, as it actually means "good fortune" or "well being" in Sanskrit. But it was ruined by racists, and we don't use it anymore because of the atrocities of Nazi Germany. Like the Confederate States, Nazi Germany had some good aspects in their culture, as they made great technological and medical advancements that changed the world, but blatant hate and racism overshadows everything else.

"But the flag represents states' rights!" Yeah, so does this one...

"It represents our way of life!"

Ok, but do you know what flag represented the South's way of life before the Confederate Flag? Yeahhh. This one (minus a few stars though, of course)...

The American Flag has stood for terrible things in its past, but we as a country have realized our mistakes and are doing our best to make up for them. We are constantly changing our values to reflect a society where everyone is equal. And we still do have problems. You can still hear the "n-word" in almost every rap song. We still define each other by the color of our skin or the continent where our ancestors came from, instead of just calling everyone an American. But we as a society have the ability to quickly move on and make up for our past problems.

Now, I feel like greatly reducing mass shootings can be easy. In terms of laws, maybe we should look into background checks. If you're mentally stable and aren't a criminal, your right to own a gun is not infringed upon. Proper background checks only take about 2-3 days. If that's what it takes to keep guns out of the hands of people who would want to harm others, then I think that sounds like a fair sacrifice to me. If I can help prevent another Sandy Hook or Charleston shooting by waiting three days to buy a gun, then sign me up.

Look, if your kids are doing this shit in your back yard, don't buy them a hand gun for their 21st birthday! Whether they have a mental illness or not, something is clearly wrong with them.

If you kid is exhibiting behaviors like this, chances are he or she has some serious issues. I don't get it. It seems like mass shooting after mass shooting, the gun itself was legal, but it was from a parents' gun safe or in Dylann Roof's case, was bought for him by his dad. If your kid has issues, don't tell them the password to your gun safe. Don't buy them a gun. If parents were more responsible in situations like this, I guarantee we would have way less mass shootings in America.

Let's wrap this up. Racism and violence are not one-way streets. There are racists in all races and creeds in America. If we foster our youth to understand that racism is wrong, that the Confederate Flag is a symbol of hate and racism, then maybe we'd have less Dylann Roof's in America. If we stop using racially-driven words and stop worshiping the racist symbol that is the Confederate Flag today, then maybe we could have a little less racism tomorrow.

If you want to watch and play violent movies and video games, have fun. But just try to include something else except violence in your lives or your kids' lives. Binge watch Planet Earth on Netflix with your friends. Play a board game with your family. Go on a hike. Just do something calm and relaxing. Our love for violence and support for racist symbols has gone too far. Enough is enough. It is time to change.

Cover Image Credit: Alan Henry

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Whether Trump Said 'Shithole' Or 'Shithouse' Is Completely Irrelevant

Either word would have a racist connotation.

It is time for everyone to stop beating around the bush and face the music. The President of the United States is racist. After his statement where he called Haiti, El Salvador, and African nations shithole countries, it could not be more blatantly obvious that he views anyone that is not white as inferior. Even though Trump is shameless about his racism, his supporters continue to find a way to defend him until the very end.

The version of Trump’s words from the immigration meeting that are currently circulating is that he actually said shithouse countries and not shithole countries. Supposedly, a shithouse country refers to a country where you would have to walk outside to use an outhouse. This is being described as a non-racist word because it is being used to describe the inadequate plumbing in those nations. However, the use of either one of those words would further prove that Trump is a racist.

Calling El Salvador a shithole or shithouse country both have the same connotation of it being a country that is lesser than the United States. Even if Trump had said shithouse, it does not magically make him a non-racist person because his intention of using that word would not have been to discuss the state of plumbing in El Salvador but rather to emphasize his belief that the United States is far too good for any immigrants from those countries.

Americans are fixated on the fact that Trump used profanity in the meeting and not on the fact that the person leading our country is making decisions over immigration based solely on his own ignorant perceptions of people of color. He has only ever had negative comments to make when talking about countries where the citizens are mostly people of color.

In the same meeting where Trump said shithole countries, he mentioned that the United States should instead be bringing in immigrants from Norway, which is a mostly white country. Why is immigration suddenly acceptable when the immigrants that would be coming are white? Would Trump be up in arms over white immigrants wanting a path to citizenship? Of course not because he only sees white people as being an asset to the nation. Trump said that “the people of Norway work very hard,” as if Haitians, Salvadorans, and Africans are not hardworking. In fact, without Salvadorans, Haitians, and Hondurans in the U.S. labor force, the United States would lose $164 billion in gross domestic product over the next decade. Not only that, but the Los Angeles Times found that “of the 1.4 million [sub-Saharan African immigrants] who are 25 and older, 41% have a bachelor’s degree, compared with 30% of all immigrants and 32% of the U.S.-born population. Of the 19,000 U.S. immigrants from Norway — a country Trump reportedly told lawmakers is a good source of immigrants — 38% have college educations.”

The United States needs to stop ignoring the true issue at hand. The President cursing while in a meeting with lawmakers should not be the focus when the message he wanted to convey through his curse words was that the United States should only accept white people with open arms because any country with citizens that are mostly people of color are automatically shitholes.

Cover Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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5 Decades Later, Is Dr. King's Dream Still Alive?

Let's set aside our differences and live in harmony.

“Ebony and Ivory live together in perfect harmony Side by side on my piano keyboard, oh Lord why don't we?” For the past few days, this song has been playing to in my head and I am currently listening to it as I write this. When we listen to music time after time we dive deeper into the song to find the meaning. Whether it is Logic’s "1-800-273-8255 " — which, after researching, we learn is the number for the National Suicide Prevention Hotline and now know this song was a way for Logic to reach out and help — or Alessia Cara’s "Scars to Your Beautiful" — which is about body image and how everyone is beautiful, also contributes to a deep meaning argument.

Songs all have meaning and the meanings provided are something that could be beneficial to each and every one of us. Some songs make us emotional and some of them make us stop and think. I can hear a song and I’ll sit there and just wonder what did I just listen to. Obviously, when I heard the song “Ebony and Ivory ” for the first time I knew it was about living in a world where we can both get along but I didn’t know who wrote it or when it was written. It had meaning to me and that while there are times we might struggle to get along we must always fight to live together in perfect harmony.

This song was written and performed in 1982 by Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder, who without a doubt are two of the best songwriters and singers of the 20th century. It is a number one single but it also tackles a huge issue at the time and something still huge in our time and society.

Recently we observed Martin Luther King Jr. Day which is a day where we remember a leader of the Civil Rights Movement who worked for everyone to get along. With this song being written twenty years after MLK’s March on Washington it can be stated that this song went a long way. While it was common to sing with other famous artists and it still is, it might not have been as common for two people to sing about an issue such as race especially when it was in the 1980s.

It has been more than 50 years since the March on Washington and more than 60 years since the beginning of the Civil Rights Movement. So much has been accomplished since that time but I feel there are times where everything we work for isn’t shown. Recently my university witnessed one of our own say a racial slur on one of her social networks. The University of Alabama responded by expelling her. While this event is still fresh in my mind I can't help but think about how this wasn’t the dream MLK had in mind. I know it is going to be difficult for everyone to get along but we need to understand that there is a time and place for saying some things and some things aren’t worth mentioning.

I strongly urge everyone to go listen to this song by Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder. I have been blessed enough to have friends from all backgrounds and being able to see two famous musicians make beautiful music makes me feel even better. Being able to see something like this continues to give me hope for the future.

Cover Image Credit: YouTube

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