I’ve seen this video written about in two places, The New York Times and The New Yorker. Neither of them takes on the video’s obvious (to me anyway) dog-whistle (and maybe not even dog-whistle) racism. First, there is the divide-and-conquer aspect of the video, i.e., the unstated fact that it is about an African-American man whose children get all that protection when there are so many African-American children who, in the video’s formulation, die from gun violence because that kid of protection is not available to them. Then, there is the plain old racism of manipulating white viewers to forget that we’re talking about the security needs of the children of the president of the United States and focus on the “fact” that this Black man and his children, not to mention his wife, are getting a level of armed protection that this same Black man–again, in the NRA’s formulation, though of course the video never uses the word “Black”–wants to deny the rest of us.
To be honest, though, my first response on watching the video was to be appalled at what I think is a different level of racism, one that I think has been active from the start of President Obama’s first campaign until now, and that I have seen called out only very rarely, if at all: the way all too many of his opponents feel authorized to cross lines of decorum and respect–and I mean respect for his office, not just him as a human being–that I don’t believe they would think of crossing if they were opposing a white president. The birthers and the politicians who gave them any kind of support are perhaps the most obvious example of this, but I am thinking as well of the elected official who called Obama a liar during his health care speech; and this video by the NRA strikes me as another prime example. Somehow, I don’t believe the NRA would have gone after the president’s children in this way if the man in office were white, and so I don’t know how to read the subtext if this video as anything other than a very large, very powerful group of people trying to put this “uppity” Black man in his place, “Remember, we know where you live; we know who your children are and where they go to school.”
There is a lot to talk about when it comes to gun control and violence in the United States, including–though this is all too often not included–the role played in that violence by our ideas about manhood and masculinity. It seems pretty clear to me that the NRA’s campaign as a whole is more about fear-mongering than really having that discussion, but the racist fear-mongering this video trafficks in is especially insidious and dangerous and it needs to be called out over and over again, plain and simple.