I am a proud black man.
I am an unapologetic black man.
I am a liar.
To be black in America is to be an apology. To be a black man is to learn how to make yourself small at an early age. It is to constantly crumple yourself up into something ... anything smaller and less threatening. It is to bridle your tongue and stifle your intelligence. Any black man who says he has never done it is a liar.
To be a black woman is to exist where you are always told to be quiet while always being told how loud you are. To have volume or confidence equated with bitterness or belligerence. To clothe and carry the entire planet on your shoulder, and to not even be allowed to grunt, lest you be laden with the title of “angry.”
But most of all, to be black in America is to embrace acceptance. Acceptance of the fact that—even when you are home—you are never home. There is no such thing as home for you. There is no such thing as safety for you. Even when you are home, you are not safe. Or free. Or anything. Just black.
And that is life.
Today, The Atlantic published an article by conservative writer David French about the culture of gun ownership. It is a thoughtful piece on how he first came to experience being a gun owner (when a man who seems to be a stalker showed up at French’s house and the school that French’s children attended).
The writer goes on to explain how guns make him feel safer in his home. How he felt the first time he fired his weapon at a range. How he obtained a permit to carry his weapon around with him at all times. French wrapped up his foray into becoming a “gun guy” this way:
At the end of this process, your life has changed for the better. Your community has expanded to include people you truly like, who’ve perhaps helped you through a tough time in your life, and you treasure these relationships. You feel a sense of burning conviction that you, your family, and your community are safer and freer because you own and carry a gun.
There was nothing inherently conservative or offensive about his argument. It was relatably rational. His attempt to explain the other side of gun ownership was reasonable, except for one part:
The part where people die.
In fact, if every gun proposal being argued about right now passed tomorrow, David French could build a time machine, buy some Apple stock for me (I mean ... he’s already going, right?), go back to the moment he decided to purchase a firearm and do it all again. French didn’t buy an assault weapon. He’s over 21. He’s not mentally disturbed. He doesn’t mention anything about owning an extended clip or a bump stock.
In fact, his entire argument in defense of gun owners who are opposed to commonsense gun reform is, “But we like it, so ... ”
And after all, isn’t that essentially what privilege is and always has been? On the great American balance scale, even the feelings of white men are worth more than the lives of anyone else. David French deserves to feel safe. David French deserves his security. Don’t mess with his culture. You couldn’t even understand.
Even if it kills someone else.
I’ve always wondered how it must feel to live in a world where I was endowed with the expectation that the planet should bend to my will. I’d love to believe that my principled stance that affects my life in no way whatsoever is more important than not having a ninth-grader’s brains splattered in language arts class. His parents worry, too. But privileged, unreasonable gun nuts and David French say: “Fuck them! I’d rather see babies die than have to wait three days for a background check. I want my killing machine now!”
Ultimately, neither the article nor French’s stance is surprising. They don’t even anger me because I have known many men, black and white, who have tucked their piece of mind into holsters, waistbands or the smalls of their backs, whether legally or illegally. But his entire defense rests on the premise that we simply cannot understand how gun owners’ belief in their own bravery and courage could prevent mass shooters. “The formula is simple: Criminals and the dangerously mentally ill make our nation more violent,” French writes. “Law-abiding gun owners save and protect lives.”
Let us be clear: That is a lie. Almost every study ever done shows that the more guns present—legal or illegal—the more unsafe people actually are. But you know ... it’s his “culture.”
And the ironic part is that I, too, am a gun owner. I also believe in the Second Amendment. Like French, I want to protect myself and my family. But unlike French, I am not willing to do so at the expense of the lives of others.
I often wonder what it’s like to feel that safe. To believe that you have a right—not just to be safe—but to feel safe. To be cradled by the world as it stomps on the skull of anyone who opposes you.
To feel at home. To not have to live in the constant duality of being perceived as a threat and always being threatened. To not have to instinctively calculate a slower walking cadence when you encounter white women in dark parking lots so they won’t feel as if you’re following them. To not feel the “tha-dump” in your heartbeat when you see flashing lights in the rearview mirror as a cop follows you—even when you’ve done nothing wrong. To not be folded. To not be crumpled. To be straight.
To be the danger but never safe. Never home. ... Never feeling like that must be the ultimate privilege.
But then again, I am a black man ...