Historian discovers 2nd Amendment racist roots
Do black people have all the rights of the Second Amendment?
This is the question historian Carol Anderson tried to answer after the Minnesota police murder Philando Castille, a black holder of a license to carry a weapon, during a roadside check in 2016.
“Here is a black man who was arrested by the police and the policeman demanded to see his identification documents. Philando Castille, using the guidelines of the NRA, alerts the policeman that he has a licensed gun with him.” , she says. “[And] the policeman started shooting. ”
In the 1990s, after the assault on the Davidian branch compound in Waco, Texas, the National Rifle Association condemned federal authorities as “government thugs with the boot.” But Anderson says the organization “went virtually silent” when it came to the Castile case, releasing a lukewarm statement which did not mention Castile by name.
In his new book The second: Race and arms in a fatally unequal America, Anderson traces racial distinctions in the treatment of Americans to gun ownership to the founding of the country and the Second Amendment, which states:
“A well-regulated militia, being necessary for the security of a free state, the right of the people to own and bear arms must not be infringed. ”
The language of the amendment, Anderson says, was designed to ensure that slave owners could quickly crush any rebellion or resistance from those they had enslaved. And she says the right to bear arms, presumably guaranteed to all citizens, has been repeatedly denied to blacks.
“One of the things that I’m arguing throughout this book is that it’s just being black that’s the threat. And so when you mix being black as a threat with carrying arms is an exponential fear, ”she said. “This is not an anti-gun or pro-gun book. It is a book about the rights of African Americans.”
On the drafting of the second amendment to the Constitutional Convention
This was in response to concerns over the Virginia Constitution Ratification Convention, led by Patrick Henry and George Mason, that a militia controlled solely by the federal government would not be there to protect slave owners from an uprising of slaves. . And … James Madison designed this language to allay concerns from Virginia and anti-federalists that they would still have full control over their state militias – and these militias were used to quell uprisings in slaves. … The Second Amendment really provided the cover, the assurances that Patrick Henry and George Mason needed, that the militias would not be controlled by the federal government, but would be controlled by the states and at the mercy of the states. to be able to suppress these uprisings.
On black access to arms after the American Revolution
You have seen incredible restrictions put in place to limit access to weapons. And it is generalized for free blacks and, in particular, for slaves. And with each uprising, the laws became even stricter, more definitive on who could and who could not bear arms. And so free blacks were particularly outlawed. And so we see that, for example, in Georgia, where Georgia had a law that restricted the carrying of weapons.
On the fear of the founding fathers of a slave revolt, fueled by the Haitian revolution
When Haiti began to overthrow the French colonial masters and seized this country for themselves, when blacks seized this country for themselves, the violence of the Haitian revolution, the existence of the Haitian revolution , simply sent an earthquake of fear across the United States. States. You had George Washington bemoaning the violence. You did talk about Thomas Jefferson [how] he feared that those ideas over there, if they got here, would be on fire. You worried James Madison. …
The Whites … were fleeing Haiti and taking with them their enslaved populations, their slaves with them. … [There was a fear that] the ideas that these black Haitians would have, that somehow these ideas of revolution, these ideas of racial justice, these ideas of freedom and democracy would only metastasize throughout the enslaved black population of Virginia and cause a revolt. You had this same fear when leaving Baltimore which then began to open the public arsenal to whites by saying: “You are right to be armed because they bring too many of these black Haitians, these Haitians enslaved here who have these ideas that black people can be free.
On how the Black Panthers reacted to restrictions on the ability of blacks to carry guns in the 1960s
The Black Panthers were facing massive police brutality. Just beat black people, kill black people at will with impunity. And the Panthers decided they would watch the police. Huey P. Newton, who was the co-founder of the Black Panthers with Bobby Seale,… knew the law and he knew what the law said about being open to carry guns and the types of guns you could openly carry and how far away you had to stay away from the police to stop or question someone. … And the police didn’t like these aggressive black men and women doing this law enforcement job. And the response was something called the Mulford Act, and the Mulford Act was to ban the carrying of open air guns. And it was drafted by a Tory MP from California with the support and assistance of an NRA official and eagerly signed by Gov. Ronald Reagan as a way to outlaw what the Panthers were doing legally.
Sam Briger and Kayla Lattimore produced and edited the audio for this interview. Bridget Bentz, Molly Seavy-Nesper and Meghan Sullivan adapted it for the web.