Because our Founding Fathers Saw Blackness as a Threat
It doesn’t take a mind-reader to guess what you’re feeling right now about the impact of America’s unsafe relationship with guns. As a member of the Ally Ring community, you are passionate about contributing to a future where the color of your skin doesn’t affect your safety and wellbeing. Right now, Black Americans are harmed by gun violence at an overwhelmingly disproportionate rate to white Americans. In addition to feeling anywhere on the spectrum from grief, to rage, to despair and numbness, you might also be wondering…WHY is challenging the right to carry arms such an uphill battle for our country?
One answer is…you guessed it! Racism.
While a more complete answer to that question is greater than we can take on in one newsletter, it’s important to understand how racism contributed to both the creation of the Second Ammendment as well as gun control laws and how you can help to make a difference.
If you do a search of “racist roots of gun laws”, you are sure to be innundated with articles detailing the history and present-day impact of racism on American gun legislation–both the Constitutional “Second Ammendment” right to bear arms as well as State laws. As with most of what we share with you from Ally Ring, unfortunately there is no shortage of readily-available information on how racism, and especially anti-Blackness, seeps into unjust decisions made on every level from our personal lives to government policy.
We’ve digested a great deal of material on this topic over the last few weeks to bring you what we feel are the best resources to get involved learning about and solving this massive injustice. As always, we’d love to hear what this discussion moves in you and what you’re wanting more of! Thank you for being on this journey with us.
35min Audio Interview (has transcript)
Historian Uncovers The Racist Roots of the Second Amendment
This author being interviewed, Carol Anderson, wrote a book called “The Second” that investigates how fear of Blackness and Black power initiated both gun restriction as well as gun access. The only difference is who the gun laws are for.
She makes it clear that the Founding Fathers’ convictions supporting the right to bear arms was never intended to extend to people of color. In fact, it was just the opposite. It was intended to support owners of enslaved people to instill fear in the Black people they owned.
To be honest, I listened to this first and then read through the transcript a second time to make sure I was understanding correctly. They cover a lot of territory in a short time. If you don’t get it the first time, that’s okay. The relationship of gun laws and racism in America is twisted history so grappling with this injustice can scramble the brain a bit. There’s no allyship quiz, so don’t worry about memorizing the facts! Just do your best to digest the broad strokes. And, if you want to move at a slower pace and grow your knowledge of this issue, read The Second!
The NRA Supported Gun Control When the Black Panthers Had the Weapons
This lesser-known piece of history was mentioned briefly in the audio interview link above. I first heard about it in this podcast on The New York Time’s Daily Podcast (subscription not required!) episode titled ‘Lessons in Gun Control from California‘. After absorbing information on how the Second Amendment came from the need to disarm militias who fought for the freedom of enslaved Black people, I was truly flabbergasted to learn about how California’s strict gun laws contributing to its lower than average rates of gun violence were initiated to restrict gun use by the Black Panthers. It doesn’t surprise me, however, that the one time the NRA supported gun control was to take away Black power. Read more about how that happened and why here.
So now that you’ve heard about how racism affects both sides of the gun legislation battle, you might be wondering as I was…what the heck can I do about this right now!? The first answer is to VOTE especially in your local elections. (In California, ours are TODAY!) Here’s a link to find out more about yours and how to participate. This is so important. Learn about the candidates and vote for people whose platforms advocate for sane gun laws.
Another great resource is this one: Brady United. They are a gun control lobbying non-profit that focuses on channeling resources, raising awareness, and directing civilian action (that’s you and me) towards gun law reform. The link below takes you to their site where you have the option for 3 actions you can take. 2 of them are signing up to contact your Senators supporting background checks before gun purchasing and backing Biden’s nomination for the new director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). The third is making a donation. Please check them out and at least engage in the first two, and if you can, donate to support their bi-partisan efforts!