“All warfare is based on deception.”
—Sun Tzu, The Art of War
A few days ago, I received a phone call from Kyla Lacey, a friend and contributor to The Root. Kyla informed me that she had received a request to appear on Laura Ingraham’s show on Fox News and asked if I thought it was a good move.
I told Kyla the story of the last time I had received a request from Ingraham’s producers. I was all set to go on Fox News and dismantle whatever argument Ingraham presented to her conservative viewership. I was sure I could take her apart and turn all her Donald Trump-supporting rhetoric on its head.
As Kyla did with me, I asked for some input from The Root Editor-in-Chief Danielle Belton. After listening to my enthusiastic explanation about how I planned to destroy the entire conservative ideology in one television appearance, Belton responded with a two-word sentence:
On Saturday, during the nationwide March for Our Lives, NRATV, the news outlet for the National Rifle Association, aired a prerecorded interview with Atlanta rapper Killer Mike. The segment on black gun ownership was hosted by Colion Noir. Noir, who is black, recently told the survivors of the Parkland, Fla., school massacre: “No one would know your names” if classmates were still alive.
“What are you really marching for?” Noir asked in the prerecorded opening. While it is not clear if Killer Mike was aware that the opening to his interview would be used to disparage the youth movement for commonsense gun laws, Noir continued, “Because—from where I’m standing—it looks like a march to burn the Constitution and rewrite the parts that you all like in crayon.”
Although Killer Mike raised some salient points about white allies, the progressive movement and how many of the progressive white allies aren’t moved when gun violence affects black lives, the segment angered a lot of people who wondered why the rapper would undermine the nationwide rally with quotes like:
- On progressivism: “The same people who are telling you to abolish the Second Amendment, they ain’t there for the documentary 13th.”
- On the school walkout in the aftermath of Parkland: “I told my kids on the school walkout: ‘I love you, but if you walk out that school, walk out my house.’”
- On being asked to participate in an anti-bullying campaign: “Absolutely not ... Because your child needs to get punched in the face so he can learn to punch someone back.”
“Oh, you’re important? You the moral to the story you’re endorsing? Motherfucker, I don’t even like you. Corrupt a man’s heart with a gift. That’s how you find out who you dealin’ with.”
—Kendrick Lamar, “All of the Stars”
I like Killer Mike. I am a fan of his brand of revolutionary, conscious, alternative hip-hop. I appreciate his social activism and—even if I don’t wholly agree with his politics—I share many of his beliefs on the Democratic Party, economic inequality and the need to dismantle the two-party system. I even agree with his assertion that some white allies invest in causes of social justice only when it suits their needs. Plus, in my unbiased, journalistic view, I wholeheartedly believe that Michael Render, the man who goes by the moniker “Killer Mike,” has one of the greatest first names of all time.
But Killer Mike was wrong.
On Sunday, the emcee used his Instagram account to issue an apology for the misconceptions resulting from his appearance on NRATV. He explained how he is a longtime believer in youth activism and even noted that he is a supporter of the March for Our Lives.
“I’m sorry that an interview that I did about a minority, black people in this country and gun rights, was used as a weapon against you guys,” Killer Mike said. “That was wrong, and it disparaged some very noble work you’re doing.”
The National Rifle Association is at war with the American people.
To be clear, the NRA is not an advocate for Second Amendment rights or gun owners. It is an advocate of the gun manufacturers from whom it receives most of its money. The ideological divide between gun-loving NRA members and people who want commonsense gun control legislation is a myth.
The overwhelming majority of NRA members support commonsense gun-reform measures. According to Public Policy Polling (pdf), 83 percent of NRA members support strengthening national background checks. Pew Research reports that nearly 8 in 10 NRA members believe that people who are mentally ill should be prevented from purchasing firearms.
Like Killer Mike, I support black people being able to own guns. I also support traffic laws, but I don’t believe that traffic violators should receive the death penalty. And if you’re wondering which politician has proposed lethal injection for jaywalkers, don’t worry, no one has.
“Well, why did you mention that stupid stance?” you may ask. The answer lies with Killer Mike’s interview, which was based on the NRA’s intentionally disingenuous narrative.
There isn’t a single activist or mainstream politician who has seriously pushed for repeal of the Second Amendment. Even in the wake of the Las Vegas massacre, the Texas church shooting or the mass killings at Parkland’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, no one has called for a wholesale ban on guns.
When Killer Mike said, “I do support the march and I support black people owning guns,” his argument was akin to debating whether we should use the electric chair as a punishment for speeding tickets. It is as likely as Barack Obama’s mythical jackbooted thugs who were coming to confiscate white people’s guns.
Either Killer Mike and the NRA assume that most black people are too stupid to understand that responsible gun ownership and commonsense gun laws can coexist, or Mike was simply used as a token for the NRA’s “slippery slope” campaign.
Let’s be honest: We know that the NRA didn’t film an interview with Killer Mike as a present to its black audience. Aside from now-former Milwaukee Sheriff David Clarke—whose rapper nickname is “Yosemite Sambo”—no black person was home Saturday afternoon watching NRATV when Killer Mike’s sitdown interrupted the regularly scheduled marathon of How to Get Away With Murdering a Negro.
It was for white people.
It was a trap.
“Do not swallow bait offered by the enemy.”
—Sun Tzu, The Art of War
The NRA used Killer Mike to disparage the March for Our Lives just like Fox News used David Clarke to paint Black Lives Matter as a hate group and terrorist organization. Just like Laura Ingraham’s plans for Kyla and me, conservatives are constantly trolling for any black person willing to allow them to point and say: “I told you we were right! Even one of your most prominent Negro activists agrees with us!”
Without these token black faces, the people who espouse the NRA’s nonexistent argument in exchange for airtime or campaign contributions are unmasked for who they really are: thirsty water carriers for right-wing zealots who are desperately clinging to power, money and the essential ingredients to white supremacy. The seemingly well-intentioned offers to use conservative outlets to voice dissenting opinions and critical debate are an evil ruse.
By inviting Killer Mike on its airwaves, the NRA’s goal was not to educate black people on the importance of the Second Amendment. Its mission was to keep firearm manufacturers happy by discrediting the March for Our Lives and the gun-reform movement. The NRA is perfectly aware of its enemy, and the only goal of war is to vanquish the enemy.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with Killer Mike’s support of black gun ownership or of the Second Amendment. But his televised conversation will be used by the National Rifle Association as a marketing ploy to further its agenda of selling more guns. Those guns will kill people, including some of the teenagers who spent Saturday marching for their lives. As in all wars, the NRA interview was a tactic based on deception.
It was a trap.
Killer Mike should have known that.