Earlier today, I took a writer to task for assuming a comment made in support of gun rights was really about white people. The thing is, a lot of people on the left actually believe that to be true.
For a long time, there’s been this idea that guns are for white people.
Now, let’s not pretend that’s never been true. Once upon a time, it was. It was very true.
The irony is that the people who pushed that idea back then are the same ones pushing it now, the gun control advocates. Back then, though, they pushed for gun control specifically so they could disarm black Americans. Now, they’re shocked any minorities own guns.
Yet as the Seattle Times recently discovered, activism on this side of the aisle isn’t just for white folks.
Brandon Rapolla may not spring to mind as the face of the far right.
Rapolla’s brown skin, a reflection of his multiracial ancestry, is at odds with images of White guys in self-styled militias wearing camouflage in the woods. The militia stereotype is so entrenched, Rapolla said, that airline ticket agents have refused to believe him when he gives them a heads-up that he’s on a domestic terrorism watch list.
“This one lady – she was Asian – she said, ‘Darling, you don’t look like a domestic terrorist. It’s a mistake,’ ” Rapolla recalled. “I said, ‘Nope, I am. That’s what I’m labeled as.’ “
Rapolla, a 46-year-old former Marine, has participated in four armed standoffs with the federal government, including the Bundy standoff in 2014. He was active in two far-right factions – the Oath Keepers and the Three Percenters – and co-founded the Pacific Patriots Network to boost cooperation. His trajectory, he said, shows how people of color are carving space in movements that are generalized as exclusively White in membership and racist in ideology.
One recent Saturday, a mild spring afternoon with geese honking overhead, a couple dozen Virginia-based gun rights activists gathered in front of the Hampton City Hall to repeat their usual challenge to politicians calling for gun control: “Come and take it.”
The night before, the local NAACP chapter had gathered Black activists at the same spot to denounce gun violence and Second Amendment extremism. John Perkins, 65, a retired Black police officer who’s now running for Hampton sheriff, attended the NAACP event and came back the next day to meet the armed groups for himself.
“I told myself, ‘OK, I know my skin color is different from theirs, but I’ll know how they are once I start talking to them,’ ” Perkins said.
The small right-wing crowd immediately welcomed Perkins, prayed over him and invited him to speak. The demonstrators included Emmanuel, the heavily armed Puerto Rican who belongs to a self-styled militia. He was there with a White leader of a militant group who’s rearing two biracial children with his ex, a Black Lives Matter supporter.
Now, the article takes great pains to make it look like everyone involved is an extremist, which isn’t surprising. However, let’s also understand that the gun rights activists here were shown as welcoming. This is important.
See, the media may not talk to you, but they’ll talk to others. If everyone’s experience with you is positive, the media will be hard-pressed to paint you negatively if they can’t find a single negative interaction. They’ll still try, but it’s a lot harder to do when all these people are talking about how welcoming you were.
Yet it’s also important to note that minorities are part of the gun rights movement, and why wouldn’t they be. There are gun owners from all walks of life, all faiths, all ethnicities. That’s because gun rights are universal. They don’t exist just for one group of people. They’re rights, not privileges, and rights don’t know ethnic boundaries, religious boundaries, boundaries of sexual preferences or gender identity, or anything else.
You’re damn right there are non-white gun rights advocates. There are plenty of them. We’ve known about them for a while.
It’s the media that’s just now learning the truth.