Violence in all of its manifestations is a part of the fabric of American history. One cannot address violence without addressing institutionalized racism, the legacy of colonialism and religious conquest. Often times, when we do discuss violence within poverty stricken communities, we forget these key factors. We forget the trauma of these various historical incidences have yet to be addressed. We forget that violence within these communities, are stemming from dysfunctional coping mechanism induced by unresolved trauma that is mainly influenced by systemic oppression. This is not only damaging to the individuals who perpetuate and fall victim to violence, it allows for the continuous implementation of policies that are not trauma informed and do not incorporate a critical analysis of race or class. This only leads to more violence, more trauma, higher incarceration rates and ultimately higher costs, which only burden taxpayers and siphon resources that could go to address the current housing, transportation, health and economic crises.
We must start to view violence not only as a public health concern, but as the byproduct of capitalism and compliance. Because humans are treated as indispensable objects within this system, we fail to tune in with ourselves and become cut off from empathizing and viewing each other as whole human beings with diverse experiences. We fail to address the gun manufacturers and the loose laws that fail to ever hold them accountable because they are financially tied up with lawmakers.
Lastly, we don’t address mental health and patriarchy. Two leading factors of gun violence. On the one hand, our patriarchal society causes a phenomenon I call emotional castration. Men, who are 98% of shooters have this warped image of manhood perpetuated by the media. They believe that having feelings is irrational and to be a man means to perpetuate violence. Many believe that violence is the only way to be visible or gain the acknowledgement they desire.
In regards to communities of color dealing with multigenerational trauma, we have a collective burden that Dr. Joy DeGruy has coined as “vacant esteem”. Meaning, because there is a lack of healthy role models, many young men coming from these communities follow men from their demographic who are portrayed as being “successful”. Hence, why so many youth are negatively impacted by the racially charged stereotypes within the media. They have no one to really look up to. So they look up to those who are paid to perpetuate violence through music and movies but don’t actually live that lifestyle.
Secondly, mental health is highly stigmatized. Because people of color and society at large have been treated as 2 dimensional beings for so long many of us have become numb to our feelings and how to express them. Many believe mental health is only specific to race which is so damaging in several aspects. What this causes is a continuous cycle of maladaptive behaviors that get passed down to the next generation.
If we are to really address the issue of gun violence, we need to first address the legacy of institutionalized racism and how we may intentionally and unintentionally support its workings. We then need specialized mental health services for communities of color that address the specific mental health concerns we encounter. Luckily, the DSM 5 has now acknowledged culturally specific mental health challenges. There is still a ways to go though. We also need to have comprehensive violence support programs that address the whole individual. We know areas with high unemployment rates and low educational attainment rates have high incidences of violence.
John Richie, Director and Executive Producer of "Shellshocked", portrays the ways in which systemic disenfranchisement, mass incarceration and failed government policies created the gun violence epidemic in New Orleans, this documentary attempts to bridge the gap of disconnect by hearing the ideas, opinions and testimonies from activists, community leaders, police, city officials, youth program directors, family and friends of victims, and the children who live in violent circumstances.
Lastly, we need to hold gun manufacturers accountable as well. There needs to be regulations and taxation to ensure those making millions of weaponry are being held accountable. It is not a one way street. In our capitalistic system, we place so much blame on the individual and not these corporations that are generating the supply in the first place.
I envision a world where violence is non-existent. I know I will not see that in my lifetime but I do know I can leave a legacy behind that will continue to flourish and maybe, just maybe we can all live in peace. Without weapons and violence.