Gun violence in the United States is an epidemic that affects all communities.
There are many in and outside of churches in our country who feel called in every way to be a protector of women, children, and communities and who are carefully trained in operating guns safely and with mastery to do just that.
Many churches and Christians believe that it has been God's will to ensure that each American has the right to bear arms and to defend themselves if necessary and to hold a federal or local government in check.
"The link between guns and faith is inescapable; People want a feeling of existential security and religions have historically provided that in very powerful ways. For many Americans, firearms do the same" (Mark Mwandoro, Marketing Director).
Whatever a church’s or a person’s stance on the right to bear arms, "religious communities play a significant role in efforts to reduce gun violence, including by advocating for commonsense gun reforms using a variety of tools driven by both a sense of ethical obligation and concern for the safety of their communities" (Mark Mwandoro, Marketing Director).
We all need to come together to bring what we know in the service of preventing the cultural influences that are perpetuating gun violence, especially in communities still facing redlining in homeownership, employment, access to healthcare, transportation, clean air and water, and reliable police protection. Redlining means black, brown, and white people living in redlined communities have literally been denied access to each of these resources – through our laws and our practices.
As a result of redlining, in the 2020 Census, the homeownership rate for Black Americans was 43.4%, for Latinx it was 51.5%, and for White Americans it was 72.1%. In 2020 in MO, 72% of white families owned homes; 40% of Black families owned homes. The national rate of increase in homeownership for Black families (1.4%) in 2020 was lower than it was in 2010. Black families are the only racial group to go down in the rate at which they are pursuing homeownership over the past 10 years. (2022 National Association of Realtors, Snapshot of Race and Home Buying in America).
“In the United States, the average Black and Hispanic or Latino households earn about half as much as the average White household and own only about 15 to 20 percent as much net wealth.” (Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve, Oct. 22, 2021) What this means is that Black, non-Latinx families have an average net wealth of around 150K compared to white families whose average net worth is about 900K.
Our national history of segregation and redlining has not only meant white middle to upper class communities have always received the best in homeownership and property taxes that fuel resourced education, transportation, and employment opportunities, but also, white families have been able to invest in housing, business, education and every resource they need to grow wealth they can pass on to their children.
Redlined communities (not only urban but also rural and some suburban) not only face the removal of these sustainable resources. Redlined people live with community members who have lost faith in our American society which favors those from communities who have always benefitted from stabilizing resources (the best housing, education, employment, and access to years of economic capital which continues to accrue). They long to see the rest of America do everything in its power to ensure they have equal opportunity for employment, housing and other sustainable resources.
They face the ramifications of living in vulnerable destabilized communities where non-law abiding employment options bring drugs, alcohol and weapons right into the center of their lives. Here, our young people grow up with way too much fear of being gunned down and have stories that never end related to the layers of trauma they are daily carrying from the gun violence impacting them and their families. They and their families are navigating histories of trauma and daily traumas they are carrying while they navigate minimum wage jobs and societal cultural barriers that still make moving into safer and more stabilized communities challenging.
Those inside and outside of churches who support the right to bear arms and who know guns well and have a heart to protect are so needed in the efforts to curb redlining and other violence that permeates our country. There is so much that is not taught in schools that we have to pursue together by learning our different experiences of this country, especially the history of violence black and brown communities are still experiencing as it was written into federal housing histories and as it permeates to today.
These housing histories ensured black and brown families would not access stabilizing resources such as homeownership and business capital. These housing histories are joined by land zoning laws and policing legislation that permitted black and brown people to be contained to small, under resourced neighborhoods (Gordon, 2008). These zoning and policing laws also permitted white communities to use single-family zoning and police to prevent black and brown people from living in or coming into their communities (Gordon, 2008).
These histories contributed to the prevention of equal legal protections and equal opportunities and support for employment and access to all needed sustainable resources. These housing histories are exacerbated by cultural biases that lean towards white people and Euro-centric privileging of standard English that cast deficit perspectives on many.
We as a society need to hear what our littlest black, brown, and many white children are living with each and every day. We as a society need to learn what our black, brown and many white teens know about how guns are impacting them and their families and neighborhoods.
When we have the courage to step outside of the narratives our political parties and medias feed us and our religious institutions into the actual lives and stories of our young people, we also learn how to be the best protectors we can be of all of our youth, families and communities.
We are meant to be one America. Not an America of Americans who seek to protect their own races, classes, and ethnicities and neighborhoods at the expense of others, but an America that does the heart work needed to learn the value in every single person because of their race, class, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, etc. We have so much to share with one another from the riches of our cultural identities. We all want to see our youth, families, and communities thriving.
We are meant to come together to undo histories of segregation and forces that love to pit us against one another – these forces silence conversation and we all end up becoming victimized into keeping the gun violence we all are experiencing in place.
In any conversation on gun laws, when instead of starting with mandating our own many rights and freedoms, we instead orient towards what our rights and freedoms in the context of histories of redlining actually mean for the most vulnerable in our nation, we have taken the first step into the real solutions waiting for us. We have taken the first step towards the kind of community building across all of our perspectives and experiences that helps us become learners together who can look at all of the data together, including our stories and forge new logical, balanced, common sense, and innovative possibilities for all of our communities.
To learn more about this history in powerful trainings that help us come together to solve these and other pressing problems in and through our companies, schools, universities, non-profits and governments, see our Honoring Stories and Integrating Curriculum® trainings.
Gordon, C. (2008). Mapping decline: St. Louis and the fate of the American city. University of Pennsylvania Press.
Feds Notes (Oct. 22, 2021). Wealth inequality and the racial wealth gap. (Retrieved from Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System https://www.federalreserve.gov/econres/notes/feds-notes/wealth-inequality-and-the-racial-wealth-gap-20211022.htm)
National Association of Realtors (Feb. 2022). Snapshot of Race and Homebuying in America. (Retrieved from https://cdn.nar.realtor/sites/default/files/documents/2022-snapshot-of-race-and-home-buying-in-the-us-04-26-2022.pdf)
Sarah Hobson, Ph.D. specializes in supporting teams, departments and schools, businesses, and government agencies in building inclusive innovative change-making communities who understand how to connect well with and join diverse populations in providing needed sustainable resources for all youth and families.