Black History Year

Is There Black Power In A Loaded Gun?

Episode Summary

Ida B. Wells, W.E.B. DuBois, even Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. all have a place in one of the most obscured parts of our history - the Black tradition of gun ownership. Douglas Jefferson, the Vice President of the National African American Gun Association, argues that for Black people in America to be fully vested as citizens, we have to be able to experience the fullest freedom every single liberty granted in the Constitution - including the right to lawfully bear arms.

Episode Notes

Ida B. Wells, W.E.B. DuBois, even Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. all have a place in one of the most obscured parts of our history - the Black tradition of gun ownership. Douglas Jefferson, the Vice President of the National African American Gun Association, argues that for Black people in America to be fully vested as citizens, we have to be able to experience the fullest freedom every single liberty granted in the Constitution - including the right to lawfully bear arms.

 

Black History Year is produced by PushBlack, the nation’s largest non-profit Black media company. Obviously, the power that comes from knowing our history is important to you. PushBlack exists because we saw we had to take this into our own hands. You make PushBlack happen with your contributions at BlackHistoryYear.com. Most people do 5 of 10 bucks a month, but everything makes a difference. Thanks for supporting the work. Production support from Mikel Ellcessor and Jessica Rugh Frantz from Limina House and Sasha Kai Parker as editor/sound designer, with the PushBlack team: Tareq Alani, Brooke Brown, Eskedar Getahun, Abeni Jones, Patrick Sanders, and Cydney Smith.

 

Useful links:

National African American Gun Association

 

Episode Transcription

HOST: Welcome to PushBlack’s Black History Year. I'm Jay and in this episode we're going to talk about gun ownership in the Black community. Our guest is Douglas Jefferson, the Vice President of the National African American Gun Association. Much of the gun culture and gun ownership debate is driven by organizations outside the Black community. PushBlack is here to provide an alternate voice and Jefferson is someone we need to hear from. Black gun ownership is an issue we need to take seriously. Why? Because it goes to our ability to enjoy the same liberty and equal protection under the law as everyone else. Look at what happened to Philando Castile, a brother who was pulled over by the police and followed the officer’s orders. He was respectful. He informed the officer that he had a license to carry a firearm. He reached for his driver's license as requested by the officer. After all this, within only 74 seconds, Philando Castile was shot and killed by a police officer frightened by nothing more than the sight of Black skin. PushBlack members mobilized in the face of this tragedy. Because guess what, the Second Amendment isn't just a Second Amendment for white people. Liberty, freedom from tyranny and equal protection under the law isn't just for others. It’s for us, too.

Jay: Douglas. Thanks for being here, man. 

Douglas Jefferson: Thank you. Appreciate it. Glad to be invited. Glad to have this conversation with you guys today.

Jay: For sure. So this is a question we ask everyone depending on what they speak about. So I'd like to hear your perspective on this in the context of Black gun ownership. What does Black liberation look like to your organization?

DJ: So Black liberation to us looks like the Black community being able to assert themselves as fully fledged citizens of these United States with all the rights and privileges due to that citizenship and all debts owed to that community paid in full. We have a lot of rights on paper that are great, that our ancestors fought for, bled for, died for, but unfortunately today we still don't have all those rights respected. And so it's great to, you know, the first step being said is having it on paper, but we need to continue this work so that they're actually respected. So Black liberation looks like that for me.

Jay: So there are gun rights advocacy groups that already exist, NRA being the most well known. What makes your organization different?

DJ: The name of the organization that I'm here representing is the National African American Gun Association. So N-A-A-G-A or NAAGA, as some folks will call it. It is the most unique brotherhood and sisterhood of gun owners in the United States, in the world, I dare say. We’re definitely the largest Black gun owner organization in the U.S. and in the world at this time, and our goal is to promote responsible firearm ownership amongst the African American community by teaching the safety of firearm ownership. So, making sure that you are following the basic rules of firearm safety and making sure that you are going out and getting training, proper training for firearms and knowing what the laws are surrounding gun ownership. But the bedrock of that is knowing the history of Black people and firearms in this country, that Black tradition of arms that goes back starting from the moment our enslaved ancestors were brought over here in 1619 all the way up to present day.

Jay: Great, thank you. So speak a little bit more about what makes you all different than the other organizations that exist.

DJ: Sure. So we are owned, operated and targeted towards the African American community. That's not to say that we don't want good things for other communities, but we think that there needs to be someone from our community speaking specifically for us on the issue of firearms because it's a very nuanced conversation being fed. Our community, the African American community, has a very different history in this country than anyone else. We're the only community that was brought here forcefully, we didn't volunteer to come to these United States. And because of that, that has a unique struggle that is attached to our community. And with that comes unique views on how we should approach being citizens in this country and utilizing the rights that are granted to us by that citizenship.

Jay: You yourself, how did you get into gun ownership?

DJ: So my story starts as a little kid. So my grandfather, who's ninety years old today, he lives in rural Georgia, and even to this day he keeps a shotgun by his bed. I remember I was eight or nine years old, and you know, running around the house playing with my cousins and, you know, go by grandpa's room and I see oh, there's like a gun and you know, of course, by that edge, you know, you know what a gun is, you've probably seen it on TV, seen it in media and whatnot, but I always kept that in the back of my mind. And as I grew up and started, you know, working professionally and then extracurricularly outside of work, some of the folks that were around they were members of the military. And so you're talking with them and talk about everything, sports, about video games, talk about life, and they talk about guns, but I was always really quiet. And they said, ‘Well, don't you own a gun, Douglas?’ ‘Well, no.’ It's like, ‘Have you ever shot a gun?’ I said, ‘Well, no.’ They said, ‘Why not?’ I didn't really have a good answer for that. I was like, ‘I don't know, I just never really thought about it.’ So the next point that I had available to me to go to the range when I was off on a weekend, I went, rented a gun, shot it and I really, really started to like it. Being that I'm a bookworm I like to know anything and everything about what I do, particularly if it's gonna be a hobby or something I think I’m gonna put a lot of time into. So I started looking for what has been the involvement of Black people in firearms because, you know, you see a lot of stuff on TV and media, but that's not necessarily factual or really telling you the whole story of what's going on. And so as I started reading and researching, I was just blown away with how deep that history was, and how connected the rights to own firearms and use them to protect yourself and community were so integral to the African American community in particular, gaining and having rights that they had respected in this country. So that really, really connected with me on a very deep and personal level. And it really fueled my advocacy with this organization, and just my advocacy in general for African Americans to be responsible gun owners,

Jay: What positive impact could increased firearm ownership have in the Black community?

DJ: So I think one of the positive impacts is that it promotes a level of maturity and a level of responsibility that you don't necessarily get from other walks of life. Definitely when you become a gun owner, there's a certain way that you have to move through the world that you may not necessarily have had to move through the world before. You definitely become a more thoughtful person. And that's not to say that African Americans don't possess all those qualities already or aren't capable of having those qualities, but it's just something unique about firearms ownership that really forces one to have that. For instance, in the eyes of law as a responsible gun owner, you're seen as the bigger person, the adult in the room. And so when it comes to dealing with conflict, it's expected that you as a gun owner are going to do everything in your power to remove yourself from the conflict and to avoid any type of altercation. Additionally, with that ownership piece and the way we present it through our organization, we connect it with the history of that Black tradition of arms. So we show African American people that they're not doing anything new or different, this is something that's very common and there's a very deep historical context to that ownership, and that usage of firearms to support positive community ideals such as protection and security. But if we look at it historically, what has been more true for the African American community than any other community, the Second Amendment has been there to bridge that gap when the government wouldn't be there to protect us, because of incompetence, because of moral cowardice, because of outright malice towards African Americans and their community. And so without that Second Amendment, without that gun ownership, through that responsible moral ethical lens that is the Black tradition of arms, we wouldn't be able to have a lot of rights, particularly that right to vote that we cherish so much in our community and that we hold up as a responsibility to all of us.

Jay: That's interesting, because similar to other types of life changes or habit changes, if you are a firearm owner, that'll take you to a level where you're moving through the world differently and you are making different positive changes in your life between how you present yourself and how you take responsibility for yourself and those around you, right?

DJ: Absolutely. And it also makes you more likely to be civically engaged. If you just look across the country just at gun owners in general, gun owners tend to be some of the most civically engaged individuals in communities because they see how beneficial that right is to being protect themselves and protect their families. So conversely, if we look at the African American community, with that involvement of once we get you involved in responsible gun ownership, we use that sort of as a gateway to have conversations about not just gun rights but all rights because all the amendments, all the rights, all the legal protections that you have, they're important. You can't get rid of one without affecting others. And so we use the story of the Black tradition of arms, particularly when we look at the 1960s and 70s during the Civil Rights Movement and how gun ownership was integral to that community push to end Jim Crow segregation and to gain enfranchisement through the vote.

Jay: That's amazing, the framing of how gun ownership pushes people to be more civically engaged. And I think that speaks to a couple values that PushBlack tries to promote as far as self reliance and self determination. Like, if you have this personal responsibility of being a firearm owner and you are taking responsibility for your environment around you, you're not necessarily having to look towards other folks to respond if something needs to be done, which I think is something that has been taught to us like we need to look outside ourselves for people to help and support us. Would you agree with that?

DJ: So I’d agree to a point. I definitely think that you have to be able to help yourself before you can ask others to help you or at least you have to be putting forth good faith effort and helping yourself. But I think we have to always be open to good faith ally-ship. And I think historically, there's been a lot of bad faith ally-ship when it comes to other communities and allying with the African American community. That is to say, they talk a very good game but when the chips are down and action is needed, they're not necessarily as responsive as we would be when it comes to supporting their communities.

Jay: So let's get into the history of Black folks and gun control or how you put it the --  

DJ: The Black tradition of arms. 

Jay: I love that. The Black tradition of arms. So can you speak to how we've been restricted from gun ownership and the past and present as a people.

DJ: The history of gun control is a history of racism. To say it more nuanced, the history of gun control is a history of racist enforcement of that gun control. So, if you look at some of the first laws that were on the books to restrict firearms ownership, they were specifically targeted towards Black people. In fact, in the laws it was saying specifically Black people cannot own firearms or Black people cannot handle firearms unless under the control of a white individual. So we move from that space into a more nuanced and coded language. So we say you cannot own certain types of firearms, particularly firearms that cost very little. Well, we know that there can be financial challenges within the African American community so if you start restricting the sale of firearms that cost a low amount of money then you're going to disproportionately impact those that don't have a lot of money to spend on protection. And that tends to be the African American community. You see laws that say, well, within urban cities, urban areas where there's issues of crime, well, we're going to restrict the ownership of firearms in those areas. Well, once again, if you look at who lives in urbanized areas, there are a lot of very large African American community that lives there and end up being affected disproportionately. The issue with those such laws like that is when you're restricting firearms, particularly when you're trying to do it to curb some sort of crime, if you're looking at the African American community, if you show me African American community where there's some type of violent crime issue, a higher rate of violent crime, I can show you community where there's a much longer history of failed public policy to support that community. Right? So we'll see a community that has schools that are underfunded, right They don't have proper textbooks, they don't have proper heating and air, they've got asbestos in the wall. We see a community, I can show the community that has underfunded infrastructure. So, potholes in the street, streetlights that are out, you know, lead in the water, right, which is a neurotoxin which damages the mind. I can show you a community that has lack of access to non-predatory capital. So you don't have traditional banking options. You don't have lenders that are going to provide loans to start businesses, to send children to school, to buy homes, right? You only have check cashing spots to hide, you know, charge, you know, horrendous interest rates. You have a community that often you don't have a police force that's accountable to that community. So whenever there's a police interaction that goes badly, there seems to be a lack of care of engaging that community and really finding out what happened with that interaction and punishing the officer if they were in the wrong. So you can't tell me that guns are creating and sustaining these issues when every other structure in that community that would create a healthy environment for folks is not in place. Because if we look at the root word of gun violence is a gun, it's violence. And we know just from the science that violence is cycles, right? It's not that one day someone, you know, is okay and the next day they go out and they're going to harm someone in some sort of violent manner. We know that it is a process and it is created by an ecology that people live within. So these ecologically toxic environments that African American communities are subjected to, that's creating and sustaining these cycles of violence that we see. They're talking about homicide, we're talking about suicide, which have very, two very different sets of causes. So I say all that to say, when you look at gun control, it's the red herring. It's the distraction that's put out there to allow people not to deal with these other much more complex issues. They're going to have pay much greater dividends to solving whatever issue that you're talking about within the community.

Jay: For sure. So it's like they're trying to put a bandaid on a problem like on a deep wound instead of, you know, stitching it up and cleaning an infection and all that type of stuff. 

DJ: Correct. 

Jay: As far as I know, there's not a correlation between legal gun ownership in the Black community and homicide rates, right? Could you speak to sort of that nuance between legal ownership and how criminal behavior is usually done with illegal firearms? I think that that idea sort of gets swept under the rug.

DJ: If we're talking about just legal gun owners as a group in this country, they have some of the lowest rates of involvement with any type of law breaking. So there have been a couple of studies that were put out, particularly one that came out in Texas a few years back, that showed how those that were concealed carry cardholders had some of the lowest rates of any group in Texas of breaking the law. Now obviously, that's only one state. But I think we could extrapolate that pretty generally across the spectrum as far as gun owners are concerned. If you sit down and speak to gun owners, the laws are very much at the front of their minds. So gun owners, legal gun owners, they don't, they don't want to break off their whole premise of gun ownership is because they're worried about other people that are going to break the law and try to bring some sort of illegal, unethical, immoral, violence against them and their families. We have challenges that we face as a community that other communities don't have to face. We look at some of the best that our communities produce, such as Martin Luther King and even though he lived in different time than we do today, even when he went to try to buy get a firearm and get a permit so that he could own a firearm, protect his family, he was denied getting that permit. Right? So Mr. Martin Luther King, you know, the the patron saint of nonviolent activism, was not able to get a firearm to defend his family. If anyone you know, you're going to put up there as the picture perfect example of a responsible gun owner and he was told ‘no, you can't.’ Now obviously that was under a Jim Crow South situation but we still have these situations today. We had a gentleman a couple years ago, lived in California, he’s an African American gentleman, older gentlemen, worked, been very successful as a doctor, retired, living with his wife, the town that he lived in, he was being threatened by white racist skinheads like all the neo nazi tattoos, right? The whole nine, like, the idea of that picture in your head that people have when they think of the racist, white supremacist individual, those people were threatening him and his wife. He said, All right, I'm gonna get a firearm to make sure that I can protect myself if something happens. He was denied his permit. The reason why was they said he didn't have good reason to own a firearm.

Jay: Wow.

DJ: So think about that. He's literally going to the police. He's saying that I have literally had on multiple occasions, white supremacists threaten me, with great bodily harm and death, threaten my wife with great bodily harm and death. And yet that was not a good enough reason for him to be granted a gun permit so that he can own a firearm. So he's trying to follow the law. Right? And so I know I've kind of gone around the block with that answer but it's just a very complex, very nuanced conversation we have to continue to have and we as gun owners have to do our part. One by, you know, being active in that legal structure of making sure that the walls do represent us and protect us in our communities. But also, we have to do our part as far as making sure that we can, you know, stopping the illegal flow firearms because if we know that firearms are being stolen from our homes or cars and things, we need to make sure that we properly secure them. Which goes into one of the things that we're doing, we're about to release a series of public service announcements that speak to properly securing your firearm against criminal actors.

Jay: So let's get into the history a little more. You mentioned Dr. King applying for concealed carry license, something I just recently learned about. It's an amazing thing I think that’s also been swept under the rug in history. Could you speak to some other incidents or figures in Black history that stand out in your mind?

DJ: So we have individuals such as Ida B. Wells. Ida B. Wells, she's very well known for her anti-lynching advocacy during the turn of the century going from the 1890s into the early 1900s. She is quoted off saying, “a Winchester rifle has a place in every Black home” because she highlighted incidents where lynchings were only near-lynchings because of Black people that were armed and ready to defend themselves against the lynch mob. Now, if we look at the rifle that she was talking about the Winchester rifle, it was the AR-15 of its day. So she advocated the use of the firearm because if you look at these pictures of lynch mobs, this wasn't just like one or two people. I mean, we're talking tens dozens, hundreds, thousands, in some cases, of people that showed up to see a Black person hung from a tree. So she was very adamant on Black people owning firearms to protect themselves. Another person that's part of that Black tradition of arms is W.E.B DuBois. He's known as a scholars intellectual, right? He's known as pretty much the founder of the field of sociology, he was one of the first African Americans to use the scientific method to empirically disprove many of the racist tropes and assumptions that white scientists of the day were claiming that were true of Black people. And use the same scientific method that they said was the bar of how science was conducted to disprove those things, right. And in September of 1906, in Atlanta, Georgia, when he was teaching at Atlanta University, there was a anti-Black riot that went on. So you had white people that were upset because Black people were starting to have businesses, starting to own homes, starting to be successful and there are white folks that thought that they shouldn't have this. So they started doing what we've seen in many instances. They started shooting, raping, killing, stealing. W.E.B. DuBois, he bought a shotgun and he sat on the front steps of North Hall of Atlanta University Center, ready to defend himself, his wife who was living on campus with him at the time and his students if those white mobs had come come on to the university campus. Right? So he was very much a scholar, but he knew the importance of owning firearms for protection to make sure that you could defend yourself and your family. Another person, one of my personal favorites, who we call him within our organization the godfather of Black armed self defense, Robert F. Williams. He was the NAACP president out of North Carolina in the 1960s. And he's very famous for saying a line that is not very controversial today, but it was extremely controversial then. And what he said was, after the ending of a rape trial, there was a white man who had raped a Black woman who was in his community. They organized to pressure the local government to arrest that man and take it to trial. And he said, we're going to put our faith in this justice system and wait, you know, for it to deliver a guilty verdict. It did not deliver a guilty verdict as was too often the case during that time. And so they were very upset in they said well, what are we supposed to do if we can't put our faith in them that they're going to to protect us. And Robert Williams said if the government is not going to protect us from violent, illegal, immoral terrorism, then we are going to protect ourselves. That is to say, if you come with illegal immoral violence to our community, to commit it against our community, we will respond with lethal force to defend ourselves. And that was very controversial at the time for a Black man to say that he would defend himself against the violence of a white man. So he actually formed a group called the Black Armed Guard. And they went and protected many members of the community and even protected Freedom Riders that came through to nonviolently protest the government to bring down Jim Crow segregation and to enfranchise African American people. He actually was able to get the arms for the Black armed guard by a forming a Gun Club, with the same title. And he actually did that through applying to the NRA. Another individual that we have to talk about is Dr. Ossian Sweet. So he was a doctor out of Detroit, lived with his wife. They were one of the first people to desegregate one of the segregated Detroit neighborhoods, bought a house in a white neighborhood. When they were finally able to get around the redlining laws and buy a home, the white community did not like that. They were very upset that there's this Black man and woman that were living in their midst. So they terrorized him day in and day out. They would call him names, they would call his wife names, they would, you know, threaten him. And this happened you know, this kind of built up over a period of months. So, finally, one day a mob came to his house with the intent on breaking into his house and probably you know, killing him and his wife. He called the police, the police showed up but they just stood by and watched, they didn't do anything to stop the mob. And so finally when there was one guy that was bold enough to come up to his front door and enter, when that man busted into Dr. Sweet’s front door, he received a couple of .38 slugs to the chest because Dr. Ossian Sweet was asserting his Second Amendment right to defend himself and his wife. He had called on the government, the authorities, to defend him, protect them, and they refused to, so he took matters into his own hands as far as his right as a human being and as a citizen of the United States and defending himself. So at that point, that's when the police got involved and broke up the mob. And it wasn't because there was a Black man or a woman that were threatened but because there was a white person that was hurt. 

Jay: So today, do you think those type of threats still exist in some way, as far as outside terroristic threats towards our community? We've seen incidences like the shooting at Emanuel AME Church five years ago, there was more white nationalist sentiment in the public sphere. You know, not to say this is new, but it's something that seems more public than in previous years. Are these threads similar to what you just described, that we need to be on the lookout for?

DJ: Absolutely. So one thing I always tell people if I'm having a conversation with them about the civil rights and they ask, they say, ‘Well, that was so long ago? Why are we worried about that now?’ One thing I tell them is that's within living memory, it wasn't really that long ago. I mean, I can talk to my parents, they can remember going to segregated schools growing up. Yeah, I can talk to my grandfather, he can tell me about coming home at night and hiding in the ditch because there’s Night Riders running around. Well, Georgia, right, looking to hang Black folks in trees. So this is within living memory. So these folks, there’s still, many of them are still living. And of course, they are humans like anyone else, they're gonna have relationships, they're gonna get married, they're gonna have children, you know, those ideas didn't just die. They're passing those ideas on. So there are people that are much younger than them that still have those same toxic ideas about the African American community and about white supremacy. And so, since those ideas still exist, since those people that ascribe to those ideas still exist, and they still believe in committing violence against African Americans, just because we are African Americans, then yes, I truly believe we need to own firearms to protect ourselves and protect our community. And we need to own the firearms that we're likely to encounter. And that's not just handguns, that shotguns, that's rifles, right, these individuals will have those type of firearms and we need to have that same type of access to firearms so that we can defend ourselves against that. And we can point out instance such as, like you said, the Emanuel AME Church shooting, where we had a white supremacist terrorist walk into a church full of African Americans and just murdered them. So this definitely a very real threat that’s out there so we need to make sure that we protect ourselves, that we invest in all of the rights. Not just you know, the right to free speech, not just the right to protest, not just the, you know, all the other rights, the right to vote. The Second Amendment is very crucial to that because going back to the 1960s and 70s era, you couldn't have had those massive nonviolent protests across the south without Black people that were willing to own firearms and use them to protect themselves and their communities. Because once the marches are over, and the sun goes down, and the cameras go away, the Night Riders come out, and they come into that Black community because they're going to make an example of someone. And so you needed people that would stand up with armed force to defend those marchers so that the very next day, they could get up and go back out in the street and go back and demand that the government and society respect them and franchise them and treat them like every other U.S. citizen ought to be treated in this country.

Jay: So you mentioned media imagery of Black folks with guns and sort of criminality aspect, and then you have the, you know, white folks presented, it's more like a good old boy, you know, American type thing. Why do you think these perceptions exist and what function do they serve?

DJ: I think the perceptions exist because of the media that you see out there. It goes back to how historically African Americans have been portrayed as being criminal, being lazy, being shiftless. Those stereotypes have never gone away, they've just changed in how they manifest. And it's always a challenge to overturn those perceptions just because they're so prevalent in the public. And unfortunately, there are African Americans that do subscribe to those perceptions, right? I've had conversations with them. And they see any Black person that owns a firearm like, well, you must be a criminal actor, or you must be a bad guy. I think also, with the perceptions when you talk about how white people are portrayed with firearms versus Black people, well, that goes to there's a very, in white communities it's a much more open conversation about gun culture than there is in the Black community. What our organization has done to allow people to come out of the proverbial safe, as it were, so they're able to have conversations with family and friends that they weren't able to have previously about firearms and talk about it from a place of knowledge after spending time with the organization and learning that history. We get a number of emails, letters even, you know, in-person conversations with new members that come to organization where they tell us how it's been really helpful knowing that history and being able to connect that because, you know, it destigmatizes gun ownership, right, if you can talk about some of your greatest heroes and heroines supporting the Second Amendment right, It makes it much easier to have that conversation with family and friends.

Jay: That's amazing, because white folks have that right. All throughout history, they have not been afraid to stand up for their human rights using that type of action. Even in the media with the cowboy shows and all that type of stuff. They're heroes, they're running around shooting up non-white people and being praised for it. So you're saying if we are able to see ourselves in a similar fashion, but not necessarily just randomly going out and using violence, but this Black tradition of arms as a legacy, something that we can embrace from a rational and emotional approach and really be part of and you're saying that helps get people into the door a lot of times.

DJ: Absolutely, absolutely. I think that's been the bedrock of our success is being able to connect people with history. If you look in the African American community, we hold our elders and our ancestors in very, very high regard. And being able to connect those ideas in a real fashion, not in some twisted or you know, fashion of having an agenda that's not in the interest of the African American community, but but in a real way to connect those heroes and heroines to that honorable moral and ethical usage of firearms for protection of the community. It really reaches a lot of people. It really puts firearms ownership in a light that many people have never seen in literally in their entire life.

Jay: Recently, in the past couple years. We had the incident with Philando Castile, your organization spoke out on that. Could you give the audience just a brief reminder of what that situation was and why you chose to speak out?

DJ: Absolutely. So this situation with Philando Castile, he was a young man, upstanding individual, living in Minnesota. Pulled over by a police officer just for a traffic stop, it was not for any any type of serious infraction. He disclosed to the officer, let him know hey, I'm legally carrying a firearm on me. So the officer told him, well don't reach for it and Philando said no, I'm not reaching for it. You see, he had previously been asked by the officer to get his license and registration and continues to get the license and registration and the officer is like, don't reach for it, don't reach for it, and he’s like, I'm not reaching for my gun. And of course the officer murders him on the spot. And we had to speak out on that because he was so representative of so many members of our community and of our organization. I mean, he was a licensed gun owner, he didn't have any felonies, he didn't have any convictions of misdemeanor, domestic violence or felony domestic violence. I mean, he was a good upstanding citizen, working in schools, was beloved by his community. And he was shot because of a perception that he was somehow dangerous because he was a Black man armed with a legally owned firearm. And so we had to speak out on that and make sure that the community knew that we saw that it wasn't right and we wanted justice to be served in that officer to be held accountable, because there's no reason that Philando shouldn't be with us here today.

Jay: So on social media I saw mixed reactions, which is confusing to me, from our community, some folks use this to say, you know, this is an example of why Black folks shouldn't carry guns. Did you see anything like that and what are you what are your response to that?

DJ: So yes, I did see some responses such as that. And my response to those type of reactions is that rights not exercised are rights lost, or essentially lost. We would never say that about the right to vote. Right? There are people, Black people were literally, they were burned, castrated, hung from trees, dragged behind trucks, had the unborn child cut from the bellies of their mothers, like these were things that were done when Black people attempted to vote. And so we would never tell a Black person well, but you shouldn't vote because that happened to somebody or could have happened to you. No, that's insane. That is a tool that you have as a American citizen to make sure that your voice is heard, that you can have a say in what your government does and does not do. The Second Amendment is a tool for you to protect yourselves from those that want to do all those things to you because you want to vote. And so while I understand everyone wants to try to avoid risk but as African Americans there is no running away from this fight from this struggle, it is here. As long as you are going to live in this country it is a fight that you have to contend with. And so you can decide that you are going to be victimized by those that want to victimize you or you can start like no I'm gonna fight back and I'm gonna use all the tools available to me in the eyes of law to do so. One of those tools is the Second Amendment because it you no good if to vote, would attempt to vote, if you can't defend yourself in the middle of the night when someone breaks into your house, whether it be a criminal actor or white supremacist terrorist or to harm and kill you, right? Your vote means nothing at that point.

Jay: From my understanding when the Bill of Rights and Second Amendment was being debated and discussed, some of the arguments included this idea that citizens should have this right, in order to protect themselves from a tyrannical government. In my opinion, it seems that Black folks in America have been the biggest victims of government tyranny and so that's one reason I think it makes sense to embrace this and fight for this right. Would you agree with that?

DJ: Absolutely. That's something that I say all the time. You know, of any community in this country we are the company that has the most experience with tyrannical government, with being on the damaging end of tyrannical government. And so we certainly should not want to give up that Second Amendment right or restrict it given that history, because it's already shown that if it can happen once it can happen again, right? And now it's our job to use all of our tools outside of the Second Amendment to make sure it doesn't happen. But the Second Amendment is also there because it never happens like okay, they're gonna just march the military out and come door to door. No, it's gonna manifest itself in the type of terrorist acts that are committed against the community that we see today and they've been committed in the past. So we have to make sure that we are prepared for that.

Jay: Yeah. So are there any new laws or legislation being proposed that you think makes sense as far as gun control rights? Or would you rather your organization rather not see any new restrictions come into place,

DJ: So I'll put it this way when it comes to gun control, we're willing to sit down with anyone at the table, however, you have to bring something meaningful to the table. And what I mean by that is when I talked about how violence is a cycle, right, how its ecological nature. Show me first, your good faith, honest efforts where you have pushed policy to address those ecological issues. First, don't come here saying like, hey, we just need to restrict guns. Because we know that doesn't work. So then I have to ask you, what are you doing on the ecology? Because if we look at something like suicides, right, most of when they say gun deaths, like 60% plus of gun deaths are suicides, right? So you only need one gun and one bullet to do that, right? Gun control isn't going to fix that. We look at who's affected by that. Suicide victims tend to be middle age people, middle aged men, particularly. So that doesn't sound like a gun control problem, that sounds like a men's health problem. If you look at gun violence in the African American community, and you look at who is going to fight it's a, you know, single digit percentage of individuals that are responsible for the vast majority of that gun violence in the community. Often we know who those individuals are because there have been studies that show that violence often can spread in a virus-like way. They've run models that show it’s spread is similar to what you would see for contagious disease. So if it is in your circle. Just like if, you know, we were sitting here, and then I happen to commit some terrible violent act, and we really, you know, you knew me, because I'm in that circle of people that are close to you, you're more likely to be a perpetrator or victim of that violence because of how communities work. And that's not a Black people thing or white people think that's just people. So if we're looking at that, and we see that that's what the science is saying, where are interventions that are focusing on that? Why is the only thing that's rolled out is gun control? And I think the only reason it's rolled out is because people want to distract from doing that hard work, that hard policy work of addressing those ecological issues.

Jay: Thank you. Final question. So PushBlack. The majority of the stories we send out our Black history stories and the reason for that is we know that history is written by the winners and we've been losing for a long time. Now we're trying to take that back, reclaiming and tell stories that we think our community can learn from and build on. One thing we see regarding this issue is that with Black history and the civil rights movement specifically you have this idea of non-violence propped up in a way that alternatives such as armed self defense are not and they're even demonized. I'm interested in knowing why do you think that one is propped up over the other?

DJ :Well, I think because it's easier to tell just a straight story versus a nuanced one. The Civil Rights story of non-violent protests is a very simple story to get across just for the layman and get across quickly. If you start sort of muddying the water, so to speak, with the use of armed self defense in there it's a much more nuanced conversation. But you couldn't have had one without the other. It was a combination of, you know, the disruption of the non-violent civil rights movement combined with the fact that overnight Black people are not gonna let you come into their neighborhoods and kill them. You had to have both.

Jay: Douglas Jefferson, thank you so much, my brother. This has been great.

Like that we're at the end of this episode of Black History Year. Black History Year is produced by PushBlack, the nation's largest nonprofit Black media company. Production support from Mikel Ellcessor and Limina House. Obviously, the power that comes from knowing our history is important to you. PushBlack exists because we saw we had to take this into our own hands. You make PushBlack happen with your contributions at BlackHistoryYear.com. Most folks do 5 or 10 bucks a month, but everything makes a difference. Thanks for supporting the work. I'm Jay from PushBlack. Thanks for checking us out. Peace.