Historians for the most part believe that knowledge about the past which helps explain and contextualize a present-day problem is a good thing. The stories we tell are not always (or even very frequently) soothing, but somehow in telling stories that feature historical information over the longue durée we feel like we can get a handle on the problem before us. I don’t feel that way today, and it’s disorienting.
I have no hot takes. I have no opinions or ideas worth sharing. Every time I’ve thought about writing a blog post this week, another fresh hell is being reported, making anything I meant to write about a previous nightmare seem irrelevant. While a major theme on this blog is the racialized and gendered violence that underlays the United States in both its past and its present, and gun violence in particular, I have nothing new to add to that observation today. And while I’m a bigger fan of continuity than change as an explanatory framework for understanding history, I would like to see a heck of a lot of change just about now. For all of us.
Here’s just about the most reasonable statement on the events of the previous three nights as anything I’ve seen yet. “More Guns, More Fear, More Killing. It’s a Vicious Cycle and There’s No End in Sight,” by Dahlia Lithwick and Mark P. McKenna. Here’s their core insight:
The profoundly sad lesson of Louisiana and Minnesota is that it is now objectively reasonable for black civilians to be ever more afraid of routine traffic stops. The lesson of Dallas is that it is also objectively reasonable for cops to be ever more afraid of civilians with guns. So we have mistrust and fear and panic on both sides, both apparently reasonable. But what makes these encounters lethal—as opposed to merely ambiguous and fraught—is the guns. And what makes it “reasonable” to use force in response to the reasonable fear, is the lethality of guns. This ends only in more death on both sides, death all couched in legal standards of reasonableness. And that death will always be racially disproportionate.