“While out shopping in Georgia at my favorite bookstore, the same day the Emanuel AME Church reopened its doors after the mass shooting, a white man in camouflage entered the store openly carrying a gun on his hip,” Bianca Campbell (above) writes at rhealitycheck.org. “In my home state, we recently allowed licensed individuals to bring their guns into bars, churches, and college campuses, all for the sake of ‘safety.’ Yet, in this moment, at the bookstore, I realized that such gun control laws only ensure certain people feel safe, while others who do not wish to own a gun are left feeling powerless.” Sigh. So much fail in so few sentences. Let’s start with this . . .
If a black woman feels powerless with an armed white man nearby (trust me: we’re going there), I recommend she get a gun, strap it on her hip and see if her apprehension dissipates. Not that owning a gun is about cloaking yourself in the mantle of ballistic confidence, but who’s to say open carry wouldn’t cure her open carry phobia? I believe the technique is called “flooding.” Or perhaps “empathy.” There’s no law against it. In fact, Ms. Campbell has a Constitutionally protected right to keep and bear arms, just like the white dude.
What Ms. Campbell does not have: a Constitutional right to feel safe (despite the Supreme Court’s recent decision to magic a Constitutional right out of thin air). But feelings are really important to Ms. Campbell. So much so that she projects her desire for a feeling of safety onto the gun rights advocates who managed to restore a measure of Peach Tree State residents’ firearms freedom. Note: they did not expand permissible open carry to feel safe. They did so to be safe. And to reflect that keeping and bearing arms is a right, not a privilege.
Reading Ms. Campbell’s anti-open carry rant is something of a privilege. It’s one of the more glorious PC WTF editorials I’ve encountered in some time – and I’ve read more than my fair share in the last few weeks. Check this out:
This tense moment was still too soon. Too soon after Charleston, after the deaths of Eric Garner and Rekia Boyd—and even too soon after Emmett Till. Too soon after cops in Georgia attacked Kenya Harris until she miscarried.
Too soon because I haven’t processed the constant surveillance and prosecution I experience as a dark-skinned Black person navigating a society where I can be tried and executed in the streets without jury.
The gun-toting man had a wide-shouldered build and was probably shorter than me once he took off his combat boots. Looking back, I probably could have taken him on in a fair fight. Lord knows, I’ve fought men bigger than him before.
See what I mean? Campbell packs a whole lot of crazy into a very small space. A white guy openly carrying a firearm in a bookstore shouldn’t be allowed to do so because Ms. Campbell isn’t ready for that. Because she hasn’t “processed” her own “prosecution” (I think she meant “persecution”) in a country that [allegedly] feels free to execute dark-skinned black people in the streets. Wait. Does that mean that it’s OK for a white man to exercise his right to keep and bear arms if he’s in the presence of a light-skinned black person?
I’m half-joking. But I think we must take Ms. Campbell at her word: she was seriously contemplating the possibility of beating the shit out of the white guy. Clearly a thought which she could have entertained more comfortably if he hadn’t have been armed. A thought which would have, in different circumstances, made her feel less powerless and more relaxed. All of which strikes me as an excellent reason for him to be armed. Hmmm. Maybe she did mean prosecution . . .
The bookstore employee, who will go down in history as my favorite bookstore employee ever, immediately said to the man, “Woah, that’s a gun! That makes me uncomfortable.”
Anywhere you stood in the store you could hear his reply: “Well, it shouldn’t be a problem so long as I don’t feel threatened.” The way his voice trailed off as his eyes panned the room froze me temporarily. I tucked myself behind a bookshelf where I could still see and hear what was happening. He also said he has an open carry license—as if that would make us feel safe.
How do I put this? Bullshit. The white guy with the gun in the bookstore said no such thing. I’ve met the full spectrum of open carriers – from polite ambassadors to YouTube police confrontation wannabes to Chipotle Ninjas. Not one of them has ever expressed the belief that other people shouldn’t feel threatened if they don’t feel threatened. That doesn’t even make sense. In fact, I reckon it’s more projection; that’s what Ms. Campbell would says if she was an asshole. I’m not saying she is. I’m not saying she isn’t. I’m saying he didn’t say it.
Note to Ms. Campbell: a bookshelf is concealement (a gunman can’t see you) not cover (it won’t stop bullets). Just thought I’d put that out there.
And then to change the subject, as if carrying a gun in a bookstore is no big deal, he shared that he had been scoping out the bookstore for some time, but only just decided to come in. I popped my head over a bookshelf to lock eyes with the bookstore employee. We widened our gaze and raised our eyebrows at each other to non-verbally confirm that this situation was indeed absurd.
But what troubled me most about the situation as it was happening was the realization that our legislative system was working as intended in that moment.
Long before I walked in to buy a copy of Octavia’s Brood, so that I could think about a world where my body is free through activism-driven science fiction, the system set things up with discriminatory gun control laws.
Should Ms. Campbell ever decide to write [more] fiction, she should know that my extensive knowledge of spree killers tells me they don’t stride in to their target location with guns on their hips and tell their victims that they’ve been “scoping-out”a bookstore for a mass shooting – just like they don’t print-up business cards announcing their homicidal aspirations.
Oddly enough, mass murderer Dylan Roof did scope out The Shoe Dept. and Bath and Body Works at a local mall before “settling” on the Charleston Church. He was unarmed at the time. We know this because his questions to sales clerks raised their suspicions to the point where they called the police, leading to his arrest.
Equally odd (though not entirely unexpected considering her views), the book Ms. Campbell cites (not yet released) offers “Science Fiction Stories from Social Justice Movements.” I think it worthwhile to share the book’s description, to glimpse the utopianism that drives Ms. Campbell’s anti-gun animus:
Whenever we envision a world without war, without prisons, without capitalism, we are producing speculative fiction. Organizers and activists envision, and try to create, such worlds all the time. Walidah Imarisha and adrienne maree brown have brought twenty of them together in the first anthology of short stories to explore the connections between radical speculative fiction and movements for social change.
I seriously want a copy. Especially after reading this:
The idea of openly carrying a gun to protect myself has never been a realistic option—only when I’m imagining myself as Storm from X-Men dismantling oppressive systems with Black feminist thunderstorms and a small silver glock just in case. In reality, if the cops saw me with a gun, a bag of Skittles, or even a loosey cigarette, they would probably shoot me and ask questions about my permit later. As a Jamaican-American whose parents had to navigate the country’s unjust immigration system, I’ve almost always known that papers and permits don’t save dark-skinned people.
This is one of those black is white things. Campbell doesn’t want a gun because Black people are oppressed. The idea that they’re oppressed because they aren’t armed – better yet openly armed – never occurs. I don’t suppose she realizes that all of America’s gun control laws – which she supports with fiction-flamed fervor – were born of racism. Nope. Probably not.
And so now, Georgia’s open carry policy, the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, and the whole foundation of America’s justice system works as it was always intended: allowing certain people to feel safe at the expense of others existing in fear. I was without arms and face-to-face with a man who may or may not have wanted to kill me—and a man who had the freedom to make that decision without repercussions.
Sure Ms. Campbell, he could have shot you on the spot without any repercussions. Because he’s white. And he couldn’t have shot you on the spot if, say, he was carrying a concealed weapon. This is a textbook (more of which she should read) example of passive aggression: “the indirect expression of hostility, such as through procrastination, stubbornness, sullenness, or deliberate or repeated failure to accomplish requested tasks for which one is (often explicitly) responsible.” A task like self-defense? Could be . . .
I don’t know why he came in armed. I don’t know what his intentions were. I don’t want to know. I want to know a world where I don’t have to be caught up in fear in the first place. I want a world where none of us feel the need to carry a gun. A world where the Confederate flag and a CVS aren’t more important to our political leaders than seven burning churches, the countless dead at the hands of militarized police, and those empowered with the false hubris of white supremacy.
I want to live in that peaceful world, too. But I don’t. In the same sense I don’t want to live in a world where ignorance doesn’t seek to perpetuate itself through lies, exaggeration and mischaracterization. But, as you’ve proved, I do.