Feb. 24th, 2017

eyelessgame: (Default)
This would be better if I could find the link to the original document, but I don't have the fortitude to wade through the sewers on the Internet to find it.

Somewhere around four years ago an old friend on Facebook - who over the years has evolved from a more hardcore libertarian to a left-libertarian; I agree with him more and more - copied something he'd seen from one of his right-wing friends and asked for comment. (I admire him for it; he's provoked a lot of discussion and, I think, has genuinely listened and learned over the years.)

What he shared was a pro-NRA meme saying that yes, America had one of the highest rates of gun crime in the world - but if you eliminated just four cities from the statistics, four cities with "strict gun laws", it would have one of the lowest rates of gun crime.

The four cities it listed were Chicago, Washington DC, Detroit, and New Orleans.

Well, I couldn't resist; I took thirty seconds and googled, and responded with actual statistics. The claim was, of course, absurd on its face - you could zero out gun violence numbers not just from those cities but from the entire states they're in and it would barely nudge the national numbers. So obviously this meme was nonsense. But then I took a second look at that list, because it seemed at first like those cities had very little in common. When you're constructing a nonsense list, why choose those four?

Chicago and Detroit are big cities, but New Orleans and Washington are relatively modest population. Illinois and DC have fairly strict (if not very effective) gun laws, but Michigan and Louisiana are shall-issue states. Per-capita crime rates are indeed high in some of those cities, but not all four. And so on. Nothing much in common.

On the other hand, Los Angeles and San Francisco and New York and Boston are all big cities in scary liberal places, with strict gun control and yet significant crime (and could have been used to make a point along those lines). But they're not on this list. And remember, this list was made-up; the author could have listed any cities he wanted since he was untethered to actual data. So why use those four cities for spreading a meme intended to make people think that "gun crime" is really a them-not-us problem?

Then I realized. If the list had included Atlanta and Baltimore it would have been clearer.

What Chicago, Washington, Detroit, and New Orleans have in common is a huge African-American population, to the point where they exist in the popular imagination as predominantly Black cities.

This was a message to gun owners that the real problem is black people. It was a dogwhistle that nobody heard except the intended audience; gun owners would forward this list around, many unaware either of its inaccuracy or its hidden intent, and a subset of them would look at it, nod knowingly, and fantasize about an entirely white America.

Why bring this up now, years later?

Because the president is talking incessantly about "Chicago" and crime.

Now, Chicago does seem to have a problem over the past year or two - it seems likely it's an organized-crime problem; bucking the trend of the last 25 years, Chicago murder rates have bumped up since 2014. But incessantly talking about "Chicago" and crime serves another purpose.

"Chicago", in any context discussing crime, is code for "Black." It's why it's so easy for so many people to just figure "oh, that's why there's crime there!" It's why he gets away with talking about sending the military into a major American city. It's why conservatives are so comfortable treating it as an "other" place. It's the new way of saying the N-word. Racists nod knowingly, thinking they're communicating secretly to each other.


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