Guns, Black People and the Situation in Ferguson

“American history shows that freedom was gained through the barrel of a gun.”

These are the words a gun store owner said to me when I visited Colorado Springs, Colorado in early November. He showed me guns from the Revolutionary War and the U.S. Civil War, saying that it was thanks to these guns that the American dream is possible and America remains the “land of the free.” In order to continue this tradition, he argued that there must be more freedom to bear arms.

There is one glaring omission from his account of history. The white people that followed Columbus from Europe to colonize and conquer the New World came with guns in hand. Tightly grasped in the other hand were African-Americans — black people. Under the slave trade, countless black people were mobilized to colonize the New World, creating two distinct groups that became the DNA for today’s racial history. In the era of conquest and colonies, both guns and black people were useful tools for the white people.

Last August, the U.S. was in a great uproar due to events that occurred in Ferguson, Missouri. Eighteen-year-old Michael Brown, a black man, was shot and killed by police officer Darren Wilson, a white man. Recently, a grand jury made up of nine white people and three black people decided not to indict Officer Wilson, sparking protests, riots and demonstrations on a nightly basis. Though the era of conquest and colonies has ended and a black president pressing for stronger gun regulations has appeared, the tangled legacy of “guns and black people” still persists.

After Colorado, we stopped by the capital, Washington, D.C. Though black people make up more than 60 percent of the city’s population, very few were to be found in the city center where the government buildings, including the White House, are congregated. In this city, the black population is pushed out of the city center to the outskirts. Replacing them, lobby-sponsored lawmakers abound. It is here that the National Rifle Association (NRA), the most powerful lobby group in the world and of which the gun store owner in Colorado is a member, pushes for more gun freedoms and invests astronomical sums of money to do so.

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