Racism and the black hole of gun control in the US

Would tighter gun laws help protect African Americans or make them more vulnerable to racism and police brutality?

download (30)


I will never forget the day in eighth grade when my friend pointed a pistol at my face and pulled the trigger.

I am old enough now that many of my childhood memories have faded into blurry black and white pictures, but 30 years later, that scene is a vivid colour film in my memory.

I can see the smirk in his brown eyes as he points the pistol at my forehead, the slightly blue shimmer of the metal in the afternoon light, the way that the flat side of the barrel reached a nipple of an opening, suddenly curving inward, and the explosion of sound as he pulled the trigger.

Time stretches in moments like these, and as time expanded before me, I thought about my teacher, Mr Levi, and what he told me about space. He had taken a piece of paper from a binder and, twisting it, folded it upon itself so the holes lined up. He drew an arrow going into the hole on one side, and another coming out of it on the other. Then he unfolded the paper, showing me an arrow going into a hole in the top of the page, and coming out of a hole in the bottom, on the other side.

“This is a black hole,” he said in his heavy German Jewish accent, sounding every bit like Albert Einstein. “Once you cross the event horizon, you cannot get out. The gravity is so strong not even light can escape. You are sucked into the black hole and you come out somewhere else in space entirely. And you can never come back.”

As I stared into the barrel of that pistol, the light of the room seemed to disappear into its curvature just like a black hole. I remember thinking that it looked like a place from which nothing could escape.

Latchkey kids

My friend, we will call him Ralph, was a “latchkey kid” like myself. We were young children left to our own devices between the time we got home from school and the time our parents returned from work.

Latchkey kids grow up fast, learning to do things for themselves at a young age. We learned to explore the world of our parents with a freedom other kids never know. The assurance of solitude provides many opportunities to experiment, and sometimes to hide the resulting mistakes.

I remember the meticulous care Ralph took in opening the top drawer of his father’s dresser, and how he intently noted the placement of everything before pulling out the key. I remember the way he brought the chair from his room to reach the shelf in the closet, smoothing clothes he had disturbed and rubbing down the marks on the carpet afterwards. Looking back, it is obvious he had practised this carefully for weeks, learning exactly how to remove and open his father’s gun safe so that he could show me the contents, the most magical talisman a James Bond fan could ever see.

ONLY FOR : Racism and the black hole of gun control in the US
[Illustration by Jawahir Al-Naimi/Al Jazeera]

When Ralph pointed his father’s Walther PPK at my face and pulled the trigger, when I heard the loud “CRACK” bounce off the walls in the room as the firing pin found an empty chamber, I thought it was the coolest thing I had ever seen.

As I watch my own children grow, that memory haunts me. My children can take great care with the smallest details of toy trains, yet remain oblivious to the consequences of major actions like pushing their siblings while standing on a cliff. It was not until I had children that I realised how close that dichotomy between care and carelessness had brought me to the event horizon of death.

Despite the care with which Ralph removed the safe and covered the evidence of his passing, I have no memory of him checking the chamber. I am not even sure he knew how. With a minuscule change in the location of one small piece of metal, any light that I may have brought into this world could have been sucked into the black hole of that gun barrel, never to escape.

I am not a fan of guns. Whether it is the memory of the Walther PPK, my preference for a good bow, or some fundamental aspect of my character, I see no reason why we need to have access to guns at all. My inclination is to support restrictive gun laws and possibly even remove guns entirely.

But the more I consider the subject of guns, the more I find that the entire topic is, itself, a black hole. The closer I get, the more distorted it becomes, and nowhere is that more obvious or dangerous than at the intersection of guns and race.

A house full of guns

I do not think it is an exaggeration to suggest that lax gun laws and easy access to firearms are a fundamental reason for the success of the civil rights movement. Charles E Cobb Jr notes this eloquently in his excellent treatise on the subject titled This Nonviolent Stuff’ll Get You Killed.

“The tradition of armed self-defense in Afro-American history,” writes Cobb, “cannot be disconnected from the successes of what today is called the nonviolent civil rights movement.”

This is something many people either forget or never learn: Guns protected the black people who were marching for freedom. If not for the threat of gunfire, many more peaceful protests – and possibly the movement itself – would have been silenced by violence.

“Simply put,” Cobb continues, “because nonviolence worked so well as a tactic for effecting change and was demonstrably improving their lives, some black people chose to use weapons to defend the nonviolent Freedom Movement.”

The tradition of armed self-defense in Afro-American history cannot be disconnected from the successes of what today is called the nonviolent civil rights movement.


Today, our view of the civil rights movement is far removed from the realities of the time. I never experienced the violence and bloodshed of white supremacy during that era, and I cannot even really imagine it. Even modern media representations of the civil rights movement make it seem as though success was all but inevitable, hardly a deadly and dangerous situation at all. As Julian Bond quipped: “Rosa sat down, Martin stood up, and the white kids came down and saved the day.”

Civil rights icons such as Martin Luther King, Jr, and W E B DuBois come across in our polished history as gentle pacifists, but Cobb notes that even Martin Luther King, Jr had a house full of guns, while W E B DuBois wrote after the 1906 Atlanta massacre: “If a white mob had stepped on the campus where I lived I would without hesitation have sprayed their guts over the grass.”

Black people’s access to guns was fundamental to the success of the Black Freedom Movement. This is in no small part because the main opponent of black freedom was the government itself. American history is written with the blood of black families killed by white people who found themselves protected by our government’s belief in the supremacy of its white citizens.

Unable to rely on the government for security, black people turned to the best protection they had: constitutionally protected access to firearms. In their practice of “copwatching,” the Black Panthers used open gun policies to protect innocent black people from victimisation by the authorities. This was so threatening to the white establishment that it resulted in the Mulford Act, a law repealing the public’s right to carry a loaded weapon in public. In fact, some of the first laws restricting gun rights in the US were specifically designed to limit black people’s access to firearms.

So, do we really want more restrictive gun laws in a society where the government has a history of being the largest threat to some people’s freedom? Do we want that government removing those people’s right to protect themselves?

ONLY FOR Racism and the black hole of gun control in the US
[Illustration by Jawahir Al-Naimi/Al Jazeera]

You’ll shoot your eye out

Of course, we are now blessedly removed from the brutality of the Civil Rights Movement. Still, it seems our country places a greater value on some lives than others. Few people listen to the choruses of “You’ll shoot your eye out” during A Christmas Story and assume young Ralphie will be shot by a police officer at the end of the movie. Yet this has happened in black communities for decades. Small Tamir Rice, model student, alumni of Space Camp, was by no means the first to fall.

And here we come to an event horizon: the lax gun laws that allowed the Civil Rights Movement to succeed are now applied unevenly.

Five years ago, on November 22, 2014, 12-year-old Tamir was shot less than two seconds after policemen arrived at the playground in Cleveland, Ohio, where he and his sister were playing. He was told to “drop the weapon,” and in less time than it takes to think “but I don’t have a weapon,” his life was sucked into the black hole of a gun barrel, never to escape.

Following a settlement by the city of Cleveland, the Police Officer’s Union issued a statement that essentially supported the shooting by saying: “Something positive must come from this tragic loss. That would be educating youth of the dangers of possessing a real or replica firearm.”

The irony of this statement is astounding when we consider that in Ohio, a state where it is legal to openly carry a firearm, Tamir was shot for carrying a toy. His life was taken by a member of a police force that then justified the shooting by essentially saying that the law itself is dangerous.

We spend every Christmas romanticising the story of a young boy who wants to play with a rifle. Tamir was different from Ralphie in only in one respect: he was Playing While Black.

If black lives mattered

The US has always had an uneasy time with the idea of black agency. That is especially true when it comes to owning weapons. Even the National Rifle Association, arguably the strongest and most aggressively vocal lobby in the US, is eerily silent when black people are killed for legally possessing firearms, or toys. Yet, as uneasy as the US is with black gun ownership, it is apparently just as uneasy with black healthcare.

As many have already noted, it is easier to access a firearm than mental health services. This is especially true in black communities where mental health is most often treated as a criminal justice issue, the outcome too often being imprisonment or murder.

Black people are also more likely to be imprisoned (and to be imprisoned for longer) for the same offence as a white person. Black people are less likely to be given a job than a white counterpart, and more likely to be fired from that job. Even before adulthood, black children are subject to unfair disciplinary practices in school and suspended for infractions that are considered minor when committed by white children – and this happens as early as preschool.

It is easier to access a firearm than mental health services. This is especially true in black communities where mental health is most often treated as a criminal justice issue.


This is the situation in which guns wreak unspeakable damage, and herein lies another event horizon: “black on black crime,” a phrase which illustrates exactly how Black America is seen as “other.”

Our media never discusses “white on white” crime, and never suggests that lower-class white people will not be able to rise out of poverty until they stop fighting among themselves. Blacks (and Latinos, Muslims, etc.) are the other – outside the norm of our culture and society. Because of this, “black on black crime” is actually considered an intelligible phrase.

Because of the consistent view of them as “other,” many black people feel they need to protect themselves from the government itself, a government that has a great many guns. At the same time, the government has until recently refused to allow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to even study the issue of gun violence. Suddenly, crackpot gun rights activists spouting theories about government overreach look a lot less crackpot. The police bombing of the compound of a black liberation group called MOVE, in which 11 people were killed, including five children, and an entire neighbourhood destroyed, in Philadelphia in 1985, and the siege of the Branch Davidians at their compound in Waco, Texas, in 1993, start looking much more similar than I want to admit.

The relationship between communities and their police force will never improve while the police see and treat the community as an “other”.

ONLY FOR Racism and the black hole of gun control in the US
[Illustration by Jawahir Al-Naimi/Al Jazeera]

We arrive again at the black hole. I want to believe a public disarmament could result in a de-escalation of the police force. If we had fewer guns on the streets, could police afford to appear less like an occupying army working in a war zone? Could our police forces become a part of our communities and learn to de-escalate violence instead of appearing to encourage it? With tougher gun laws, could healthcare and even just basic humanitarian concern become our primary mode of response rather than a tactical encounter?

Sadly, both history and current trends in the US government suggest otherwise.

When I was in Ralph’s house looking into the barrel of a Walther PPK, I had no idea that I really was staring into a black hole from which I would never escape.

Remembering that moment, I thought my answer to the question of gun control would be easy. Yet the more I look at the issue, the more the light bends and the picture distorts. Thirty years later, I’m still looking down that barrel into a black hole from which I feel I will never escape.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.

Chicago officer sentenced for murdering black teen Laquan McDonald

Chicago officer Jason Van Dyke sentenced for murdering black teen Laquan McDonald

Jason Van DykeJason Van Dyke was found guilty of second degree murder in October

Ex-Chicago policeman Jason Van Dyke has been sentenced to six years and nine months in jail for the 2014 killing of black teenager Laquan McDonald.

Video of Van Dyke firing repeatedly at the 17-year-old was released a year later, and led to street protests.

During Friday’s hearing, residents told of alleged past mistreatment at the hands of the officer.

One witness told the court Van Dyke, 40, had put him in a stranglehold after he refused to spit out a cough drop.

Another claimed that he had pushed a gun to his head as he was leaving a petrol station, and screamed racist epithets in his face.

Protesters march in Chicago after the city released dashcam footage showing Laquan McDonald's deathProtesters marched in Chicago after the city released dashcam footage showing Laquan McDonald’s murder.

Van Dyke’s brother-in-law, who is black, also took the stand to say that he had never known the former policeman to be a “racist cop”.

After a trial in October, Van Dyke was found guilty of murder as well as 16 counts of aggravated battery – one charge for each shot he fired at McDonald.

Dashcam video of the incident showed McDonald, who was high on the PCP drug at the time, refusing the officer’s command to drop a knife as he walked down the street.

Friday’s sentence comes one day after three former and current policemen who were accused of helping to cover up the killing were found not guilty by a different Chicago judge.

According to the Chicago Tribune, which called Thursday’s verdict “stunning”, it is the first time in the city’s history that a police officer has faced criminal charges stemming from an on-duty shooting.

Van Dyke's wife and daughters were in court on FridayVan Dyke’s wife and daughters were in court on Friday

Before sentencing, Van Dyke’s family and friends filed letters telling of his service to the community.

His 17-year-old older daughter took the stand earlier on Friday to blame the media for criticising “police officers for doing their jobs”.

She told the court she had written a school essay about the “harsh realities” of police work, and said officer do not care about race, “they care about your safety”.

37 year old (pregnant) African-American Woman Dies While in Mississippi Prison

H11 lanekia michelle brownLanekia Michelle Brown/Facebook

In Mississippi, the family of a 37-year-old African-American woman who died Sunday while in jail is demanding answers and says they suspect foul play. Lanekia Michelle Brown was arrested during a traffic stop in November and was awaiting trial on drug trafficking charges in prison. Brown reportedly complained of stomach pains shortly before her death. Her family says she was in the early stages of a pregnancy.

download (7)

Emantic Bradford Jr: Alabama man killed ‘shot three times in back’ by local police; POW! POW! POW!

A man wrongly killed by police in an Alabama mall was shot three times from behind, an autopsy has revealed.

Emantic Bradford Jr, known as EJ, was shot in the head, neck and hip at the Riverchase Galleria in Hoover, Alabama.

Police had identified him as the gunman in the shooting of an 18-year-old man and 12-year-old girl last month.

But they later admitted they were mistaken and have since arrested another man. Erron Brown, 20, handed himself in to police.

According to an autopsy requested by Bradford’s family, a police officer shot the 21-year-old three times from behind.

Benjamin Crump, the lawyer representing Bradford’s family, reportedly told a news conference that based on the autopsy, “this officer should be charged with a crime”.

“There’s nothing that justifies him shooting EJ as he’s moving away from him.”

The officer responsible has been placed on administrative leave, and an investigation is under way.

Riverside Galleria in Hoover, AlabamaThe shooting took place at the Riverchase Galleria in Hoover, Alabama

However, authorities have given scant details about the case, and are refusing to release body camera footage of the incident.

In a joint statement reported by broadcaster ABC News, Hoover Mayor Frank Brocato and police chief Nicklaus Derzis said disclosing such evidence could “jeopardise the integrity” of the investigation.

Bradford was carrying a weapon at the time of the shooting, for which he had a permit. Police said he “heightened the sense of threat” at the scene by drawing his gun after shots rang out at the mall.

Under Alabama gun law, it is not illegal to carry a gun in public, but the Riverchase Galleria prohibits firearms on its premises.

San Francisco 49ers cheerleader kneels for US anthem (goodness.. what to do?!)

A kneeling cheerleaderThe woman is so far unidentified

A cheerleader for the San Francisco 49ers appeared to kneel during the US national anthem at an NFL game on Thursday, echoing recent player protests.

The woman, who has not been identified, was pictured kneeling before the team’s game against the Oakland Raiders.

The 49ers are the former team of Colin Kaepernick, who knelt during the anthem as a protest back in 2016.

His aim was to highlight police brutality against African-Americans.

While the rest of the cheerleading squad held pom-poms aloft in unison during the Star-Spangled Banner, one woman knelt down and put her hands on her hips.

If confirmed, it would be the first time an NFL cheerleader has protested in this way, although five members of a college team in Georgia did so last year.

NFL protests began in 2016, when Kaepernick – then the 49ers’ quarterback – refused to stand for the anthem.

Similar demonstrations spread to other teams, with some choosing to link arms in solidarity rather than kneel.

But the action proved controversial, drawing criticism from fans and from US President Donald Trump.

He has called players who “disrespect” the US flag “sons of bitches” and called for them to be sacked.

Kaepernick opted out of his contract with the San Francisco 49ers in March 2017 and is now suing the National Football League, arguing that team owners deliberately froze him out because of his activism.

Miami Dolphins players kneeling during the national anthemMiami Dolphins players knelt during the anthem before a game in September against the Oakland Raiders

In May, the American football league said NFL teams will be fined if their players kneel during the anthem.

Those who do not wish to stand can stay in the locker room until the Star-Spangled Banner is over, the league said.

President Trump welcomed the move, saying players who do not stand “maybe… shouldn’t be in the country”.

A number of former cheerleaders told ELLE magazine in an October 2017 article that they would never have taken part in the demonstrations.

“If I was still a cheerleader, I wouldn’t kneel down, it’s not my job,” one told the magazine. “I would be frustrated about what’s going on in the country, but I would put my thoughts and opinions to the side and keep on moving.”

Lost in a Week of Hateful Violence, a White Man Killed Two Black Shoppers at a Kentucky Supermarket

STORY – Democracynow.org – OCTOBER 30, 2018

Just days before a domestic terrorist entered a Pittsburgh synagogue and shot 11 worshipers dead, a white man gunned down two elderly African-American customers at a Kentucky grocery store Wednesday in what many are calling a hate crime. Fifty-one-year-old Gregory Bush opened fire and killed Maurice Stallard and Vickie Lee Jones at a Kroger supermarket in Jeffersontown, Kentucky, shortly after trying to enter a predominantly black church. Bush reportedly then told an armed bystander that “whites don’t kill whites.” As the community mourns, we speak with Kentucky Rep. Attica Scott and Reverend Vincent James, chief of community building for the city of Louisville and pastor of Elim Baptist Church.

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: We begin today’s show looking at the hate-fueled crimes that have swept the nation in the past week. Eleven worshipers at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh were killed Saturday in what has been described as the deadliest anti-Semitic attack in U.S. history. The attack came just one day after a Trump supporter in Florida named Cesar Sayoc was arrested and charged with mailing bombs to more than a dozen of the president’s prominent critics, including the Clintons, the Obamas and George Soros. Law enforcement officers now say Sayoc had a list of over 100 targets.

But there was a third hate-fueled crime that received far less coverage last week: the murder of two elderly African-American customers at a Kentucky grocery store on Wednesday. Gregory Bush, a 51-year-old white man, opened fire and killed Maurice Stallard and Vickie Lee Jones at a Kroger supermarket in Jeffersontown, Kentucky, outside Louisville, after unsuccessfully trying to enter a predominantly black church. Now the community is demanding justice for what the Louisville [sic] chief of police has called a hate crime.

AMY GOODMAN: Gregory Bush was captured on a surveillance camera trying to force open the doors of the First Baptist Church of Jeffersontown for several minutes Wednesday, before turning his attention instead to the nearby supermarket, where he killed Maurice Stallard and Vickie Lee Jones. Armed bystander Ed Harrell confronted Bush in the parking lot outside the grocery store after the killings. This is Harrell’s son Steve Zinninger speaking with a local NBC affiliate.

REPORTER: So, your dad was confronting the shooter.


REPORTER: OK. Did that man say anything? Or, how did your dad figure out something wasn’t right?

STEVE ZINNINGER: He didn’t realize it was him ’til he’d already seen the gun by his side. And he said, “Don’t shoot me, I won’t shoot you.” He’s like, “Whites don’t kill whites.”

AMY GOODMAN: “Whites don’t kill whites,” Gregory Bush said.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Gregory Bush has a history of making racist slurs and a long rap sheet of misdemeanor charges, including domestic violence, menacing and making terroristic threats. In 2009, a judge ordered Bush to surrender his guns and undergo mental health treatment, after his parents claimed he had threatened to shoot them. Bush’s father has said his son, quote, “carries a gun wherever he goes,” unquote. It’s not clear whether Bush’s guns were returned when the court order expired in 2011.

AMY GOODMAN: Gregory Bush will face two counts of murder and 10 counts of wanton endangerment at a court hearing scheduled for November.

For more, we’re going to Louisville to join two guests. Attica Scott is Kentucky state representative, certified anti-racism trainer. In 2016, she became the first African-American woman to serve in Kentucky’s state Legislature in 20 years. And Reverend Vincent James is with us. He’s chief of community building for the city of Louisville, pastor of Elim Baptist Church.

We welcome you both to Democracy Now! Reverend Vincent James, you knew one of the murder victims. Can you talk about what happened on Wednesday? Something that was not paid very much attention to around the country, first Bush’s apparent attempt to get into a predominantly black church, then going over to Kroger’s, the grocery store.

REVVINCENT JAMES: Yes. Thank you, Amy, for having us on the show.

Wednesday was a very somber day. Somewhere a little before 3:00, all of us was in the office at the Mayor’s Office, and one of our colleagues, we heard her scream. And she was on the phone, and she was talking with someone. We really didn’t know what had happened at that point. And then, as time continued to proceed, we discovered that there was a possibility of a—there was a shooting, and there was the possibility that it was a family member.

Not really understanding and knowing what had happened, we immediately went out to the location. We had several members of our team there. And we later discovered that Kellie Watson, who is the chief equity officer in metro—Louisville metro government, that it was her father, Maurice Stallard, who had been murdered, and another woman had been murdered in the parking lot.

It was a horrific day, a sad day. And we are continuing to grieve through this process. But one of the exciting things is that we’re a very resilient city, and we’ve been working on some things, in terms of—out of Kellie’s office, as the chief equity officer, in terms of looking at these very types of issues.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, I wanted to ask Representative Attica Scott, in terms of the reaction of some public officials in the area about whether this was a hate crime or not, could you talk about that and the judgment that people did or didn’t go through very soon after this crime occurred?

REPATTICA SCOTT: Definitely. And when something like this happens, the entire community grieves and is anxious and is stressed out, and often looks to elected leaders to provide some direction and guidance. And in this situation, we, as an African-American community, were failed by many of our elected officials who refused to call this what it was, which is a hate crime. When you kill two black people—Ms. Jones and Mr. Stallard—and you try to break into a black church, that’s a hate crime. And to have people at the local and state level refuse to even call it a hate crime sent a message to many of us in community that our lives do not indeed matter to some people. And we shouldn’t have to beg you to call this what it is.

AMY GOODMAN: We hoped to have Mayor Greg Fischer on; he had to back out late last night. But, Reverend Vincent James, you work for the mayor. Can you talk about—


AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about that, whether—


AMY GOODMAN: —why the mayor didn’t immediately call it a hate crime?

REVVINCENT JAMES: Well, I can share with you, the mayor did come out and say that it was a hate crime. He talked about the fact that this situation was driven by hate. When you think about—and I have the privilege of pastoring a local African-American church in the city and understanding in terms of what the community needs and the hurt that a community goes through when they experience this. And just recently, yesterday, Mayor Greg Fischer and several local pastors and faith leaders in our community sat down and talked with the commonwealth attorney, Tom Wine, and talked about this very issue of a hate crime. It was a horrendous hate crime. And Mayor Fischer acknowledged it. He identified with it. And he grieves with the community and the families. And so, he is very aware and very in tune.

And we’ve been working on these issues for the past several years, working with GARE, Government Alliance for Racial Equity, and putting together racial equity plans in terms of our community. One of our tenets in terms of when we think about our community is a very compassionate community. So, our mayor’s heart was grieved. He’s angered. But also, we’re moving to action. We’ve put in action plans, and we’re working with community leaders to begin to look at how this can never happen again in our community and how do we avoid these types of things. And so, as a community, we are very resilient, we are very focused, and we have a plan in place to be able to execute that this won’t happen again.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, Representative Scott, I wanted to see if you agree with the assessment of Reverend James and also if you could talk about this whole issue of the “Blue Lives Matter” legislation that went through the Legislature.

REPATTICA SCOTT: We have to make sure that we have honest conversations about what got us here. And when we have a political system that passes hateful legislation, when we have societal issues around comments that are made, whether you’re calling young black kids punks or thugs, or whether you’re passing legislation like the “Blue Lives Matter” bill and changing Kentucky’s hate crimes law to now include your profession, what you choose to do, if you’re a first responder, including law enforcement, that sends a clear message across Kentucky about whose lives really do matter.

And then, this year, passing a so-called gang bill, that we saw in Mississippi, in the eight years since it’s been passed, that only black people have received an enhanced sentence from that gang bill—to have supported and then passed that bill here in Kentucky sends a message across our black communities and other communities of color that you are under attack by your own elected officials at the local and state level. And we have to have those honest conversations that say, “Wait a minute. What are we doing to make sure that we’re looking to restore people to their fullness rather than to incarcerate them so that we can justify building more prisons?”

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to correct: We had said the St. Louis [sic] police chief, but it’s the Jeffersontown police chief, Sam Rogers.


AMY GOODMAN: We had said the Louisville police chief, but the Jeffersontown police chief, Sam Rogers, who told the First Baptist Church on Sunday that the shooting was motivated by racism, was a hate crime. Can you talk, Reverend James, about the feelings right now inside the church that Bush apparently tried to get into? You’re the reverend of another church.


AMY GOODMAN: How churches are feeling right now? And also, this being the—one of a series of attacks this week. I mean, you have this man allegedly saying to a white man standing outside with a gun, outside Kroger’s, “Whites don’t kill whites,” like saying, “Don’t kill me,” or he’s not going to kill him.


AMY GOODMAN: Then you have the letter bombs, now apparently 15 of them, sent out to people who are critics of President Trump, and then, of course, the horrific synagogue massacre that took place, that at another place of worship, in Pittsburgh, the funerals beginning today, with the anti-Semitic shooter who also linked Jewish groups helping immigrants and his fierce anti-immigrant hatred.

REVVINCENT JAMES: Yes, it’s a very sad time in our country when we have these types of acts of hatred in our communities and in our churches and synagogues and mosques, when you think about all that has taken place across the country. But one of the things that—people of faith recognize the fact that these challenges are written in the holy word that these things were to come. And so, one of the things in terms of what we find and what we see as faith leaders, as community leaders, is that it is our faith that really drives us beyond what we see and what we experience, to hope; that we know that with people coming together and staying together, that we can change. We have to realize and know that this is not a time to turn on each other, but it’s a time to turn to each other.

And so, what I’ve seen across the faith community, talking with all kinds of faith leaders across our city and across this country, is the fact that we have a reality that we have to look at and confront, when we talk about hatred, when we talk about the rhetoric that is coming from our administration—a all these types of things that we, as a people of faith, have to rise above it and take action. You know, the reality is, is that it takes us as a people to recognize what is going on, and then we have to go to the polls. Next week is going to be a very critical time for our country, that we need to send a message that this type of behavior, this type of situation that happened in Pittsburgh, that happened in Louisville, is totally unacceptable, and we’re going to change. And the way that you change that is going to the polls.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Reverend—

REVVINCENT JAMES: And so, the faith community is rising above. Uh-huh?

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Reverend James, I wanted to ask you, in the same vein, for the—President Trump, after the attack on the synagogue in Pittsburgh, said that perhaps armed guards were needed at places of worship. He said similar things after the Parkland shooting, that armed guards—or, the arming of teachers—he suggested the possibility of the arming of teachers. What’s your response to this idea that maybe houses of worship should now have armed guards as a means of protecting themselves?

REVVINCENT JAMES: I don’t believe that houses of faith or schools need to have armed guards. You know, that’s not why we attend church. We attend church to be able to connect with our god and to be able to realize that our faith protects us. And even when challenges come against us, we know it because the word says no weapon will form against us. Doesn’t mean that the weapon won’t come, but it means in terms it won’t prosper, that it won’t destroy the hope and the resilience of the people, in spite of what challenges that we face.

That’s why, in terms of having armed guards, you have to be secure and understand the Bible teaches us that we need to be wise as serpents and gentle as a dove. That means you have to be alert and awake in terms of things that could potentially happen, but you also have to have a heart of compassion and love and forgiveness.

And so, when we recognize these types of things, we move forward with action and faith and hope, and knowing that these things, you know, have the possibility of existing, and we’re prepared, in terms from a security standpoint, but not from the standpoint of having armed guards standing at the door. I think that is to the extreme of what we need in our country. We need to talk more about how do we live in peace as opposed to living in fear and in violence.

AMY GOODMAN: Attica Scott, as a political representative in Kentucky, not so far away are the races in Georgia and Florida right now, taking on extreme racial tones. You have the secretary of state of Georgia, Brian Kemp, withholding 53,000 registration forms, overwhelmingly African-American. He is the secretary of state, and he’s running against Stacey Abrams. If she were to win, she’d become the first African-American woman governor in the country. And then Andrew Gillum, running for governor in Florida, the president just called him a “stone cold thief.” This followed a KKK-backed or some kind of white supremacist organization-backed robocall, and his opponent, DeSantis, telling voters to—not to “monkey it up,” right after he became the Democratic candidate. Your thoughts in this midterm election season, and then what happened this week, from Kentucky to Pittsburgh to the mail bombs that were sent out?

REPATTICA SCOTT: My thoughts are that we better not, in Kentucky, act like we’re immune from what we’re seeing in Georgia and Florida, what we’re hearing out of the mouths of politicians in Georgia and Florida, because we hear some of the same and very similar sentiment right here in Kentucky. We’ve seen the mailers that have gone out calling people radicals and trying to shame people and attack people, especially women who are running for office here in Kentucky. So we’re not immune.

And we’re also not immune from attacks on our right to vote. I serve on the committee in Frankfort that pays attention to the elections and to our Constitution. And even this legislative session, we had Republican lawmakers asking about how do we protect the vote, but it was coded language, the way in which it was asked, about what we can do, future-wise, in taking away the right to vote. So we’d better pay attention, right here Kentucky, to what’s happening right around us.

I also have to say that we need to be mindful of the environment that we create, that allows hate to thrive. On Martin Luther King’s weekend this year, Louisville allowed a gun show to happen here on that weekend. And this past weekend, a gun show happened right here in Louisville after the shootings at Kroger. And there were Christmas ornaments that were being sold with Nazi symbols and images on them. We are allowing that climate right here in Louisville, which is supposed to be a so-called liberal or progressive city. And when we allow that, we are nowhere near liberal or progressive.

And we also need to make sure that we are passing policies that are designed to keep guns out of people’s hands that should not have guns, and that we are very cautious about claiming that there’s a mental health disorder that justifies hate and committing a hate crime. And that’s too much of what I’ve been hearing these past three days about the shooter having a diagnosed mental health disorder. That is no excuse to kill two black people at a grocery store. And that is no excuse to try to break into a black church to commit crime. And it’s all connected, whether it’s the mail bombs or the murders at the synagogue, or whether it’s Ms. Jones or Mr. Stallard being killed at Kroger. It’s all connected. It’s all part of a system that has been created in this country over time, and it’s a system that we all need to work to dismantle.

AMY GOODMAN: We want to thank you both for being with us, Democratic state Representative Attica Scott of Kentucky, serving on the House Education Committee, in 2016 became the first African-American woman to serve in Kentucky’s state Legislature in 20 years, and Reverend Vincent James, chief of community building for the city of Louisville, pastor of the Elim Baptist Church.

This is Democracy Now! When we come back, we’ll talk about far-right violence, its connection to guns, white supremacist groups in this country. Stay with us.

The original content of this program is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. Please attribute legal copies of this work to democracynow.org. Some of the work(s) that this program incorporates, however, may be separately licensed. For further information or additional permissions, contact us.

‘Whites don’t shoot whites’: 2 black people shot dead in Kentucky

Prosecutors say shooting that left two African Americans dead in the US state is being probed as possible hate crime.

  • Gregory Bush, 51, has been charged with two counts of murder and 10 counts of wanton endangerment [Scott Utterback/Courier Journal via AP Photo]
Gregory Bush, 51, has been charged with two counts of murder and 10 counts of wanton endangerment [Scott Utterback/Courier Journal via AP Photo]

Moments after allegedly killing two African Americans at a supermarket in the US state of Kentucky, 51-year-old Gregory Bush reportedly muttered to a white bystander, “Whites don’t kill whites.”

Bush, who is white, has been charged with two counts of murder and 10 counts of wanton endangerment, and a judge set his bail at $5m on Thursday.

A federal prosecutor said on Friday that the shooting is being investigated as a possible hate crime.

US Attorney Russell Coleman said federal investigators are investigating whether there were any violations of federal law, “which includes potential civil rights violations such as hate crimes”. The FBI is investigating alongside local police.

Before entering the Kroger supermarket in a suburb of Louisville, Kentucky, on Wednesday, Bush attempted to break into a nearby predominantly African American church, police said.

After failing to enter the church, Bush entered the supermarket and shot dead 69-year-old Maurice Stallard, according to police, before killing 67-year-old Vickie Jones in the car park.

Local media reported that Stallard’s 12-year-old grandson witnessed his killing.

An armed bystander exchanged gunfire with the suspect in the car park of the Jeffersontown store before the shooter fled in a car. He was taken into custody soon afterwards, Jeffersontown Police Chief Sam Rogers said at a news briefing outside the store. There were no further injuries, he said.

“It does appear she was a random victim out in the parking lot,” said Rogers. Asked if the male victim in the store was also killed at random, Rogers said. “It does appear to be possibly the case.

Steve Zinninger told Wave3 News that his father was waiting outside the supermarket while his mother shopped inside when he heard shooting and saw panicked people running from the store.

‘Please don’t shoot’

Zinninger said the shooter casually walked towards his father in the car park and his father drew his gun and confronted the man from behind his car.

“He [the armed man] said, ‘please don’t shoot and I won’t shoot you,’ whites don’t kill whites,” Zinninger told Wave3 News.

It was not clear whether Zinninger’s father was the armed bystander who Rogers said exchanged gunfire with the suspect.

Video taken by a store owner showed the suspect wandering around the car park as bystanders shouted his location to police. The man then sped off, chased by a police officer on foot.

“Thanks to the quick response of the local police department, the suspect was apprehended and our store is secure,” Kroger said in a statement.

Drew Butler said he was shopping in the store when he heard multiple shots. He and a woman barricaded themselves inside a room.

“After the fourth shot, I don’t know if there were five or 15,” Butler told Wave3 news.

Rogers said both the man and woman were shot multiple times.

Local media reported that Bush had a long history of criminal offences, including assault and domestic violence.