I’m obviously not the only person who understands gun violence to be an issue about families and gender. I had to check Mitt Romney a few months ago about his comments about unwed mothers contributing to gun violence. I disagreed with him for a lot of reasons, the main one being that most of the perpetrators of gun violence are not single mothers, or mothers at all. Shooters are usually men. We make violence sexy to men. We package and sell violence, and guns, to men. And we do this on an even larger scale to young men; and on a disproportionately larger scale to men of color. Violence is a part of how we gender our society.
Not only does this packaging of violence give us the sexy, hyper-masculine men of our Western dreams, it also helps us disproportionately target, criminalize, police, and continue to dominate communities of color. This is where we see a difference between numbers and exceptions. When we think about the death of the 15-year-old girl who performed at the inauguration, we think of someone who didn’t belong on the receiving or giving end of a bullet. But who does? I think about that 15-year-old girl and then I think about Number 500, the Westside man who was shot and became the 500th person to be murdered in Chicago in 2012. Or I think about Tony Dunn, my loved one, who I’m sure has a number assigned to him as well. Poor, uneducated men of color are the face of “the shooter.” And when they are shot we are allowed to look away, add a tally mark, and continue to report on how people like them kill folks who get to have names and not numbers.