Powerless in the Face of White Supremacy and a Gun

While out shopping in Georgia at my favorite bookstore, the same day theEmanuel AME Church reopened its doors after the mass shooting, a white man in camouflage entered the store openly carrying a gun on his hip.

In my home state, we recently allowed licensed individuals to bring their guns into bars, churches, and college campuses, all for the sake of “safety.” Yet, in this moment, at the bookstore, I realized that such gun control laws only ensure certain people feel safe, while others who do not wish to own a gun are left feeling powerless. opencarry

This tense moment was still too soon. Too soon after Charleston, after the deaths of Eric Garner and Rekia Boyd—and even too soon after Emmett Till. Too soon after cops in Georgia attacked Kenya Harris until she miscarried.

Too soon because I haven’t processed the constant surveillance and prosecution I experience as a dark-skinned Black person navigating a society where I can be tried and executed in the streets without jury.

The gun-toting man had a wide-shouldered build and was probably shorter than me once he took off his combat boots. Looking back, I probably could have taken him on in a fair fight. Lord knows, I’ve fought men bigger than him before.

The bookstore employee, who will go down in history as my favorite bookstore employee ever, immediately said to the man, “Woah, that’s a gun! That makes me uncomfortable.”

Anywhere you stood in the store you could hear his reply: “Well, it shouldn’t be a problem so long as I don’t feel threatened.” The way his voice trailed off as his eyes panned the room froze me temporarily. I tucked myself behind a bookshelf where I could still see and hear what was happening. He also said he has an open carry licenseas if that would make us feel safe.

And then to change the subject, as if carrying a gun in a bookstore is no big deal, he shared that he had been scoping out the bookstore for some time, but only just decided to come in. I popped my head over a bookshelf to lock eyes with the bookstore employee. We widened our gaze and raised our eyebrows at each other to non-verbally confirm that this situation was indeed absurd.

But what troubled me most about the situation as it was happening was the realization that our legislative system was working as intended in that moment.

Long before I walked in to buy a copy of Octavia’s Brood, so that I could think about a world where my body is free through activism-driven science fiction, the system set things up with discriminatory gun control laws.

The idea of openly carrying a gun to protect myself has never been a realistic option—only when I’m imagining myself as Storm from X-Men dismantling oppressive systems with Black feminist thunderstorms and a small silver glock just in case. In reality, if the cops saw me with a gun, a bag of Skittles, or even a loosey cigarette, they would probably shoot me and ask questions about my permit later. As a Jamaican-American whose parents had to navigate the country’s unjust immigration system, I’ve almost always known that papers and permits don’t save dark-skinned people.

And so now, Georgia’s open carry policy, the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, and the whole foundation of America’s justice system works as it was always intended: allowing certain people to feel safe at the expense of others existing in fear. I was without arms and face-to-face with a man who may or may not have wanted to kill meand a man who had the freedom to make that decision without repercussions.

As he approached me in a corner of the store, my heart raced as I thought about the families of the victims and the nine people who were being put to rest in Charleston. I kept thinking ofTywanza Sanders jumping to defend his aunt Susie Jackson. I wondered if I could drum up that courage. I wondered if Cynthia Hurd was as frozen as I was. I wondered if Ethel Lancefelt as caught off-guard. I thanked the employee, a fellow woman of color, repeatedly in my head for maintaining calm in that moment of uncertainty. The man and I stood for a moment side-by-side browsing titles like Does Your Mama Know. It was a split second. Then I darted away to the middle of the store in three wide steps.

After he burrowed his nose into every corner of the bookstore, all he bought were two button pins with probably the most unpolitical messaging on them. I didn’t get to see them, but I know the store carries some very alluring pins of cats. Maybe he got those? At the counter, he showed the employee his Harry Potter tattoo. He made uncomfortable comments about how the tattoo reminds him of seeking truth and justice against liars, loud enough for all of us to hear. He talked about his “no good” ex. He said “open carry” ensures that his son respects him.

“Do you need a bag,” the bookstore employee interrupted, making it clear it was time for him to go.

Once he left, the rest of us still in the store let out a communal, belly-deep sigh. One customer noticed that subconsciously all the books they had collected to purchase were about men and violence. “They take up so much space,” the customer said with regard to the man who just left and the bundle of books in their arms.

Oppression can preoccupy our safe spaces, even in our minds.

My fellow customer’s comment allowed all of us in the store to laugh and begin the process of grasping what had just happened.

I don’t know why he came in armed. I don’t know what his intentions were. I don’t want to know. I want to know a world where I don’t have to be caught up in fear in the first place. I want a world where none of us feel the need to carry a gun. A world where the Confederate flag and a CVS aren’t more important to our political leaders than seven burning churches, the countless dead at the hands of militarized police, and those empowered with the false hubris of white supremacy.

People like me, and hopefully you, are trying to make that world a reality in the here and now. Bree Newsome, for example, took the Confederate flag down from the South Carolina statehouse with her bare hands. Emanuel AME Church reopened its doors when I’m sure domestic terrorists and other right-wing extremist groups were hoping they’d stayed closed. Not only are these activists not giving in to the pressure, but they’re reminding all of us that the world we’re fighting for uses love to overpower violence. Sanders’ 5-year-old niece, just by virtue of surviving the shooting by playing dead, is proof of Audre Lorde’s prophesizing.

No, we were never meant to survive, Lorde, and so whenever we end up doing so, we are being revolutionary, perhaps even futuristic.

America’s gun culture has gone wild

I am an owner of firearms and the holder of a concealed carry permit for the state in which I reside, but the recent national discussion on guns has me convinced those who oppose any and all gun legislation are mildly racist and vehemently insane. President Obama has been forced by recent events to make a statement about the need to have some sort of regulation regarding gun ownership and you’d think he was instituting martial law and  the sky was falling.  As a result of a very tepid response by the Obama administration, we’ve got Americans walking around looking like Rambo with clothes on

Utah shopper carrying an AR-15 in a local mall
Utah shopper carrying an AR-15 in a local mall

but let’s not equivocate here, the issue of the 2nd amendment and the right to bear arms is couched,  steeped in  blatant racist rhetoric that is being resurrected because America finds itself with a black president at the helm.  That’s not to say 2nd amendment types haven’t always been rabid about their desire to have unlimited access to firearms; just ask members of the Reagan and Bush I administration who took stands against the gun lobby after people were slaughtered by those who owned lethal weapons while the gun proponents demanded the government give their weapons of mass destruction a pass when it came to public/governmental scrutiny.

The pro-gun rhetoric has taken a life of its own.  Charlton Heston proclaimed to Michael Moore in the latter’s film ‘Bowling for Columbine’ that guns were responsible for more killings in America because of the country’s ‘mixed ethnicity’.  It’s hard to tell if he means mixed ethnicities kill more people than non-mixed ethnicities or mixed ethnicities have to be killed because they are mixed ethnicity and thus a threat to non mixed ethnicities. Heston’s very public pronouncement about what ails our country almost a decade ago has been repeated more recently by the Ann Coulter, who said  using equally coded language as Heston that ‘gun crime is a demographic problem’ which again raises the ugly specter of a divisive America under its first black President.  They are the heart of the 2nd amendment supporters….folks like Coulter and Heston before her have their pulse on the majority of gun owners who feel their need to own guns is for protection from ‘ethnicities’ and demographics that are different than their own.

There were some who tried to sugar coat the issue of gun control, trying to remove the racially divisive language of the Coulters, et.al…The chairman of Gun Appreciation Day went so far as to say slavery may never have happened in the United States if African-Americans had owned guns.  What Larry Ward fails to recognize is there would have been no 2nd amendment if there wasn’t slavery, for as is pointed out here, the 2nd amendment was a by product of white southerners fears of black insurrection in states that legalized slavery.  In other words, the 2nd amendment was ratified to enforce slavery and the fears of whites of a ‘demographic’ problem are at the heart of gun ownership.

The real reason the Second Amendment was ratified, and why it says “State” instead of “Country” (the Framers knew the difference – see the 10th Amendment), was to preserve the slave patrol militias in the southern states, which was necessary to get Virginia’s vote.  Founders Patrick Henry, George Mason, and James Madison were totally clear on that.

In the beginning, there were the militias. In the South, they were also called the “slave patrols,” and they were regulated by the states.

In Georgia, for example, a generation before the American Revolution, laws were passed in 1755 and 1757 that required all plantation owners or their male white employees to be members of the Georgia Militia, and for those armed militia members to make monthly inspections of the quarters of all slaves in the state.  The law defined which counties had which armed militias and even required armed militia members to keep a keen eye out for slaves who may be planning uprisings.

Thus, the 2nd amendment was crafted to allow white southerners limitless access to firearms irrespective of federal government regulation to arm their ‘slave patrols’ and keep people, black people enslaved. It was not then meant to be inclusive of any but a white gentry class and most gun owners even today are more than a little suspect of people of color who embrace the notion of free access to firearms.

The alarm bells being rung by 2nd amendment advocates ring hollow when they make the point the 2nd amendment is a part of a holy notion of the Constitution that firearm ownership is nothing short of divine…..when in fact it is nothing short of subversive and was intended as an instrument of slavery. Not many raised the specter of the 2nd amendment as a tool to oppose Bush II era assaults on citizenship rights; to have done so would have been met with cries of treason and resisted in the most strident of ways, however, a black president, leading a revolt against gun ownership is viewed in much the same way as a slave leading a revolt against slavery, especially at a time when the firearm industry is perhaps more profitable than the agricultural industry of an agrarian South of the 18th or 19th century.  It is very easy to match the imagery of that time to this with an African-American in the White House.

But America is indeed a violent country, is there any doubt about that and that too has spurred the gun debate so that now the dastard peoples of color aren’t black they are immigrants; they aren’t slaves they are  terrorists, and the rationale for unlimited gun access is just as vapid now as it has ever been.  Indeed, too many Americans are dying from handguns.  Why anyone would advocate armed guards, administrators and teachers in schools is irrational……even trained armed guards can commit lapses that could lead to disastrous results.  In Michigan a trained firearms instructor left his unloaded hand gun in a bathroom for an unspecified time and one can only ask what are the risks for the uninitiated.  When I first read that news two things immediately leapt to mind; why was his firearm unloaded and why was it not on his person?  If a trained firearms instructor could make such a egregious mistake what are the expectations for one not so well trained?  But such examples don’t deter 2nd amendment types; this type of news is too easily dismissed and forgotten.

As in all things that deal with race, we have an aversion to deal with it except in the most tangential terms; preferring to sweep it under the rug entirely.  People with mental health issues, psychiatric, domestic or medical problems should not have access to firearms.  Gun shows and other dealers should institute instant background checks with a data base that is updated as quickly as people are entered in the “system” and people who use firearms in a violent crime should bear the full force of the law and be ‘brought to justice’. (Now you can interpret the brought to justice part any way you want!)  Magazine capacities can be discussed and negotiated but I’m certainly averse to having anyone walking around with two 30 round mags strapped to his/her semi-automatic long gun in plain view of people just to make a point of the right to own firearms….such displays are immature, sophomoric and  might prompt me to draw my  concealed weapon in fear of my life with no obligation to retreat, nay the right to stand my ground!  Can you not see how far this thing can go?  America, fix this!

This is not how a law abiding gun owner should behave

Todd Canady is not a very bright individual. In fact for those of us who believe, in a practical way, in the 2nd amendment he might very well be our worse enemy.   Mr. Canady was supposedly a law abiding citizen with a concealed carry permit, but in the blink of an eye became a felon and has gone on to give those of us who own firearms a bad reputation, especially after the massacre in Aurora last week.

Canady was the victim of an accidental discharge of the weapon he was legally carrying, but unfortunately for him the errant shot injured him and others in a shopping center check out lane.  Afterwards, he limped, ran, walked away from the scene of his “accident’ whereby he was apprehended by an off duty police officer.   It appears Canady’s weapon fired when he was reaching for his wallet to pay for a purchase, which leads me to think he doesn’t know the difference between his wallet and his gun, but what’s worse is he was/is not familiar enough with his weapon to know how to carry it.  While I’m happy he followed the law and got a CCW license, he should have been equally astute enough to know the firearm he was carrying….its idiosyncrasies as well as its safety features.  Lastly, after an AD in public, don’t run….especially if you or someone else was injured by your mistake.  Make safe your weapon, own up to your mistake and wait for law enforcement officials to come to do whatever it is they do.  Running is not a good thing to do.

I guess we’re lucky that during a political season, folks running for office are not using tragedies like this one and the one in Aurora as well as countless others to score points for gun control, but with people like Canady they don’t need to say or do anything we will be disgusted enough to call for the very restrictions pols want.  If you’re ever in Dallas and see the face of the man above, run!


The 2nd Amendment pushed to the limits

gun_toterI am a big time supporter of the 2nd amendment and believe every citizen should exercise his or her right to own firearms.  EVERY citizen.  I am somewhat mildly amused at the demonstrators mingling with crowds of  protesters at President Obama’s appearances at different venues across America, while other citizens take it all in and law enforcement officers are civil during the display of armed resistance to a President of the United States and I ask myself the question what would be the reaction of the very same group of people to the presence of armed Muslims outside a George Bush appearance during his war on terror era?  No doubt it would provoke mass detention of every member of the Islamic faith in America’s borders, and a prohibition of some sort that would single out that group from legally owning firearms.  I doubt very seriously that those who are carrying their weapons at such events as those which Obama has spoken are true supporters of the 2nd amendment in all its meaning but rather using it as a symbol of resistance to government policies.  As such, they are selfish ideologues  whose blatant disregard for the public safety and well being jeopardize the amendment more than anything Obama could do with all of big government behind him.   How would the people openly carrying firearms in protest of Obama’s policies act towards similarly armed citizens in close proximity with signs supporting an Obama led federal government, and what would be the stance of till now completely law observant local and federal law officials to such a situation?  It’s ironic to see such people standing among crowds with signs protesting big government when these same signs were absent during the Bush administration which ratcheted up the size of government by way of its phony war on terror.   I wonder what would be the response of today’s patriots patrolling the grounds near the appearance of a black POTUS to the presence of armed opponents of the Bush doctrine of preemptive strikes and wars of aggression at one of Bush’s rallies not so many years ago? I remember clearly supporters of Bush saying sometimes rights have to be curtailed, suspended, abridged, infringed upon, at times in order to protect the public.  Certainly that would not be their cry today, and if they say they believe  fundamentally in the right of citizens to keep and bear arms, no matter what their persuasion, I would ask them to come out and support the trial of Daniel Boyd whose crime it seems is that he too owned guns and differed with the current political winds.  I don’t think you’ll see the guy in the above photo or any others like him at Boyd’s trial.

Should we take this kinda’ stuff seriously or not?

capemanIt’s pretty amusing reading in a way, but I also wonder if it was written to be that way in order to obscure  what is really going on;  the New York Daily News is as mainstream a media outlet as they come, and we all know what that means, don’t we?  Nevertheless, this article on one Daniel James Murray, aka the Capeman, threatening President Obama after insisting in a bank if he didn’t receive the money he wanted to withdraw (read that steal) without producing the necessary identification would result in someone’s death reads almost like a comic book.  Capeman claims he was on a mission to kill the President, and thankfully he was caught gambling his heist away in a Nevada casino before accomplishing that mission.

Two things about this; first the kook nature of it.  I believe all murderers are kooks, mentally unhinged, unstable, but the tendency to consistently portray those who plot to kill a president or actually do so in that way is conspiratorial in my view, because murderers are also calculating, and methodical, two characteristics that embody saneness.  That said, why make references to this guy muttering while walking down the streets of his upstate New York neighborhood with a cape on in order to underscore that point, and why is he withdrawing money from a bank in Utah an area which houses unsavory movements some of which vehemently oppose a President Obama and a continent removed from his home state of New York?  Had he moved there to become a part of the community of like minded people in Utah?  That relationship has not been explored or revealed by the corporate, read mainstream, media.   Finally the reference in almost all news stories on this to how Murray owns guns is telling, all too predictable and typical.  It is media’s attempt to get people to recoil at the idea of private gun ownership; anyone who owns weapons must by nature be suspicious and plotting towards a violent goal.  My retort to the anti-gun bias in Murray’s story is if he is as mentally unbalanced as some assert in news reports, how was he able to legally possess so many firearms?  In many municipalities sound and emotional well being are key in order to legally purchase firearms.  Was the guy mentally unbalanced or not and does the area where he purchased his firearms prohibit people who are unbalanced from owning guns?  If yes, someone else is also responsible for his illegal procurement of  weapons.  Perhaps this isn’t the lone gunman plot we are so accustomed to reading about when it comes to attempts against politicians as it may seem?

From the ‘he’s an idiot department’

idiotOur parents always told us never speak ill of the dead, but in the case of the guy in this post, I want to wake him up from the dead and slap him silly.  He’s the poster child for stupid behavior.  Why anyone would point a gun to their own head and claim they’re doing that to show people the importance of gun safety is S-T-U-P-I-D.  It’s not enough that firearms owners are given the evil eye by non-owners, and are always threatened or feel threatened with confiscation of their weapons by an over reaching government, but to give opponents of private ownership of weapons the ammunition, pardon the pun, to berate, deride, ridicule, encroach and infringe on that right, is……….well suicide as Mr. Benally found out.  For all the do gooders out there, here’s a tip for you.  Never point a weapon at your head, ever!  And if you’re not smart enough to follow that rule, then don’t do it in front of people and claim to give them a safety demonstration of how to use a firearm!  Jeez.

Agenda driven politics at the expense of human misery

pistolI knew it wouldn’t take long before the hue and cry for some type of government control on citizen behavior would start, led of course by a compliant mainstream media, and so it has with the issue of gun control.  Excuse me while I  gloat and say I told you this would happen when we embarked on our outrageous WOT  and our discrimination against Muslims the world over because particularly some segments of American society wanted to settle a centuries old feud with their Muslim cousins/brothers. It was easy to use 911 to incite passions against a targeted group of people, just as it probably, over time, will be easy to inflame the public for more “gun control” as MSM focuses on those occasions in social interaction where some people just loose their handle on reality and go crazy.  Why don’t we have a war on mental illness or on human insanity, or better yet, a war on evil, which is colorless, stateless and sexless.  But the latter is just the reason why we don’t wage such wars; they are not sexy enough, not divisive enough to sustain and so we suffer at the hands of kooks who commit crimes and kooks who profit from the commission of crimes who go on to advance their own political agendas.   Outrageous crimes of passion, murder and mayhem course through the veins of humanity and date back to the beginning of time and Cain and Able, or further. None of us are immune from this genetic imprint on our behavior; the rule of Law is what keeps some of us in line more than others of us, but even when that doesn’t work, the punishment of the law equally applied to all lawbreakers should.  Of course, there is a group of people, notably lawyers, whose job it is to make sure that doesn’t always happen.  They too are agenda driven, but humanity has been smart enough to erect, over time, a legal system capable of  dealing with almost any human transaction that insures social cohesion and the continuation of the species.  Piling on that system of laws, as has happened at the proclamation of every other War we have waged,  is draconian at best, oppressive at worse, and not the role of government.

Can I get an “Amen”

wwjdI am very encouraged by the news that the Arkansas state legislature is considering allowing citizens who have a concealed carry license to carry their firearms in church.  I’m somewhat sad to read the the biggest opponents of the pending legislation are the ministers and pastors themselves.  I know firearms are a cause of concern for many people, but I do firmly believe an overwhelming majority of people who legally possess firearms are responsible with their use.  I know I have been in the over 20 years I’ve owned both handguns and a rifles.  There have been several cases in the US where the absence of a firearm led to a high death rate and where the presence of one saved lives, during the commisson of a crime by a criminal, but I don’t know of a case where the presence of a firearm in the hands of a citizen contributed to the death of innocent vitims .  If someone does know of such a case perhaps they’ll comment here with specifics.

I like the spirit of responsible firearms owners….they’re independent and see themselves accountable for their own safety, not reliant on a government agency or police force.  I am put off however by the Rambo types who view firearms as a physical extension of some body part they flagrantly whip out to impress any and everyone who happens by. Theirs is a voyeurism with weapons I don’t share, a bloated Clint Eastwood, ‘make my day’ attitude that is responsible for the negative image many people have of firearms owners.  Instead I prefer those who you would never dream of possessing a firearm and being able to use one well.

I have a real problem with being told where I can and cannot carry my firearm; if I can carry it in some places why can’t I carry it in others, like churches or banks (the tellers at my local bank surely know who I am and that I’m not a violent person; they also have come to this realization from behind bullet proof glass!) and places where I have to pay for admission but aren’t allowed to carry are just as dangerous as some neighborhoods of my city.  Why can’t I carry when I go see the university football or basketball game, for instance?  Perhaps the problem is one of alcohol, and as a teetotaler I can’t begin to understand that one, and the fear is that once a person imbibes a little too much he/she may lose all control of their senses and return to the ‘my firearm is bigger than your firearm’ childish behavior.  But there are times like that just when I need to be able to protect myself from  some alcoholic who’s had more than a little too much drink and wants to impress and gets carried away at the high school Friday night football game.

I don’t like government telling me where I can and cannot go with my firearm, and that’s really the bottom line for me.  I’m glad Arkansas is coming around to that realization too that that’s not government’s job.  I hope that’s what they have realized, and note with a bit of tongue in cheek that Arkansas was the home of Bill and Hillary Clinton.  But be that as it may, it’s a positive first step and long over due.  I salute them and encourage all who go to church there to be as responsible with your weapon in the pews as you might be in the streets.  Practice a helluva whole lot and know who the enemy is.

More fearmongering from corporate media

Obama Win triggers run on guns screams a headline in the Chicago Tribune.  It appears many people are buying firearms to prepare for the inevitable “race war” they think will be led by the country’s first black/white president.  Main stream media is hopeless in its titillating attempts at scandal to increase sales while frightening the general public.  Gun control is also a main agenda item of the ruling elite, which includes many who own newspapers, because weapons in the hands of the general populace means they are independent in attitude and most likely to resist government intrusion if ever such a resistance were to occur in this country.  Unfortunately, many firearm owners are easily misled into believing the Tribune’s implication that a race war is imminent.  I only wish people were as diligent about obtaining firearms when Bush was stripping them of their civil liberties, or when Blackwater was patrolling the streets of New Orleans after Katrina.

I have a friend who would obtain his gun permits from the local sheriff, at the time we were limited to two permits per application every year and buy his handguns yearly, just because he could and to assert his 2nd amendment right to purchase and carry firearms.  A bit expensive hobby but his point was the only way to appreciate this right was to always use it, and I agree.  Even if you aren’t a lover of firearms, I think citizenship requires you own one, learn how to use it and be responsible with it.  One of the great American gun gurus once said, ‘an armed society is a polite society’ and I tend to agree, despite the attention grabbing headlines of Halloween goers being shot by drug crazed, ex-felons who should have never been released from jail.