Fellow white people, we need to speak about the Second Amendment. It’s one of my favorites, but let’s not pretend that we all love it because there are plenty of white folks who believe the second amendment is the thing keeping our country from being less violent. They’re wrong, but this article isn’t about them. This article is about my personal experience at a Black Guns Matter seminar.
This article is for those of us who love to shoot, who value the ability to defend ourselves, and those of us who try to teach others that guns + responsibility = win for everyone except the bad guys. Let’s take a look at that amendment, because sometimes we say we’re all about the Constitution, but haven’t read that bad boy since elementary school. So let’s go back to the source.
That’s it. It’s short and sweet. However, there seems to a great deal of cultural confusion about the second amendment. For example, some Americans wholeheartedly believe that only the police and military need guns. Some folks think only thugs and criminals have guns. Some people think only crazy redneck white people are “gun people.”
- A while back, I was fortunate enough to interview Maj Toure who founded the organization, Black Guns Matter. I asked Toure why he thought there were such a drastically different perception and use of firearms between traditionally rural/suburban white communities and urban communities of color. Toure told me essentially that where he grew up in Philly, people thought only the bad guys had guns.
If you had a gun, you’re a thug, drug dealer, or gang member. Toure has since made it his mission to change the way people feel about guns, but also to help people approach life in a different way and learn to live outside the boxes society wants us all sorted neatly into. He calls it being a solutionary- and I think that’s what we’re all looking for isn’t it? Solutions?
Everything Toure said resonated with me. It all made perfect sense. Everyone should feel they have ability to defend themselves from criminals OR from a tyrannical government just like the Constitution says. Those rights shouldn’t end at Martin Luther King Blvd. A gun is just a tool, an equalizer.
I know all too well as a woman that if I’m attacked, I’m at a significant strength and size disadvantage, but I don’t worry about it much because I’m always armed. My gun makes me just as dangerous as anyone who intends to do me or my property harm, no matter how big, strong, or determined they are. My 5’3″ self has a tool that levels the playing field between my attacker and I. Almost every citizen is guaranteed the right to defend themselves using this tool that allows me to walk, camp, or live alone without fear. The only way to be denied that right is by conviction and prosecution in the court system, as it should be.
What Maj said stuck with me though, and I started thinking about entire communities of people, unarmed, lacking the ability to protect themselves. I began thinking about the families, grandparents, single parents, young people and sick people living in neighborhoods all over America unable to protect themselves or their homes all because somewhere along the way someone convinced them that they could trust the government or trust the police to keep them safe.
That last line is almost funny if it wasn’t so incredibly tragic. I can’t speak for anyone but myself, however, I think it’s pretty apparent that Americans living in urban communities probably shouldn’t stake their lives on the belief that the police will keep them safe and sound, but that’s a different article altogether.
In the course of all this rumination, I ran across a picture of armed black men patrolling their neighborhood. It was at this moment that I was confronted with a reaction in my own internal discourse. My gut reaction was fear. Obviously, I wasn’t terrified or traumatized because it’s just a picture and that’s for more emotional folks than me; but it was there.
I DID feel apprehension entertaining the thought of the men in the picture patrolling my neighborhood. If I saw those men walking down the street in front of my house- what would I do? My brain and logic felt differently than my gut. My mind laughed at that fear and reminded me that everyone should do this. It ISN’T any different than white men doing the same thing. My brain understands that the second amendment belongs to everyone, in every city, and of every color.
Here’s the thing, I have a bias. I am less concerned when I see other white people with guns, in fact I don’t really have much reaction to that. I see that all the time, I live in Texas after all. When I see people of color armed my internal warning system throws up a red flag, whether I think it should or not, whether my rational brain and principles agree or not.
It doesn’t mean I’m rude to them or that I express that anxiety noticeably, but it’s a thing and it’s dishonest to pretend that it’s not real. I firmly believe if we want things to be better and we want people to have real freedom we have to be honest and stop pretending that reality is different than it is. Acknowledging and admitting my own bias isn’t being an SJW or a snowflake.
It’s real and if I need to think about it, so do you. I need to explore that bias and push some boundaries so that I can live in accordance with my beliefs and not be a slave to programming, whether it be societal or genetic. The thing is, we’re all indoctrinated in many ways, into our families, our communities, our country, and our culture. I’m Greek, and anyone who knows Greeks knows that we’re very ethnocentric. It’s not ALL bad, but there are plenty of things we’re taught about being a part of our world that are deserving of evaluation and even rejection.
In some ways being wary of people who look different than we do had a very real function for early man. It meant this individual was from another group or tribe and may in fact be hostile. It makes sense in that context to be wary of people who look different. I think some of that stuff is genetic and it carries on down the line to resurface generations later. The important realization here is that we aren’t beholden to those thoughts and gut reactions. I will probably have that wariness for a very long time, but I can also put myself in situations that help me break that conditioning.
So, I decided to attend a Black Guns Matter seminar in Houston where I grew up. I was the minority in the room. I was the blonde-haired, blue-eyed white girl, in a crowd that I obviously did not match. I was a little nervous. I wasn’t sure how my presence would be received no matter how much we all might have in common below the skin.
The verdict in the Philando Castile shooting had just come down, and I wasn’t sure how the folks around me would feel, though I could guess. Let me be real, despite my uncertainty every single person I spoke with was kind and more than happy to talk. If they didn’t think I should be there, they did not share the sentiment with me. If they felt I wasn’t needed at that seminar, they never said so to my face, but they would have been right. Black Guns Matter doesn’t NEED white support. It exists and flourishes on it’s own merit. However, my support has been cheerfully welcomed and I know that experience isn’t exclusive to me.
There were jokes and good-natured raillery while we waited for the event to start. I stuck out like a sore thumb, but I don’t think anyone else cared. It didn’t make me magically “fit in, ” and that’s okay. If someone had asked why I was there, I would have answered truthfully and said I’ve been a supporter for some time and I was there to write an article covering the seminar. If anyone had been hostile or crazy rude I have zero doubt in my mind that one of those people would have stood up for me. For a little while in that room, we felt like one community and it was palpable. We were united in the belief that we all want to live our lives, protect our families, and not be on the radar of an increasingly oppressive system of government and policing.
Once the speaking began, you could feel the mood in the room shift into something more serious, and there were so many questions. Listening to people both more and less familiar with shooting than myself drove home that this type of event is so desperately needed. I forget sometimes what it’s like to be new to shooting. I forget that the basics are not “common knowledge”. I forget that guns are scary and intimidating at first, before you have the experience and get to enjoy the empowering and confident feelings that shooting leaves you with.
People in that room needed experts, shooting instructors, and a lawyer to answer the questions they didn’t feel comfortable asking in other settings. What started with an air of seriousness melted into a classroom feel where all students were interested and respectful of all questions no matter how much knowledge the person asking brought with them when they walked through the door.
There is something both mournful and deeply moving when people around you are asking experts how to get through a traffic stop and not be killed. I don’t care what you feel about police officers or the justice system, but when good people are afraid for their lives every time they get pulled over for speeding or violating one of a billion traffic rules none of us actually follow…we have a real problem.
I believe in the right for ALL citizens to bear arms. I don’t mean just handguns or hunting rifles. I want every home in America to have a tank if they want one. I hope there’s a day when people in urban communities are armed better than the thugs, gang members, and criminals. I hope for these things because this is a future where people defend themselves and their communities without reliance on a police force that seems just as afraid as the citizens they’re supposed to serve and protect. I want thieves and rapists in urban communities to be afraid. I hope to one day see a citizenry so well armed that the police and government are reminded constantly where the power lies. I want the people of this amazing country to remember their own power. I want us all to remember how capable and strong we are. I want us all to remember that it’s not black vs white, cop vs citizen, or soldier vs civilian…it’s the people against the state.
For some other great resources please check out:
Trigger Happy Firearm Instruction– run by veteran and instructor Marchelle Tigner, she teaches all across the country with an emphasis on helping minority women learn to shoot safely and effectively.
The Arms Room– Awesome retail space and shooting range with an amazing staff. Many thanks for hosting the seminar and helping all the attendees shoot by covering gun rental and range fees so people had to pay for ammo only after the instruction.
All commentary above is the opinion and view of the author only and does not reflect the views of Liberty Viral, any of it’s affiliates, editors, or sponsors.