Once in Parkland, a Year in Hartford, a Weekend in Chicago: Race and Resistance in the Gun Violence Prevention Movement

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Once in Parkland, a Year in Hartford, a Weekend in Chicago: Race and Resistance in the Gun Violence Prevention Movement

Category: Behavior|Journal: Sociological Forum (full text)|Author: E Charash, J McMillan, M Bernstein|Year: 2019

Generally ignoring firearm-deaths by suicide, “common sense” divides gun violence into two distinct types of phenomena: urban gun violence and mass shootings. At a cursory level, these phenomena seem distinct because of the difference in the number of victims killed during a particular shooting, rather than subtypes co-creating a master category defined by gun violence. As a result, gunshot deaths of black and brown bodies in urban settings, which constitute the majority of deaths by gun violence after suicide, are viewed as routine whereas gunshot deaths in suburban settings are extraordinary and worthy of outrage. In this article, we draw on ethnographic observation to compare protest vigils in urban communities comprised predominantly of people of color, in suburban areas that are mostly white, and at the national level in order to uncover the racialized processes of symbolic classification by which this “commonsense” view is produced and how it is challenged by activists. We use the framework of cultural pragmatics to analyze these vigils, making visible the racialized forms of domination that structure activism and, we contend, ultimately divide gun violence into two distinct phenomena rather than constituting a master category. We argue that cultural pragmatics provides a way to understand what it means to challenge culture as emphasized by the multi-institutional politics approach to social movements.

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