It is time to establish the Black National Rifle Association. The season has arrived and the reason is simple: The coarsening of our politics and public discourse in recent years has emboldened people and organizations who harbor dangerous hostilities against black people. That new boldness is evident in the effort to mainstream white nationalism and eugenics into our politics. And those efforts are succeeding. It was an ominous sign when Donald Trump, our Commander in Tweet, regularly took to his twitter account at 3:00 a.m. on any given night to complain about any and every little slight from a Hollywood actress or ex-beauty queen, yet his response was painfully slow and half-hearted when it came to denouncing the neo-Nazi exuberant celebrations of his election. This man was formally endorsed by the official newspaper of the Ku Klux Klan. There really is nothing else to say about what kind of energy our 45th president is riding into D.C. as that fact plainly says it all. And black people are in no position to take that lightly. People of good conscience of every race can understand that without a great deal of hand wringing. We would have to be blind to not see clearly what is happening; we would have to be deaf not to have heard what Trump said on the campaign trail and we would have to be dumb not to understand how that bodes for the future. And because most Black people are not blind, deaf and dumb we have to focus on what it means to protect and preserve our safety and well-being in the emerging era of white nationalist politics.
Considering the climate we are in, establishing the Black NRA is a reasonable and responsible move that is long overdue. Black people need to embrace legal and responsive gun ownership and use for all codified purposes. We must, in large numbers, apply for permits to carry firearms- particularly open carry permits-and actively exercise our rights under the 2nd Amendment. And we must, in large numbers, embrace our Black NRA membership and publicize it in the same way that many members of the NRA do right now- with car stickers, license plates, hats, t-shirts, and of course, the all important identification card. By embracing legal gun ownership and political affiliation based thereon, black people will serve notice to their fellow citizens that we are every bit as committed to the preservation of our own life, liberty and property as they are to theirs and should anyone decide to interfere with any of the three, there is a clear and present danger of lethal and legal self- defense. The very idea of legions of black people armed with guns and prepared to defend themselves with the imprimatur of the law may sound radical to some of our fellow citizens. For those who find themselves harboring such feelings, I submit that your feelings are one of the reasons why this initiative is absolutely necessary and probably overdue.
Our national gun fetish should have been disturbing enough standing alone over the last few decades to mobilize efforts to curb weapons proliferation in America- but it wasn’t. Now we are living in a nation awash in guns and there is no turning back. Even if we could get real gun control passed, we would never adopt any type of confiscatory policy that would address the tsunami of guns that runs over every town in America. It is just un-American to take away personal property that has been procured legally. Plus, that whole “You can have my gun when you pry it from my cold dead hands” thing is probably more fact than fiction in the unforgiving terrain of Armpit, Kentucky and Asscrack, Tennessee. I’ll bet you my check that David Duke would have beaten Barack Obama in a general election vote in these God-forsaken corners of America. So it is probably best that Congress steers clear of anything that looks or even smells like that. Besides, as a committed progressive thinker I have always been suspicious of Democratic efforts to advance the cause of gun control anyway. Culturally and even historically, we are not gun people so we are ill-equipped to lead legislation on the matter effectively. That kind of thing has to be championed by insiders, not imposed by outsiders. But with that said, every time there is a Sandy Hook the gun lovers need to ask themselves why they can’t lead on an issue that they are so passionate about. They are the only constituency in American politics suffering from that type of electile dysfunction.
For many of us on the progressive side who carry a gun it is more a matter of necessity than a cultural identifier, favorite hobby or political expression. As a foundational issue, gun control has nothing to do with the core progressive philosophy of expanding civil liberties to all citizens and ensuring full access and participation of every American to everything our great nation has to offer. It is a pragmatic public health issue that was put on a losing track the moment it became stained with liberalism. It would have been smarter to recast the issue decades ago along bipartisan lines as “gun safety” and prescribed solutions that focused on holding manufacturers accountable to act as responsible corporate citizens rather than restricting any individual activities.
But none of that happened. And now black Americans find themselves in a nation with more guns packed into it than can be found in the entire rest of the world combined- and surrounded by an energized group of people who get off on guns as much as they get off on hating us. These folks have been marginalized and laying low for a long time- and they have been restlessly waiting for their cage to be unlocked. Trump had the key and now they are running free. The unhinged are no longer on the fringe and they can’t wait to demonstrate their newfound power. From any angle you examine this circumstance, black people are in a potentially highly volatile environment. I grew up primarily in Detroit in the 1970’s and 80’s. That experience gave me exposure to more than my fair share of confrontations as well as a front row seat to the damage guns can do. Consequently, while I am not afraid of guns I do not like them. But I do respect their power regardless of the contempt I may have for the man wielding it.
Regardless of how I feel, that respect inspires caution and right now, black Americans need to give our enemies a moment of pause. The news has been punctuated in the weeks following Trump’s election with stories of deranged white men acting out their Trumpian fantasy of consequence-free speech and accosting random victims- be they in a suburban Starbucks or on-board a Delta Airlines flight. Nazi themed graffiti is showing up in places that shock the local residents and frighten children who thought this brand of hate was more historical artifact than actual matter-of-fact occurrences. Evidence that white nationalists and domestic terrorists have been emboldened abounds. However, when the Black N.R.A. becomes a thing- and everyone in the country knows it’s a thing- these trolls may take a minute to consider whether the juice is worth the squeeze before they find any excuse to pop off over nothing and create a confrontation for recreation. Trumpists have already proven themselves to be irrational people so we should expect that they will make themselves known from time to time and that they will act up. Only now when they do, they will know that we are ready to deal with them should they misread their electoral victory as an invitation to interfere with our life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. Once they are on notice that we will protect ours as passionately and effectively as they will protect theirs, they may very well decide to just be cool. Even a police officer who rolls up on a vehicle or an individual with some visible Black N.R.A. logo will get the picture: this is a person to be taken seriously. They probably know the law. They probably are legally armed. And they most certainly have friends who will demand accountability should I harm them without cause.
I wonder if any of the unarmed black men killed by police officers in the last several years have been members of the N.R.A. But I don’t have to wonder about the Bundy Brothers and their band of armed vigilantes who took over federal land by force in 2015 and were acquitted of all charges in 2016. You can bet your Berretta they were N.R.A. members. My invitation in parting to those reasonable and conscientious white folks who cringe at the thought of so many of their fellow citizens arming themselves in anticipation of social unrest and vigilante activities: Take a quick review of post-Civil War history and you will understand why the Black N.R.A. is exactly what the country needs right now. It was illegal for black people to own or even hold a gun during the period immediately following Reconstruction. That was a period of enormous political upheaval and racial hostility as marginalized whites fueled with anger and hate were determined to take their country back. The result of that energy was the nadir of post-slavery black history. For more than thirty years black people were murdered by the thousands by violent mobs of white people across the south- and even some in the north.
My view is that the history would have been quite different if any person inclined to join a lynch mob on any given night had to pause and seriously consider if he was willing to give up his own life in order to participate in the ghoulish festivities. That pause would certainly have saved lives and that is as true today as it was back then. The difference is we can do today what we could not do then. And we must. Because even though history rarely repeats, it frequently rhymes- and none of us wants to hear that sour song again. My parting word to the Trumpists: Black N.R.A. members could be anywhere you are inclined to climb out of your clown car to put on a show. We will be watching and waiting- fully prepared to restore any peace that you happen to disturb. Maybe you should pause and consider that you are not the only ones who are feeling the energy and the urgency of this moment. Guided by history and buttressed by the 2nd Amendment of the Constitution, we are feeling it too- and we are ready for you.
You have been warned. Govern yourselves accordingly.