The New Black Panther Party is patrolling neighborhoods in Dallas. I wonder if this is what my usually white, usually conservative university students mean when they write essays arguing for our God-given and constitutional right to bear arms?
When I encourage writing students to choose their own topics, young men in my classes often turn to guns. They’re personally and politically invested in their freedom to own, carry with them, and shoot guns. Or at least they evidence an almost or a vague political engagement. For instance, they’re usually critical of “the government” or of “the president” for trying to control their gun ownership. When I ask which president, they look curious or confused, as if they’re trying to figure out whether or not I’ve asked a rhetorical question.
When I had this conversation last semester with a student who didn’t answer my not at all rhetorical question, I suggested Ronald Reagan, who supported the landmark Brady Bill among other gun control laws. I don’t think my student, who seemed offended at my suggesting a Republican legacy as his antagonist, believed me.
I don’t think he bothered to compare my suggestion to other academic sources. I doubt he even checked my claim via Snopes.com. Both his trust in what they say (and so must be true) and his lack of trust in what his university professor says (and so must be some kind of trick or as biased as what my students, like they, often call the liberal media) is telling if disheartening.
And I don’t think that when my students argue for Americans’s right to bear arms, they imagine arming our black citizens. Muchless arming black citizens to defend themselves against a white militarized police force.
It’s not that my students argue against gun rights for people of color but, like much of white America, they don’t even think of a skin color other than their own when they think about Americans’ freedoms and rights.
Last week when I brought Columbia and Diary Of A Mad Law Professor Patrician Williams’s recent piece on white privilege to class, students referenced “the Ferguson thing.” Wikipedia calls it the “2014 Ferguson unrest.” Journalists are referring now to Ferguson’s “aftermath.” I understand everyone’s hesitancy to name recent events in Ferguson, as the fallout over Michael Brown’s death and many others’ deaths throughout the nation, as well as police departments’ handlings of those deaths, is still unfolding.
But it’s not an isolated thing. And it’s not public restlessness because the public is more than tired. And it’s not an aftermath because it’s not over.
It’s an uprising. When I look to Ferguson and to Dallas, I wonder if these just might be the beginning of a God-given and Declaration of Independence if not constitutionally encouraged armed rebellion.