By Kenn Blanchard, KennBlanchard.com
You ever wonder why there are so few African Americans at your pro-gun event? For many shooters in the black community gun ownership makes them a pariah. They deal with gun bigotry, cultural alienation and a lack of support. Let me illustrate one case with a guy named Phil and his family.
After Phil was married and became a father, protection of the house meant more to him that safeguarding property. He bought a shotgun. The shotgun was secured and forgotten until there was a home invasion down the street. Phil went back to the gun shop and bought his first handgun. He took all the steps required to legally own a handgun, which was more than he realized when he first had the thought. He did the paperwork, passed the national instant check, waited to be “Not Disapproved” by the Maryland State Police a week later, and picked up his pistol ten days later. He took a class on concealed carry and learned that there was much he didn’t know about the Second Amendment, the political games tied to the right to keep and bear arms, and now how his family and friends thought of him.
Buying a gun that he intended to carry concealed, when and if he was approved to do so, alarmed his extended family. When he shared some of the things he learned about gun control with his brother-in-law and it started a big family fight. He was called a sell-out, an Uncle Tom, and blamed for the deaths of the drug dealers across town. They asked if he had joined the racist NRA. Phil was in shock at the responses. The more he talked about what he had learned the more alienated he became. He did have one ally at the Sunday dinner. His cousin John the family dissident and racist, who blames everyone for his failures in life, was the only one that agreed he should have a firearm. His input didn’t help Phil. Phil is like many Americans of African descent in the gun community, alone and dejected.
Discrimination from your own family hurts. As a black new gun owner some find out that you have to defend the history of gun rights from slavery till the present often with a hostile audience. While you are sharing facts they are hitting you with every sound bite the anti-self-defense people have produced.
This happens because of conditioning over the past four hundred years. It is a lot like Stockholm syndrome. That is when a victim begins to express empathy toward their oppressor, sometimes to the point of defending them. After the Black Codes were instituted proceeding the Civil War black women lost husbands, and mothers lost sons, just for the act of carrying a firearm. To be found in possession of ammunition, or any parts of a weapon, could mean death by a mob. It was socially acceptable to summarily punish an armed black man. And that punishment ranged from public beatings, imprisonment, work camps, to torture/death. A few centuries of that and every black woman that survived had it in her DNA to forbid bringing a sidearm into the house.
She doesn’t care about the right to keep and bear arms argument. She just wants to save the lives of her children. This fear tactic is still being sold to mothers in the city. She doesn’t believe gun ownership applies to her family. She doesn’t have the luxury of philosophical debate about gun control. She just wants to save her race. It is hard to overcome that fear in the black home where the matriarch often rules and the facts are not there.
Phil’s cousin tells him to watch himself when he goes looking for training and to make sure he isn’t used as a target since he will be the only “colored” guy out there, as was in the movie “Surviving the Game” (1994) starring Ice-T, Rutger Hauer, and Gary Busey. So armed with all of that squirrely information and conflict is in the back of Phil’s mind he decides to attend a pro-gun event.
You and I know that when Phil finally gets to a big gun event he will be welcomed warmly like everyone else. Unfortunately, he may not be culturally familiar with all the themes. Things like big game hunting, NASCAR, and country music being prominent. While it may be American, it is not all of America.
This isn’t every non-white male gun owners’ story but it’s just one with which I am familiar. I have spent the last twenty years, mediating and encouraging people to understand that a gun is a tool, and personal accountability is what’s important. You know that gun control is based on racist roots. You know that our country is still healing from it all. What you may not know is that all of us contribute to the success and failure of reaching new shooters of all colors, creeds, sexual preferences and religions in America. We all just have to keep doing what’s right even when no one is looking. It only takes one verbal mistake to set us back. One of the unwritten rules of becoming a gun owner is that you have to also become an ambassador for the cause. It’s not a conservative, liberal, Republican, Democrat, black or white thing. It’s a rights thing.
“We must hang together, gentlemen…else, we shall most assuredly hang separately.”
– Benjamin Franklin
Rev. Kenn Blanchard produces the popular Urban Shooter Podcast, and blogs at kennblanchard.com.