After I read somewhere on an internet newsite that Michael Moore recently described the roots of America’s gun problems as stemming from whites’ fears about blacks, I found myself reflecting on what he supposedly said and growing more and more irritated. His comment seemed so anti-white as to be racist. Yes, of course Moore is white himself, but it simply doesn’t follow because of that his comments weren’t racially provoking and incendiary.
Before I go any further, however, allow me to say that I don’t own a gun, never plan on owning a gun, and that, hypothetically bracketing Constitutional issues, I would be in favor of strict gun control laws. (As things are, I’m unsure right now on the extent to which various gun control laws under consideration square with the Constitution.)
Eventually, I went to Moore’s blog and read the article he wrote in which the quote about guns and whites’ fears appears.
To my surprise, on the whole I found his article well written. His style kept my attention, at least (–along with the provocative content).
I found what he wrote to be less incendiary than certain pundits made it out to be, although still quite gratuitously inflammatory.
Why the racial talk?
For example, in writing about the dysfunctional American way of dealing with conflicts (which he then links to our pro-gun stance), Moore contextualizes Iraq and other recent wars and military actions by writing the following: “This probably shouldn’t come as a surprise to us as we are a nation founded on genocide and built on the backs of slaves. We slaughtered 600,000 of each other in a civil war.” [Note: Approximatley 200,000 people were slaughtered in combat, whereas 400,000 people died from disease.]
Of course, whites did enslave blacks and treat Indians horribly–that part is certainly true enough. But there’s an implication that America, which of course was founded by whites, was unlike others in the extremity of its violence and propensity toward brutalization. (Why else bring it up if it wasn’t unique or at least unusual? Why bring up that?)
For some perspective on American history, Dr. Jeremy Black, a professor of history at Exeter, has this to say about slavery in his book, Slavery: A New Global History: “Native American (American Indian) ownership of slaves in the United States was pervasive until Emancipation–which scarcely conforms to the standard image. Moreover, there was large-scale slavery within Africa itself, and also in areas not usually associated with the history of slavery and the slave trade, such as India. Thus, the history of slavery was a more central and dynamic feature of the history of the world than it is comfortable for us to acknowledge.” Black also later notes that the Arab-African slave trade was abolished only at the coercion of the West.
I need to stress: In no way am I suggesting that slavery wasn’t absolutely vile and horrible, but what I am suggesting is that America wasn’t uniquely violent or brutal by worldwide standards. Slavery, sadly enough, was ubiquitous.
Moore goes on to write the following in his article: “Why on earth would we need 300 million guns in our homes? . . . It’s because too many white people are afraid of black people. Period. The vast majority of the guns in the U.S. are sold to white people who live in the suburbs or the country. When we fantasize about being mugged or home invaded, what’s the image of the perpetrator in our heads? Is it the freckled-face kid from down the street – or is it someone who is, if not black, at least poor?”
And then: “I think it would be worth it to a) do our best to eradicate poverty and re-create the middle class we used to have, and b) stop promoting the image of the black man as the boogeyman out to hurt you. Calm down, white people, and put away your guns.”
Uh, Michael, one question: Okay, I like what your saying about eradicating poverty and re-creating the middle class, but as for the rest–Is this kind of talk really helpful? Are we really supposed to consider this an auspicious beginning to our multicultural future? (But then, perhaps you think of yourself as the prophet type–hurling fire and brimstone down at the wayward?)
Because, really, how on earth do you know what’s going on in white gun owners’ heads–or anyone else’s, for that matter? And one could take what you first write and come to the exact opposite conclusion that you have: Since the vast majority of guns in the U.S. are sold to whites who live in the suburbs or the country, then the reason those whites are buying guns must not have much to do with blacks (since presumably the suburbs and the country are predominately white) and more to do with the other reasons people might buy guns.
Just to reiterate: I’m not a “gun person.” I don’t like them. I don’t want to carry them on my person all the time to feel safe. I do think we’d be better off with strict gun control laws.
And for the sake of societal harmony, I also think we’d be better off without Michael Moore’s racially-laden rants, as well.