A few quick thoughts on the Newtown shooting & violence in cities.

Updated with phone numbers to call, below.

The news is still unfolding, the horror and the numbers still unclear, but this much we know: Some 27 people, 18 of them children 28 people, 20 of them children, have been killed in an elementary school shooting in Newtown, CT.

Before we go deeper into the day and our grief, I want to quickly say something about the coverage of violent events in America.

It is true – it is unavoidably, abundantly, obviously true – that the violent deaths of white people get much more play than those of brown people in the American media. A few blocks from where I sit, the African-American and Latino residents of Chicago face an ebb and flow of violence that scars the city afresh on a nearly daily basis, many of the victims children who got in the way or young people just trying to get to school or get back home. These are Americans who live with fear, who shape their days and are in turn shaped by fear, Americans who we, more often than not, ignore.

We ignore this violence because the people who die are poor, or we suspect they might have been involved in the violence themselves, or we just don’t care very much about the lives of people who don’t look like us, and racism can warp our own shared humanity, and we also ignore it to no small degree because it has become a daily drip — not news, far from news, just a depressing, daily reality to which most American consumers of news can’t relate. Much as we’ve learned to ignore the daily drip-drip-drip of traffic deaths, we ignore the daily violence among the disadvantaged.

When the malaise reaches the majority and touches our lives, that’s when we notice. Heroin is only a problem, they say, when it reaches the suburbs.

But it is also true that even though far more people die in traffic accidents annually, we become obsessed with plane crashes and their death tolls. All of these terrifying deaths in one place at the same time draws the eye and the heartbreak — and in this case, it was a school. An elementary school. An elementary school covering grades K-4. Not just a large number of deaths at one time, not just all in one place, not even just at a school, for God’s sake — but at a school for really, really little kids.

All of our kids need and deserve to be able to walk to and from school in safety. All of our kids need and deserve to be able to take a seat in social studies or reading and know that they will emerge unscathed. All of them: Black, white, brown, poor, rich, city, country, all.of.them.

The lives of high schoolers just hoping to live to graduation on Chicago’s West Side are intimately bound up with the lives of second graders in Newtown, CT. They all need our attention, and they all need our protection.

And they need real, workable gun laws. It’s far from all they need, but it’s a damn good place to start. Because all of their lives matter, and none of them should live in fear.

America’s adults owe at least that to our children — all of them.


UPDATE:  Here are the phone numbers that we need to call – today – to tell our representatives that we need sane gun laws.

White House: 202-456-1111

US Representatives & Senators: 202-224-3121

I’ve gotten through to everyone, and was just told by the staffer of my conservative Republican Senator (Mark Kirk) that they’ve gotten “a lot of calls on this today.”

Dear Asian-Americans: I am so sorry that I didn’t warn you about the GOP.

Or: The GOP – they really don’t seem to like much of anybody!

Last week, I wrote a post asking the GOP to just shut up about black people, a post which got a surprising amount of attention across the web.

In the aftermath of that, I found myself wondering: “Huh. Who is the GOP going to demonize and belittle next in this election cycle?”

And I knew: Asian-Americans. A post began to form itself in my head, one I intended to write sometime this week.

I mean, they’ve demonized and belittled gay people already:

Michele Bachmann: “If you’re involved in the gay and lesbian lifestyle, it’s bondage. Personal bondage, personal despair, and personal enslavement.” (She said this 2004, but it got a re-airing this summer).

Michele Bachmann’s husband Marcus: “We have to understand: barbarians need to be educated. They need to be disciplined. Just because someone feels it or thinks it doesn’t mean that we are supposed to go down that road.”

Rick Santorum: Families headed by gay parents lead to “great dysfunction.”

So ok. They hate the gays. Check.

And they’ve demonized and belittled Latinos:

Newt Gingrich: “We should replace bilingual education with immersion in English so people learn the common language of the country and they learn the language of prosperity, not the language of living in a ghetto.” (He said this in 2008, but again, it’s been re-aired).

Mitt Romney has promised to veto the DREAM Act (a bi-partisan effort to resolve the issues facing the children of undocumented immigrants).

All the candidates have completely waffled (and Romney threw in disdain for good measure) on the question of Puerto Rican statehood.

So. Latinos? Good for what are considered their generally conservative social views, but otherwise: Bad for America! Check.

And of course, women, of all colors.

Rick Santorum, regarding wanting to ban abortion even in cases of rape: “We have to make the best out of a bad situation.”

Ron Paul: We should differentiate between “honest rape” and, you know, lie-y rape.

Rick Santorum (again – he’s a peach, ain’t he?): “Look at the political base of the Democratic Party: It is single mothers who run a household. Why? Because it’s so tough economically that they look to the government for help and therefore they’re going to vote. So if you want to reduce the Democratic advantage, what you want to do is build two parent families, you eliminate that desire for government.”

The entire GOP field: “Among the major GOP candidates… not a single one has handed over the title of campaign manager to a female.”

Women – lying bitches who don’t deserve compassion in the face of rape, who foolishly buy the lies peddled by Democrats because they’re so needy with their slutty single-parent families, and don’t really need to be in politics. Check!

AND BLACK PEOPLE – omg! So not-working and gullible and that one in the White House is so worthy of being strung up! Not American. Check.

After all of this (and the anti-Arab, anti-Muslim, anti-poor people, anti-union, anti-anyone-not-white-male-straight-and-wealthy palaver as well) clearly, the Asians were next up.

I was going to call the post forming itself in my head:

“Dear Asian-Americans – Look out, I think they’re coming for you.”

I will admit, however, that I was stymied by an inability to figure out just what the slurs might be. It’s the burden, I suppose, of being the “model minority” — you face discrimination and othering and bigotry, but it comes wrapped in words that are meant to sound like compliments. “Good at math” being one example. “Tiger mom” being another.

AND THEN THEY FREAKING CAME. And good lord, how could I have been so stupid?

I refer, of course, to the ad run not by a Presidential candidate, but by Michigan candidate for US Senate Pete Hoekstra, during the Super Bowl.

Of course! Asians are, first of all, Not American. They are Chinese, and they Want Your Economy.

They are Chinese, but in a really oddly Vietnam-y way, one which will remind you that not only are they Not American, they are Inscrutable, and Peasant-y, and Very Very Dangerous.

They are also oddly interchangeable, because the scuttlebutt is that the woman featured in Hoekstra’s ad (in which she says she’s Chinese in pidgin English while bicycling along a rice paddy in a conical hat) isn’t even Chinese-American. It’s just scuttlebutt at this point, but I would be willing to bet that Hoekstra’s campaign didn’t necessarily make a point of looking for an authentically Chinese-American person to use for race-baiting purposes.

Soooo, it’s been a super long walk to get here, but:

Dear Asian-Americans: I am so sorry that I didn’t warn you about the GOP. I could see it coming — I just had no idea how fast the Racism Train was running.

Oh, and PS: To anyone wanting to suggest that Hoekstra’s ad can’t in any way reflect on the Presidential campaign, as he’s not running for President, I say that unless and until the GOP’s Presidential candidates publicly condemn the racism (and homophobia and misogyny) in their midst? They own it. Simple as that.