Saturday, July 29, 2017

Signalling Back At These Untermensch


WaPo |  Growing up, guns were a thing to be feared. They intersected with my life only as characters in narratives of pain: the reason the boy from gym class was in the hospital, the thing that stole the life of a friend’s cousin or father. My life has known no fear greater than in the handful of times my eyes have found the opening of a gun’s barrel.

It’s a fear that is present for many black Americans. That same Pew poll found that 49 percent of us see gun violence as a “very big” problem in our local communities, compared with 29 percent of Hispanics and a fraction of as many whites — 11 percent. While 20 percent of whites and 24 percent of Hispanics say they — or someone in their family — have been personally threatened with a gun, that number jumps to 32 percent for black Americans. And while 43 percent of whites and 42 percent of Hispanics say they know someone who’s been shot, it’s 57 percent among black Americans.

It was a similar fear that in 2015 prompted Stephen Yorkman to launch the Robert F. Williams Gun Club in Prince George’s County, Md., which is named for a civil rights activist who advocated armed self-defense and now has about 150 members.

“For me, it started with the shooting of Tamir Rice,” Yorkman, 48, explained, referencing the 12-year-old Cleveland boy shot by police while playing with a toy gun at the playground of a public park. “We need to create a different, better perception of black people with guns so that in an open-carry state the image of a black person with a gun doesn’t so alarm a police officer. And we need to make it so it’s no longer a sin in the black community to be a gun owner, but that it’s more accepted.”

This new crop of black gun clubs aims to educate members on the history of black gun ownership and the centuries of attempts to suppress it and to host pragmatic conversations about the way their members will be perceived, and the dangers they will assume, as black people who chose to be armed — services often abdicated by the leaders of mainstream gun culture.