Please go to Feminist Wire to read entire piece (this is the conclusion of piece)
For these groups, race and racism is peripheral at best, but more likely a superfluous issue. For these groups, Black innocence and therefore Black Death remains out-of-focus, if not unworthy of attention. To all too many, Black innocence is illegible and therefore Black Death and humanity are invisible and impossible, thwarting media coverage, national mourning, and widespread mobilization.
The denied innocence/criminalization of Black bodies is commonplace and helps us understand the silence from gun rights activists groups. “African-Americans are not allowed such protections by the White Gaze. They are viewed as guilty until proven innocent, a criminal Other who is a priori categorized as ‘suspicious’ and ‘dangerous,’ writes Chauncey Vega. “While formal racism and Jim and Jane Crow were shattered and defeated by the Black Freedom Struggle, this ugly cloud continues to hover over the United States, some 400 years after the first Black slaves were brought to the country.” The hundreds dead in Chicago and the killing of Trayvon Martin lead to stories that seemingly turn victims into criminals; even those not criminalized are imagined as complicit and culpable for their own death. Whether citing past arrests, suspensions, drug use, clothing choices, or attitude, whether arguing that they should have known better than to go to strangers’ houses late at night or they should guard against prejudiced whites, the presumption of Black guilt shapes national conversations about gun violence. This group cannot be saved or helped. Such narratives are commonplace within the media, from the Right, from 2nd Amendment “birthers,” from defense legal teams, and countless others. Yet, the failure of liberals and gun-right advocates to spotlight these instances, to focus on race
As Eric Mann notes, “[d]eep in the white American psyche” rests the controlling belief and script that sees “the impossibility of Black innocence” (Mann 2013). This has been all too clear in the last 6 months (and beyond). From the “exoneration” of George Zimmerman and the criminalization of Trayvon Martin to the 20-year sentence of Marissa Alexander, Black innocence is both imagined and realized as a contradiction in terms. From the efforts to blame (and ignore) gun violence on single-mothers, welfare, and criminality in Chicago to the erasure of Black Death in Detroit, Baltimore, and New Orleans, Black innocence remains an unfulfilled promise in a post-civil rights, post-racial America. From Jonathan Ferrell to Renisha McBride, from Alex Saunders to Jonylah Watkins, lost lives are seen as not worthy of media, mourning, and mobilization from those purportedly concerned with gun violence. As noted by Ruthie Gilmore, “Racism is the state-sanctioned or extralegal production & exploitation of group-differentiated vulnerability to premature death.” The failure of gun-control groups to address racism, its consequences in Black Death, further contributes to “vulnerability to premature death.”
The racism deniers are out in full force. So let me say this, it’s America, race matters. It matters given stereotypes of who is dangerous; it matters because studies have shown that the mere sight of black face elicits fear among whites (measurable in brain); it matters because Dearbon Heights is 84% white and has historically been a Sundown Town; it matters because she, like Trayvon, was drug tested following her death (which cannot be read outside the larger context of anti-Black racism. In one study, when asked to imagine a drug user, 95% of whites picture a black person). It matters because as noted by dream hampton, we are witnessing yet again the “‘criminalizing Black Corpses’.” Race matters given days it took for an arrest and the nonexistent media coverage; it matters given the inequality in the legal application of the stand your ground law, it matters because of history of racism as it relates to guns; it matters because of history, from Emmett till to Trayvon, from #every28 hours to Johnathan Ferrell; it matters because of fear and terror; and it matters because white America can deny race matters over and over again even when faced with rightful anger, justifiable protest, and tears of pain, loss, and fear.
To read the entire piece go here: Illegible Black Death: Denied Media, Mourning, and Mobilization – The Feminist Wire | The Feminist Wire.