These mass shooting events invigorate our political establishment to find legislative solutions. Whether you agree with their solutions or not isn’t the point; the point is rather that these events motivate people with power and influence to advocate for solutions to prevent them from happening again, because they view events like these as being abnormal and refuse to normalize them.
But this instinct not to normalize gun violence isn’t applied equally. The truth is we’ve already normalized it in certain sectors of our society.
The elephant in the room is that mass shootings happen all the time in cities across the country—they just happen in poor and low income Black neighborhoods. And all too many Americans are perfectly fine with this state of affairs, as long as they aren’t personally experiencing it.
I’ve seen countless television interviews after mass shootings in suburbia and small-town America. The people interviewed, as well as the interviews, always seem to say the same thing: “This isn’t supposed to happen here.” They are saying this because they cherish what had been their high expectation of safety, even in a world where danger exists.
No one says that about the South Side of Chicago, or the streets of Philly. And too many of us have become comfortable with the tacit understanding that it is supposed to happen there, if only because it does so often.
My question to Americans is, should there be any place in America where shootings are supposed to happen? Have we so lowered our expectations for the lives of Black people that we have normalized Black death when it results from intra-racial conflict?
You see this all too often, like the mass shooting at a Texas school that was barely covered because it was at a Black school, or the shooting in Sacramento that got momentary attention—until the media and political class realized it was gang related, and the narrative quickly shifted from the event being the “abnormal” type of mass shooting to the “acceptable” gang-related violent conflict between Black men.
How is this acceptable?
I believe Americans have been lulled into feeling indifferent when it comes to violence in poorer Black neighborhoods because there doesn’t appear to be a tangible solution or progress. After decades of little to no change in certain neighborhoods across the country, we’ve accepted their status as being permanently stagnant in subpar outcomes.
With this acceptance, we’ve simply bought into seeing some American life as being more expendable than others depending on their jurisdiction, class, and circumstance. And yes—their race.
Six innocent people shot dead in a nightclub shooting in a majority-Black neighborhood should be equally as troubling as six innocent people shot dead in a suburban mall.
The violent death of innocent Americans shouldn’t be a political issue but a human issue.
We should not normalize the detrimental outcomes of some by giving in to our habit of being pessimistic about change in particular jurisdictions in our country.
We should also not allow ourselves to view the death of young and innocent bystanders as we do when watching news stories of a catastrophic event halfway across the world: Not my problem.
It is our problem. And ignoring it won’t make it go away or get any better. I refuse to see any American as collateral damage to our societal pessimism, and neither should you.
Adam B. Coleman is the author of “Black Victim To Black Victor” and the Founder of Wrong Speak Publishing. Follow him on Twitter @wrong_speak.
The views expressed in this article are the writer’s own.