The United States of America commands the attention of the globe, the world’s largest superpower and a behemoth for embedded national pride. The US calls itself the ‘beautiful’ and the ‘land of the free and home of the brave’, but whilst the United States has been busy monitoring other nation’s on-goings it’s forgotten to keep its own house in order.
The latest shooting in Charleston, North Carolina highlighted two major issues plaguing the United States; gun violence and racism. Starting with gun violence, citizens of the US are protected by the second amendment to possess firearms, it’s considered their second most important right. While the founding fathers were open to renegotiating the constitution as society progressed, many Americans want to keep the original document intact at the great cost of human safety.
All statistics show that gun control results in fewer violent gun crimes, the United States homicide rate is thirty times higher than other developed countries where there is significant control. Every year, around 10,000 Americans are killed by gunfire but yet the right to have a firearm is more important. In recent years, we’ve seen instances of people easily slaughtered by one mad man with a gun, sometimes even children, and the response is always the same; a spike in gun sales and tacit rhetoric from politicians. There have been over 150 school shootings in the United States since Dunblane led to the UK outlawing handguns in the late 1990s, in the same time there have only been two spree shootings in Britain of any kind.
The issue of racism is also depressingly prevalent across the pond. Anybody, purporting that this latest shooting had nothing to do with race is kidding themselves, black people in the United States are getting a disgustingly rough deal. If recent occurrences in Charleston and Ferguson don’t perfectly illustrate the extent of the issue then perhaps these frightening facts will;
- Black Americans only possess 2.8% of the nation’s wealth, despite making up 13% of the nation’s population.
- The recession hit black Americans three times harder than white Americans.
- Schools of 90% non-white students are $700+ underfunded per pupil.
- White Americans use more drugs than black Americans but black people are arrested for drug possession three times as much.
- Black men receive 19.5% longer prison sentences for similar crimes committed by white men.
- Employers are 30% less likely to call a candidate back for an interview if their name sounds ‘African-American’.
- 73% of white people are homeowners, compared to 44% of black people.
- The gap between median income for white and black people has tripled in the US in the last 25 years.
- Black people are shot and killed by police officers, almost twice as often as any other ethnic group.
- 88% of black people believe there is anti-black discrimination in the US, 57% of white people agree.
This sort of social and institutional racism is disgusting. And unfortunately combined with the US’s ridiculous gun legislation, it contributed to the recent events in Charleston.
It might seem odd that a developed nation, the ‘land of the free’ and the ‘home of the brave’ could ever possess this sort of social illness in 2015 but it all comes back to attitude. The United States thrives off of patriotism and theism, these two doctrines are reinforced at every single step of the way and can lead to some very socially right thinking. The latter is not really an issue in the development of heinous gun laws and societal racism but the extreme patriotism of the United States’ citizens has been hindering them for years.
Star-spangled banners fly from every other building in the US, phrases like ‘God bless America’ are national slogans and all of this has led to an arrogant complacency. A widespread belief that the US has got its house in order and its role is to now monitor and fight the issues faced by nations elsewhere in the world. Founded from a genocide of the continent’s indigenous people, the nation founded an historic right to bear arms, which has never been contested because of the fabled status afforded to the founding fathers. Subsequently this law is protected by a widespread sense of national pride and the fear that any move against their inaugural legislation would be considered a form of treason.
This deep-running national arrogance has led to a slip away from the monumental Civil Rights movement and allowed the march towards equal rights for ethnic minorities to stall and actually regress. The United States may be a world superpower, it may be an economic powerhouse but it’s duty is not to be the world’s police or the globe’s surveillance but to protect its people from unrestrained gun violence spawning from archaic laws and institutional and societal racism that robs 13% of US citizens of the ‘American dream’ we hear so much about it. Nationalist rhetoric is all well and good but the US government needs to put its nation back at the heart of its decision-making. It says a lot that these problems are getting bigger and bigger even in the seventh year of the presidency of America’s first non-white leader.