A couple of weeks ago, I went to the swearing in of North Charleston's newly elected officials with my parents and my Aunt Jane. A family friend was being sworn into city council, and we wanted to be at City Hall to show our support. The day before the ceremony I was invited via Facebook to protest the release of former North Charleston Police officer Michael Slager from jail on bond. I ignored the invite like I do most of the Facebook invitations I receive. It certainly wasn't done out of spite but rather a force of habit.
After one conversation with someone who felt slighted because I had accepted a Facebook invitation but then decided not to show up to the event, I've trained myself to click the "not going" button. It's a life hack that has helped me immeasurably.
Anyway, it wasn't until my family pulled up in the parking lot of North Charleston City Hall that I realized the two events — the swearing in and the protest — were scheduled at the same time. Good thing I clicked "not going," otherwise that would have made for a very awkward walk to the building.
As we strolled toward the entryway, a beautiful young black woman on a bullhorn advised my family to be on alert as there was a murderer on the loose, an obvious reference to Slager. She asked my mom and aunt — "queens" she called them, a pronoun used frequently by those neck-deep in the revolution — to "please be safe." She then told me to take off my hooded sweatshirt and kindly remove my skin as it would make me a target of the police. I smirked because I thought wearing a hoodie was actually a pretty clever way to bring to mind the deaths of Trayvon Martin and other unarmed black men without being overbearing. However, I was a bit miffed that she spoke to me without the use of the "king" pronoun, although I'm pretty sure it's because I didn't accept their Facebook invite. Well played, ma'am.
Inside City Hall, the ceremony went as scheduled. It was exciting to see the start of a new administration and the hope that comes along with it. But then something curious happened. While Mayor Keith Summey was giving his remarks, someone from the aforementioned protest group started talking over the mayor. They brought up his vow to seek "retribution" against those who had turned the last few weeks of the campaign into a combative sideshow and tried to start a chant of some sort. I couldn't make out what they were trying to say, as the disapproving audience drowned them out. While the protest stopped almost before it really got started, after the ceremony ended, it continued outside of City Hall. While I chose not to join the protestors, I certainly wasn't offended by them as many in attendance seemed to be. After all, it's their constitutional right to assemble peaceably. I do, however, wonder about the effectiveness of such demonstrations.
With every tragedy that befalls Black America — and last year provided plenty of tragedy — we are compelled to come together and raise our voices in solidarity. In many instances even people who aren't black can be seen standing with us, ready to call foul against a system that has routinely given people of color the short end of a crooked stick. But most of the time, no real change is enacted, and we are left to our own devices until something bad happens and we rally again.
That night at North Charleston City Hall made me think of a speech a preacher from Georgia gave at the Longshoremen's Hall after the death of Walter Scott. The preacher proposed an idea I've heard others repeat, most notably rap artists and activists Killer Mike and David Banner. I've even read articles written by white men saying the same thing. And for whatever reason, it's starting to gain some traction in my mind. The idea? Black people need to stop protesting and take up arms.
I know someone just gasped, but let me explain.
First of all, I don't think that protesting is a bad thing. I just feel that sometimes black people should direct that energy towards something more substantial. For example, when black people protest about white police officers killing unarmed black men and women, we're inevitably hit back with smug shots from folks saying, "What about black-on-black crime?" Those folks aren't actually concerned with those statistics, or the dangers that black people face. Protesting isn't going to change their mind. If anything it's just going to add fuel to the prejudiced fire. Even when you want to talk about decreasing black-on-black crime by instituting some kind of gun reform, those same people are all like, "Don't take my guns," and three months later, we're in the same static spot.
Make no mistake, gun violence is very much a problem in the black community. A Pew Research Group Center report from 2014 shows that while blacks are "significantly more likely than whites to be gun homicide victims," we are half as likely to own a gun. In fact, the report notes that 41 percent of whites own a gun compared to just 19 percent of blacks.
Those statistics are important, and they're what provides the foundation for an interesting argument: What if 41 percent of blacks owned a gun, and what if that same 41 percent started using "stand your ground" laws as a means of protecting themselves? If those people were legally permitted to carry, they couldn't be called thugs anymore, right? They'd be called "Constitutional-loving patriots" like those militiamen in Oregon.
According to the preacher I heard, what we need to do now is make sure that every eligible black person in America is a gun owner; after all, it is our Second Amendment right too. Only by doing so would the black community flip the constitutional argument on its ear. The pastor surmised that a fear of angry, legally armed black people would bring about the gun reform the black community has wanted all along.
While I have no idea if that plan would actually work, it seems like a better idea than continuing to do what we are doing now. Plus, imagine the response you'd get on Facebook from inviting people to a gun permit party.