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Write a brief thought paper that reflects on the readings for each class that includes your full name, date, and the class number on the top left corner (Times New Roman font, 12 font sizes, 1” margins, single space, full page). The papers must be integrative and may not focus on only one reading.
(‘Epilouge’: Racism Lies Around Like a Loaded Weapon)

On August 25, 2020, Kyle Rittenh’ouse, a white seventeen-year-old, had
his mother drive him from Illinois to Kenosha, Wisconsin, with his
illegally acquired AR-15, to join “patriots” determined to put down
protests about another Black man, Jacob Blake, who was shot seven
times in the back by police and le& paralyzed from the waist down.1
Law enforcement, which was out in force, saw Rittenhouse carrying
his rifle, and they were not afraid. Instead, they offered him a bottle of
water on that summer night and conveyed how much “they appreciate”
the armed counterprotesters out on the streets in Kenosha. 2 Shortly
therea&er, Rittenhouse killed two men and severely wounded another.
Law enforcement then ignored him as he approached “a handful of
police vehicles with his hands in the air, a&er firing shots at multiple
people, as if to surrender.” 3 He made it all the way home, across state
lines, before he was arrested. His attorneys claimed the teen “was acting
as part of a ‘well-regulated militia’ under the Second Amendment” and
that this was also a case of “self-defense.” 4
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=9H !e Second
%e Second Amendment claim was like catnip for the right wing
in American politics. 5 Donald Trump’s Department of Homeland
Security cra&ed media talking points to praise Rittenhouse as someone
who “took his rifle to the scene of the rioting to help defend small
business owners.” 6 It sounded so heroic. It dripped of old-fashioned,
manufactured Americana like Shane or High Noon. Red State wrote,
“Kyle Rittenhouse did nothing wrong . . . Law and order had completely
broken down in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Decent hard-working people
watched their lives’ work turned to rubble and burned to the ground
by mobs of crazed degenerates.” 7 Fox News’s Tucker Carlson evoked
the spirit of the colonial militia stopping the Redcoats from rampaging
when he asked, “How shocked are we that 17-year-olds with rifles
decided they had to maintain order when no one else would?” 8 %e
heroism, bravery, and patriotism was worthy of emulation. Indeed, the
“President like[d] a tweet that said the alleged shooter, Kyle Rittenhouse,
was ‘a good example of why I decided to vote for Trump.’ ” 9
Nevertheless, for all the “law and order” backslapping, Rittenhouse
was a minor who was illegally carrying the AR-15 in an open carry
state, and he had killed two men and wounded another. Yet as the
police, media, and elected officials made clear, Rittenhouse still had
Second Amendment rights not available to Tamir Rice, who had been
sitting alone in a pavilion with a toy gun.10
%e dichotomy between the state’s treatment of Rittenhouse and
that of Rice cannot be understood by the standard Second Amendment
debates over whether there is a right to a well-regulated militia or an
individual right to bear arms. Regardless of how African Americans
have engaged this right, it has been used against them. In other words,
what is so striking about the Second Amendment is witnessing its
inherent anti-Blackness centuries after its ratification. The well-
regulated militia faced disarmament in early nineteenth-century
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Racism Lies Around like a Loaded Weapon =9=
Louisiana; Supreme Court–sanctioned slaughter in 1873 Colfax; collec-
tive punishment in 1906 Brownsville, Texas; and courts-martial and
executions in 1917 Houston. %e right to bear arms has its own tally of
casualties, from the laws banning the enslaved and free Blacks from
possessing guns, to the Dred Scott decision, to Reconstruction-era Black
Codes, to the Atlanta Riot of 1906, to John Crawford, Tamir Rice, and
Philando Castile. Similarly, the right to self-defense was quashed in
seventeenth-century Virginia, denied in Cincinnati in 1841, machine-
gunned into oblivion in 1919 Elaine, Arkansas, and brutally denied to
Trayvon Martin, Kathryn Johnston, and Breonna Taylor. %e centuries-
long arc of these violations indicates how they are impervious to the
citizenship status of African Americans. From enslaved to post–Civil
Rights Black Americans, the application of the Second Amendment, in
whatever traditional interpretation, was not applicable.
Even the NRA mantra of “the only way to stop a bad guy with
a gun is a good guy with a gun” could not stand up against anti-
Blackness.11 On November 11, 2018, Jemel Roberson, a security guard
at a Chicago nightspot, pounced on and held at gunpoint a man who
had started shooting at some customers. When the police arrived,
they did not see the word “Security” written on Roberson’s clothes; they
did not hear the patrons warn that “he was a security guard.” Instead,
the officer saw a Black man holding a gun and “shot and killed the
26-year-old.” 12
Just a few weeks later in Alabama, gunfire erupted at a local shop-
ping mall, with an eighteen-year-old and a twelve-year-old hit. Army
veteran Emantic Bradford Jr.’s training kicked in. He pulled out his
licensed-to-carry gun, in open carry Alabama, and began to move
shoppers to safety. Police saw him, a Black man with a gun, immedi-
ately defined him as a “threat,” and “within milliseconds” fired three
shots from behind—one to the back of Bradford’s head, the other to
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his neck, and another to his back. Any of these could have been the
kill shot.13 %e twenty-one-year-old army veteran was dead.
Initially, a&er they had killed Bradford, the police chief applauded
his officers: “%ank God, . . . they took out the threat.” %en the police
came to realize, a&er running ballistics test on the bullets from the two
wounded shoppers, that they had let the actual shooter escape. But they
tried to cover their mistake by tweeting that Bradford “may have been
involved in some aspect of the crime”; he had, a&er all, “brandished a
gun.” %ose last statements required further clarification a&er it became
clear that Bradford had actually saved lives in the mall that day, that
he did not “brandish,” but simply that “Mr. Bradford held a gun in his
hand.” 14 Rolling Stone’s Jamil Smith decried this “lack of ability to
imagine a black person as a hero”—as a good guy with a gun.15 %at
myopia also impacts African Americans in law enforcement, who
have been beaten “like Rodney King” and shot by their fellow white
officers.16 One, who had stopped a crime in progress only to be shot
by another police officer who came to the scene, said to the cop who
pulled the trigger, “Me being black with a gun, you never gave me a
chance . . . You wouldn’t have walked up to a white guy and just shot
him like that.” 17
Trevor Noah, the host of !e Daily Show, asked, a&er the killing of
Bradford, “How does this shit keep happening? . . . %e cops are called
into a situation. %ey see a black person. And immediately they shoot.”
Noah then noted a key racial disparity that has played out in these
scenarios. “How many times have we seen a shooter who is white and
a man get talked down?” It happened in Aurora, Colorado, a&er the
killer le& twelve dead and wounded seventy others in a movie theater.
Despite the carnage, the police took him alive. %e same happened,
Noah remarked, a&er a gunman murdered nine people in Bible study
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Racism Lies Around like a Loaded Weapon =9)
at a Charleston, South Carolina, church. %at killer was also taken into
custody unharmed.18
Because of this disparity, Noah surmised that “the Second
Amendment is not intended for black people . . . %e Second
Amendment was not made for black folks.” 19 But it was, just not the
way it has traditionally been understood or elegized. %at’s why
debating whether there is an individual or collective right to bear arms
is asking the wrong question. 20 As unsettling as it may have been when
the U.S. Supreme Court overturned long-standing jurisprudence to
create an individual right to bear arms and make self-defense a consti-
tutionally protected right in the Heller (2008) and McDonald (2010)
decisions, that debate just washes over the racially disparate responses
to the Second Amendment, as well as the anti-Black foundational roots
for that disparity. 21 Or, as Supreme Court justice Robert H. Jackson
noted in a case saturated with discrimination—Japanese internment
during World War II—racism “lies about like a loaded weapon ready
for the hand of any authority that can bring forward a plausible claim
of an urgent need.” 22
A series of slave revolts in the 1600s and 1700s led to a number of
laws in colonial America restricting Black people’s access to weapons
and meting out brutal punishment for possession or use of firearms.
%ere was a concomitant creation of slave patrols, working hand in
hand with militias, to keep the enslaved population under control and
And while the mythmaking surrounding the Second heralds the
bravery and effectiveness of individual citizens in the militia as a
bulwark against tyranny and foreign invasions, the reality, however,
was decidedly more mundane. %e militia could not take on an
invading army, not for any sustained, effective amount of time.
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=9* !e Second
Gouverneur Morris, a signatory to the Constitution, knew this, as he
called the militia an “expensive and inefficient force,” which, as they
learned during the Revolutionary War, could not be counted on to do
much because “to rely on militia was to lean on a broken reed.” 23 Not
only Morris knew it; George Washington knew it, too. Nor, given
Shays’s Rebellion, could the militia be relied on to uphold the law.
Where the militia was reliable, however, was in putting down slave
revolts, such as at Stono. %at was of paramount importance. During
the dra&ing of the Bill of Rights and ratification of the Constitution,
the Southern distrust of Northern states’ commitment to uphold slavery
merged with the Anti-Federalists’ heightened fear of a strong central
government that would control the militia, and led to the extortionist
hardball that had already inserted the three-fi&hs clause into the
nation’s founding document. Virginians Patrick Henry and George
Mason had made clear to James Madison that the protection of slavery
was the sine qua non for ratification of the U.S. Constitution. What
Madison had already done with the fugitive slave clause, the extension
of the Atlantic slave trade for twenty years, and the three-fi&hs clause
was not enough. %e concerns Henry and Mason raised about local
control of the militia and how essential it was to put down slave revolts
and protect plantation owners had to be addressed. %e Second
Amendment served that purpose. %us, in the Bill of Rights, emerged
an amendment rooted in fear of Black people, to deny them their rights,
to keep them from tasting liberty. %e Second became the Faustian
bargain made to weaken Anti-Federalists’ and Southern opposition to
the Constitution.
%at is why the current-day veneration of the Second Amendment,
driven by the lobbying and publicity campaign of the NRA, is, frankly,
akin to holding the three-fi&hs clause sacrosanct. 24 %ey both were
designed to deny African Americans’ humanity and rights while
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Racism Lies Around like a Loaded Weapon =98
carrying the aura of constitutional legitimacy. %ey both damaged
American democracy and called into question the basic founding prin-
ciples of equality. %e Second is lethal; steeped in anti-Blackness, it is
the loaded weapon laying around just waiting for the hand of some
authority to put it to use.
Requirements: (Times New Roman font, 12 font sizes, 1” margins, single space, full page)