“America is suffering from four poisons: violence, racism, sexism and plantation capitalism,” says the man who Martin Luther King. Jr. called the “leading non-violent theorist in the world.”
The man is Pastor James Lawson, Jr. He made this statement during a conversation with civil rights attorney Bryan Stevenson for an upcoming Special Edition of “Bonnie Boswell Presents.”
Reflecting on the shooting incidents in Buffalo, NY and Uvalde, Texas, the words by Pastor Lawson echoed in my mind. The common element between the four poisons, Lawson said, was the devaluation of human life – the designation of some people as less valuable than others.
As we struggle to wrap our heads around the deaths of more young children, we ask ourselves, “Who are we?” The facts are stark. There are 331 million people in America and 400 million guns (Small Arms Survey).
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention found that COVID killed 186 children and teens in 2020, but guns killed 4,357. Suicide by firearms represent 58% of intentional deaths in the United States compared to 38% of deaths by homicide. Women are 28 times more likely to be killed by a gun here than in other wealthy countries.
We are tired of handwringing. But, the antidote to frustration and rage surely must be constructive action. Yes, you and I can take some action that will protect others—women, children, people marginalized by poverty, and older white men who make up 75% of suicides by firearms. But what to do?
I asked Brian Malte, Executive Director of Hope and Healing, a non-profit foundation focused on violence prevention from a public health perspective. Brian noted there are many organizations already at work lowering guns deaths through prevention, intervention, and follow-up response, but they still need support.
One he cited was the Urban Peace Institute. I covered this group on “Bonnie Boswell Reports” in 2018, interviewing former gang members who helped prevent over 180 shootings in a two-year period. Lives saved, as well as millions of taxpayer dollars, not spent on incarceration. https://www.urbanpeaceinstitute.org/
Brian also mentioned the Los Angeles County Office of Violence Prevention that was established in 2019 with the recognition that violence was a public health issue. The more we understand about the impact of childhood trauma, for example, the more we can help children reduce the possibility of them harming themselves and others. http://www.publichealth.lacounty.gov/ovp/ovp_countywide.htm.
The bottom line is that if we do something—support great organizations, back legislation that rejects violent solutions, engage our neighbors and family, and expand the circle of caring— we will absolutely make a difference.
Learn more ideas about addressing the “four poisons,” on “Bonnie Boswell Presents: A Conversation with Pastor Lawson and Attorney Bryan Stevenson” airing on June 15, at 6:30 p.m., on KCET.