Trump’s Victory Has Me Considering Gun Ownership
Another day, another incident.
Across Philadelphia and around the nation, you can’t help but notice that marginalized people — whether Muslim or of color, LGBTQ or immigrant — are being targeted by those who support president-elect Donald Trump.
I’m not that surprised that some followers of our new president, who was endorsed by hate groups such as the Ku Klux Klan, are responding to his election victory with malice. But with my alma mater, the University of Pennsylvania, having its black freshmen targeted via a group message that invited them to a “Daily Lynching” and seeing Nazi-related Trump graffiti cover local buildings, I seriously feel unsafe.
It’s hard to ignore that this is the new reality I live in. Living in a city that has experienced random acts of violence so frequently post-election, it feels as if nobody is protected. This country has elected a man whose rhetoric echoes Adolf Hitler’s. I don’t feel safe and I can’t trust a Trump-endorsing Philadelphia Fraternal Order of Police to protect me.
And for all of those reasons above, I’m seriously considering buying a gun.
For me, as a young black man, the culture of gun ownership has always been a complex topic. My identity alone has unfairly placed me in circumstances where too often I feel like the target of a bullet rather than the shooter of one. As a resident of Philly, I adopted an anti-firearm stance in response to the city’s high instance of gun violence — guns just seem to bring about only detrimental outcomes in our inner-city neighborhoods. Plus, I never thought I would need a weapon, because I used to think there was enough sensible law enforcement and common sense in the world to keep me from needing one.
And yet, I have never really shared the same level of liberal antipathy toward guns as my Northern brethren. I grew up in Houston, where I saw plenty of positive examples of gun ownership. In many parts of Texas, acquiring a gun is considered a rite of passage. For folks across the Lone Star State, guns carry a sense of power and protection, an extra shield from “crazy folks” lurking from behind. Yes, guns can be problematic — but I’m not an anti-gun liberal who changed my tune the moment things got scary in America.
But in a nation where the KKK is having a celebration parade for our president-elect, common sense doesn’t seem so common anymore. Those “crazy folks” appear to be everywhere. Even though I recognize that owning a gun as a black man might only put me in more dire straits, it feels as though my life is put at an even greater risk by a president-elect who will only give a passive-aggressive “stop it” to those who might inflict harm on me.
After being forced my entire life to place my faith and trust in a dominant white race to protect me, what else can I do now that it has failed? I just can’t imagine getting death threats from hate groups and trusting in the same flawed institutions that already struggle to ensure that I am treated justly. Is it a stretch to imagine that some random Trump supporter feels entitled to hurt me? After Trump’s election win, folks are beginning to act out violently — just as the president-elect encouraged during his entire campaign. Let’s not forget that this was the same candidate who promised to pay the legal fees of a white man who sucker-punched a black protester at one of his rallies.
This is how far we have regressed as a society. I can’t ignore the reality of white privilege’s ability to endanger my livelihood at even more oppressive levels. I can’t simply remain calm and rely on my while liberal friends to keep quoting Martin Luther King, Jr. and telling me to think like the civil-rights icon. I think it’s completely disrespectful for white people to try to tone-police the trauma marginalized people are feeling right now as they resort to wearing safety-pins to feel good about their “allyship.” This form of passive activism is perhaps how we got to this point in the first place.
So I’m no longer putting my faith in allies to protect me. I’m about 75 percent convinced that if this violence doesn’t die down by Trump’s inauguration, one of my New Year’s resolutions will be owning a Kel-Tec PMR-30. I never thought that I would ever need a gun in my lifetime — but then again, I never thought a Trump presidency would ever happen.
Perhaps in this new era, the civil-rights icon I should plan to follow carefully is Malcolm X., a Black Muslim activist who would have had the best advice for people of color under a Trump era. In a world where I can now be both a human target to a cop making a bad call or just plain on-sight bigotry, there are only two ways of responding that I view as rational. Malcolm X once said that “Usually when people are sad, they don’t do anything. They just cry over their condition. But when they get angry, they bring about a change.” Perhaps that’s where my optimism lies the most: in transforming my current anger into change. However, the outspoken civil-rights leader also said: “Be peaceful, be courteous, obey the law, respect everyone; but if someone puts his hand on you, send him to the cemetery.”
Here’s to hoping it never comes to that.
Ernest Owens, the editor of Philadelphia magazine’s G Philly channel, writes regularly for BET and USA Today. You can reach him at email@example.com and on Twitter @MrErnestOwens.