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The New York Times profiles ‘The Black Gun Owner Next Door’ & How an NRA sticker triggers a Harvard Professor to rethink her biases

March 10, 2019
Courtesy NY Times.

Courtesy NY Times.

Nobody ever said the New York Times supports gun ownership rights of Americans.  Not today.  Not ever.  So imagine, did a cold front roll through Hades?  Because the Old Gray Lady actually published a neutral to leaning positive piece writing about black gun owners.

Even more, they also covered some of the rich history of guns protecting African-Americans from oppression and tyranny.  In working on the lengthy story, the author, a Harvard history professor admits she has begun rethinking her anti-gun stance.  The million dollar question:  Will others follow?

The author, Professor Tiya Miles, reminisces how she walked Boston's Black History Trail and saw the distressing addition to Louis Hayden's former home.  Hayden, a former slave from Kentucky, escaped bondage and became a successful businessman in Boston.  And he worked hard in the Underground Railroad to help other slaves escape slavery in the South.

Louis Hayden's home, present day in Boston.  Photo courtesy NY Times.

Louis Hayden's home, present day in Boston. Photo courtesy NY Times.

In fact, Hayden's home became a refuge for escaped slaves hunted by men paid to bring them back, dead or alive.

Professor Miles writes this:

…I associated Lewis Hayden with the place where I grew up, with family, perseverance and good will. So I was disconcerted by what I found when I arrived at the house that autumn day.

The ruddy bricks, green shutters and white curtains were just as I remembered them. But here was something new — a red, white and blue sticker on the windowpane trumpeting the National Rifle Association. This moment, which might not have caused a reaction in others, set me on a path of reflection, not just on the life of Hayden and those like him, but on the meanings of African-American gun ownership and my own deeply held beliefs about guns. What I learned surprised me.

 

My response to seeing the sticker was strong. I am an African-American historian and, on the matter of guns and most other political issues, decidedly liberal. To me, the pairing of Lewis Hayden and the N.R.A. felt like an affront. I knew for certain that Hayden fought for the right to be free from violent repression by white citizens wielding the weapons of guns, capital and political influence. I knew that he lost his family through a cruel, extractive system that reinforced — in fact, depended on — the ability of whites to inflict violence on the bodies of black people without legal repercussion.

The N.R.A., on the other hand, has long been a boogeyman for me. I see it as an organization that stands in the way of laws to get automatic rifles out of the hands of people who might kill school children, hardened — or unresponsive — to the destruction that rampant gun violence wreaks. Who would plaster this flagrant symbol of white conservatism on the antique home of a black abolitionist who knew what it meant to be hunted? And why?

She set out to do just that and what she found cracked through a lifetime of learned bigotry against the NRA.

And she admits, after sitting down with the owners of the house and hearing their reasoned and well-considered position, that her mind began to consider that perhaps their points had merit.

I am anti-gun and support strict gun control laws. But sipping tea with the homeowners, walking the floors where the Haydens and their compatriots had plotted what turned out to be the roots of a political revolution to overturn slavery, pried ajar a little door in my mind.

Then, as she considers how and why Hayden and his wife had guns aplenty in that home in that era, she begins to better understand how arms empower people of color.

10Miles13-superJumbo (1) NY Times

Indeed, armed blacks don't get oppressed.

She writes about how later, in the civil rights era of the 1950s and 60s, black activists "openly" took up arms to defend themselves against bigots, segregationists and the Klan.  And she notes explicitly, not just the Black Panthers embraced their guns, but others like Dr. Martin Luther King.

From there, she sought out and interviewed a number of black gun rights activists.  Everyone from Tarik and Geneva Chambers of Black Guns Matter to Sharon Ross of Afrovivalist and Saleem Gilmore of the National African-American Gun Association.  Oh yes, and Maj Toure

Professor Miles closes with this:

This is the essence of his example that I hope our community and country will follow. After sipping tea at the Hayden House, I am still suspicious of the N.R.A., and I would not abide having a gun inside my dwelling or my children’s schools. But where would I want to be if civil society topples and 2020 feels like 1820? In a home like the Haydens’, in a neighborhood like the North Slope of 19th-century Beacon Hill, in a community fortified by love in action and maybe a powder keg beneath the floorboards.

As if the fact that the New York Times actually printed and posted this, the Times' Editors also picked some very pro-gun comments to feature in a very heavy comments section.

Here are but a few:

Angela R. Dean
Elkins Park, PA
Times Pick

I’m an African American woman and attorney. I was held up at gun point by a 16 year old kid who was high on drugs, took my purse and started going through my jean pants pocket looking for more money. I shudder to think what he would have tried if people hadn’t showed up. I remember feeling powerless and preparing to fight and die if he tries to rape me. Until you have stared down the barrel of a criminal’s gun don’t judge. Yes there is good in the world. But if evil shows up at your door or in your face, be ready to defend yourself.

Angela Dean gets it.  And given her comment didn't sit well with the Times' rabidly anti-gun rights policies surprised me that the editors picked her comment to feature.  And then I found this one:

Mike
New York, NY
Times Pick

As a white man and law enforcement officer, I have no problems with any law abiding citizen, regardless of color, to posses firearms for self defense. I believe that restrictive gun laws are inherently racist because they were initially designed to prevent minorities from owning guns. Additionally, in cities like Chicago where murders are out of control, restrictive gun laws put law abiding citizens at the mercy of criminal elements in their communities. Law abiding people, of all colors, creeds, sexual orientation, etc., should be able to protect themselves from society's predators.

You mean that guns aren't only used by criminals, terrorists and others with evil intentions?  How could that be?

Todd
Key West,fl
Times Pick

As a Jewish American who is a gun owner and a life member of the NRA which bucks the views of the majority of people who share my background I applaud African Americans who have reached the same conclusions about the second amendment and the value of gun ownership. I also credit them for standing up to the constant negative judgment that I know from experience they receive from their peers.

And with those three, the more typical snowflakes reading the NY Times melted down.  For example, Mike the white law enforcement officer above seriously triggered some folks.  Including Beth from the Village of Oak Park in Illinois.

Beth
Chicago

@Mike I live in the Village of Oak Park, right next to Chicago. The rights of the citizen's of Oak Park, specifically the right to NOT have guns here, have been trampled.

I'm proud to say that gun rights activists in Illinois have worked hard to infringe on her perceived right disarm her fellow residents of their right to keep and bear arms.  Perhaps she would be happier living in Venezuela?

One could get lost for hours reading the comments to this piece at the NY Times.  Suffice it to say the average reader of the Times does not recognize or support the rights of Americans to own, much less carry firearms.

The good news?  The NY Times' circulation keeps declining.  In fact, in 2013, the average daily circulation of the Times peaked at nearly two million per day.  By 2017, that number had fallen to 540,000.  Proving that the fake news that so often permeates the Times doesn't resonate with Americans.

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