Gun violence: Stay ready

 

If you stay ready, you don’t have to get ready.

I was born to a teenage mother who learned how to be a woman as she learned how to be a mother.  My biological father was out of the picture early and I spent my formative years with my stepfather.  He was a Korean war veteran with an elementary level of formal education.  He was one of the smartest men I have ever known.  His common sense lessons were easy to miss, but one thing he demonstrated and taught me as a black man is, “You are responsible for what happens to you.”  He grew up in Austin, TX in the 1930-40’s.  His experience with racism was de facto.  The way his community dealt with this, like many others in the South at that time, was armed self-defense.  This history is highlighted in the book, We Will Shoot Back: Armed Resistance in the Mississippi Freedom Movement, by Akinyele Omowale Umoja. Malcolm X once said, “You can’t ever reach a man if you don’t speak his language.” My father took this quote to heart.  He was a great negotiator and genuine people person, but do not try to step on him.

My father taught me how to load, carry, and fire a rifle and a handgun.  He taught me basic safety and respect for all life.  I own the guns that he passed down to me after his death.

I have witnessed gun violence firsthand and lost many friends, students, and some family members to it. It is something that I have lived with in Oakland since I was born. I have seen guns save people’s lives, as well.

When I studied the history of black people including in the Americas, I came to the conclusion that my skin color alone could lead to a deadly assault on my person. Dr. Frances Cress Welsing described the fear of “white genetic annihilation” is her book The Isis Papers: Cress Theory of Color Confrontation. She validates the typical excuse for killing unarmed black men, “I thought he had a weapon.” She explains that the Black man does have a deadly weapon that can “kill” white people. That weapon is the phallus that shoots bullets of semen that dictate the skin color of the child.

“Black man, black woman; black baby.
White man, white woman; white baby.
White man, black woman; black baby.
Black man, white woman; black baby.”
-Slappy White, Comedian

Once I understood the psychology and culture that promotes attacks on black bodies with impunity; I had no choice but to stay ready to defend my God given life.

“If a man speaks the language of brute force, you can’t come to him with peace. Why, good night! He’ll break you in two, as he has been doing all along.
You’ve been in this country long enough to know the language the Klan speaks. They only know one language. And what you and I have to start doing … is start learning a new language. Learn the language that they understand. And then when they come up on our doorstep to talk, we can talk. And they will get the point.
No, since the federal government has shown that it isn’t going to do anything about it but talk, it is a duty … to organize ourselves and let the government know that if they don’t stop that Klan, we’ll stop it ourselves. So I don’t believe in violence — that’s why I want to stop it. And you can’t stop it with love, not love of those things down there, no. So, we only mean vigorous action in self-defense, and that vigorous action we feel we’re justified in initiating by any means necessary.”
-Malcolm X, 1965
(http://www.malcolm-x.org/speeches/spc_021465.htm)

Replacing the word “Klan” with “police” makes this quote relevant today.

About Saleem Gilmore

I am an Oakland native who grew up in the early 1970's. My parents moved the family to Texas in the 1980's to get my brother and me away from the violence of the neighborhood. I returned in the early 1990's for good. I became a classroom teacher and found my niche working with African American boys. I later began working in community based organizations. For over 25 years, I have worked in the Bay Area. My interest in media grew out of my attempts to keep up with my students and their new forms of communication. I am ready to take my experience to the next level through training, peer exchange and doing. View all posts by Saleem Gilmore →

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