18 February 2013

Gun control: profiling for white people?

Read a letter in a local paper today: the writer complains that editorial cartoons stereotype NRA members as "fat, sloppy, loud-mouthed Archie Bunker types" when the reality seen at anti-gun control demonstrations is more diverse, more normal. He finds the cartoon image "sad and insulting and only contributing to a false image." Further up front the paper ran a story about the NAACP demanding an end to New York City's "stop and frisk" program, widely seen as another form or racial profiling. The coincidence of the article and the letter gave me an insight about the objections to gun control. Opponents really resent what they see as a presumption of their guilt; for them, it seems, being subjected to firearms regulations is psychologically equivalent to black people (or any demographic group) getting profiled. It may be the closest many white people come to the experience and humiliation of being profiled. As always, individuals expect a presumption of innocence and see their subjection to profiling (or regulation) as a still more insulting denial of their individual innocence, if not their very individuality.

Before anyone jumps to conclusions, please note that any moral equation of profiling and gun control is a matter of subjective perception. While a stereotype of the gun owner or gun apologist may prevail (and if it looks like Archie Bunker, that's because the "gun nut" is presumed to be a reactionary), what's really being "profiled" through gun control is the weapon, not the person. No one can complain of being accused of "carrying while ---" the way some are supposedly accused of "driving while black." Carrying itself is the cause of suspicion, which is what the NRA objects to. But you have to wonder whether their presumption of gun owners' innocence is truly universal. I'm not sure whether they'd recognize the resemblance of their feelings to those of people subject to profiling, but whether they do or not, the resemblance does make me wonder what the gun people think of profiling, whether of blacks, Muslims, or whomever. If they don't object to any of that, can they object when they seem to be profiled, albeit in a manner not so immediately insulting? There are probably libertarians in that throng who would take a consistent stand against any form of profiling, but many more may well perform profiling themselves when they imagine themselves defending theirs against hordes of marauders. Is that a stereotype? If so, then if it makes them feel any better, at least I don't think they're fat.


Anonymous said...

A fear of being profiled? A fear of being marginalized? A fear that their way of life is being somehow threatened by ... ?

It almost makes one believe in a law of karma. I think the true, underlying problem is that these are the same people who feel, at some level, that American should be white, for whites, by whites. They hate the fact that more and more people with darker skin are coming into this country because it takes away from whitey's power.

Their true fear is that they will soon be subjected to the exact same treatment they've been subjecting others to for years. Another few generations and the only option will become clear: There is only one race, the HUMAN race. You are either a human being or your time is over and extinction beckons.

Samuel Wilson said...

See? The letter writer would say you were guilty of stereotyping by assuming NRA types to be white. He says he always sees people of different races at the protests, and he may even imagine white faces trying to get into his house someday. But not just racists presume that nonwhites simply aren't responsive to modern Republican conservatism. Is that because they can't help associating it with racists or is there something uniquely "white" about that every-man-for-himself mentality? More about this later?

Anonymous said...

Well, are the overwhelming majority of NRA members white? In fact, I'd love for the letter writer to present evidence that the majority of NRA members are neither white nor over weight.