There have been seventy-seven mass shootings in the U.S. in the first 45 days of 2023.
Collectively, 109 were killed and 273 were wounded while sitting in a university classroom, going to high school, eating at fast-food restaurants, attending a concert, dancing at a club, relaxing at a hookah lounge, working on a farm, gambling at a casino, playing basketball, and attending a Martin Luther King Jr. Day event. In short, doing normal everyday things that we all do.
No other country with an advanced economy has experienced more than eight mass shootings over a 22-year period. The U.S. recorded 611 in just one year—2020.
We are the only nation where civilian guns outnumber people (120 per 100 people), contributing to the highest firearm homicide rate among countries with advanced economies, 18 times the rate of other countries, even though we only have 4% of the global population.
Why? Why are we awash in so much blood?
In 1963, the body of a beloved, slain president was barely 10 days in the ground when civil rights’ leader Malcolm X responded to the tragedy by stating, “The chicken coming home to roost.”
He was condemned for his words and silenced by the organization to which he belonged at the time, the Nation of Islam. Malcolm X was pointing to a fact about why some societies are more violent than others, connecting the assassination of Kennedy with the prevailing climate of hate – specifically hate toward Blacks.
Not much has changed in the past 60 years. White Christian nationalists’ hatred to all things not white continues to be a predominant U.S. theme.
We live in a society where unarmed people of color, when stopped by law enforcement, face significantly higher death rates than euroamericans – Native Americans at a rate of 3.95, Blacks at 3.49, and Latine at 1.55.
White nationalist Christianity is up to its elbows in the blood of the innocent, engaged in physical and institutional violence since conquistadores to the South and Pilgrims to the North first stepped foot in the western hemisphere.
Indigenous genocide, slavery, Jim and Jane Crow, gunboat diplomacy and nation building are responsible for the global decimation of those lacking the privilege of whiteness.
The descendants of the dominant culture who unashamedly looked straight into the camera to create postcards celebrating a lynching grew up with a worldview that has and continues to normalize and legitimize white supremacy.
Few feel any moral compulsion about laws and policies that perpetuate political lynching in the form of voter suppression, economic lynching in the form of discriminative hiring practices and college admissions, intellectual lynching in the form of anti-critical race theory legislation, and, of course, physical lynching in the form of few convictions of those – police and vigilantes – who feel empowered to glibly ignore how Black lives, and all others falling short of whiteness, matter.
Today’s white nationalists, having historically merged their patriotic racism with eurochristianity, are calling for a new race war to make America great again. Just consider that a few hours after the FBI searched Mar-a-Lago to retrieve classified documents illegally in the possession of the former president, posts on Twitter referring to a “civil war” soared by almost 3,000%.
Today’s political leaders – the former president, members of Congress, Trump’s former national security advisor, governors, right-wing political hopefuls and Fox News nightly commentators – unashamedly pine for the coming civil war.
Polls show that 54% of those who identify as Republicans believe a civil war will break out before the 2030s. After President Biden gave a speech on September 1, 2020, about the frigidity of democracy, references to a “civil war” increased by 51% on the most active pages of the dark web, specifically the 4Chan site.
We live in a nation where a significant contingency of euroamericans are salivating over the possibility of a coming civil war. Modern day brown-shirts, like the Oath Keepers or Proud Boys, have already participated in a January 6 putsch.
Consider how many euroamericans stockpile, thanks to a misinterpretation of the Second Amendment, combat weapons of mass destruction. Why? Not for some zombie apocalypse, but out of fear of an uprising among people of color.
Rather than seek peace, seek racial and ethnic reconciliation, or condemn the proliferation of a gun culture, some politicians display their allegiance to the instruments of so much death in our country.
During the January State of the Union address, some Congresspersons who might have once worn a cross or a flag on their lapel, now wore a pin in the shape of an AR-15.
The chickens are coming home to roost. Because we celebrate the worship of guns, we have created a culture of guns, a culture of death.
Jesus instead says, “I have come to give life, and life abundantly” (John 10:10). I want to be an advocate of life, a prophet of nonviolence, a disciple of agape. And yet, if I’m honest, I wonder.
Communities of color who ignore such talk of civil race war do so at their own peril. I am left wondering if our society is approaching the day where people of color who are trying to be nonviolent are engaged in a counterproductive, if not deadly, strategy. Heaven helps us!
Professor of Social Ethics and Latinx Studies at Iliff School of Theology in Denver, Colorado, and a contributing correspondent at Good Faith Media.