I never had a desire to own a gun.
I was born and raised in the inner sanctum of Baltimore, where possessing a gun always came with a negative connotation. Guns belonged to the hooded, pants-sagging, Timberland-wearing drug dealers who occupied the front stoops of corner stores that I passed on my way to school each morning. Guns belonged to the faces of countless suspects wanted for murder and robbery, which flashed across the TV screen when I watched the 11 o’clock news with my mother at night. Guns belonged on the waists of trigger-happy police officers who lined the streets of “Bodymore, Murderland” and were present at every block party, high school football game and summertime congregation of just “too” many black folk.
But no, guns did not belong to me … until I moved to South Florida.
To me, Florida was not the “South.” Fort Lauderdale was not lined with the dusty, dirt roads I encountered when I made bi-yearly trips to the Carolinas for family reunions. There were no bonfires or dirt bikes. There was no southern drawl or reminder from cousins to slow down on the highway. They knew that I did not want to end up in jail in the South for speeding or any other minor infraction.
No, the east coast of South Florida was lined with sparkling clear water, topless beaches, Star Island and a cool, up-and-coming eclectic art scene that included Art Basel, Second Saturday art walks and impressive Art Deco homes.
After living in the Sunshine State for a few months post-graduation, I soon saw that it was about so much more.
In Florida, a simple “What are you doing this weekend?,” on a slow Friday in the office morphs into a full-fledged eight-person conversation of the best shooting ranges to check out near Sunrise or that new shop that popped up overnight to buy gun magazines.
Then there’s the time when a shady guy starts eyeing and hounding you and your home girl in Starbucks. You quickly suggest that it is time to leave, only to hear some surprising words from your friend: “Girl, don’t worry! I’ve got my Glock in the glove box of my car outside.”
I had never openly talked about guns with anyone outside of my immediate family in the confines of our home and was shocked to discover that the majority of my co-workers, of all races, and others whom I befriended all owned guns.
In Florida, if you did not own a gun, you were in the minority. In Florida, I was a double minority.
I was a young, wild-curly-hair-wearing 22-year-old African-American woman, who had moved to a state where, less than six months before, a young black boy, Trayvon Martin was gunned down while heading to the home of his father’s fiancée. Trayvon was armed with only a bag of Skittles and an iced tea. However, he looked “suspicious” and the state’s Stand Your Ground Law was in his killer’s favor.
Even after living for more than 20 years in a city with a high crime and murder rate, it was not until my trek down to Florida, that I developed a heightened sense of awareness for my own protection and self-preservation.
Recently, there was an uproar from the black and liberal communities when black YouTube sensation and self-proclaimed “urban gun enthusiast” Colion Noir became the new face of the National Rifle Association, urging blacks to arm themselves because “Obama” and “the police” may not always be there to protect you.
But a perusal of Noir’s videos, especially one uploaded earlier this month, depict a consciousness seen in the ideals of many civil-rights and Black Panther leaders such as Malcolm X, Bobby Seale and Huey P. Newton. In his video Concealed Carry Life: Importance of Situational Awareness, Noir said, “My gun isn’t a death ray. It is a tool that may or may not give me the fighting chance if something were to ever happen, just like my brain, my legs and my eyes.”
I’m no advocate of violence. The senseless murders in Aurora during the midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises and of the children and staff who were slain at Sandy Hook Elementary were alarming and create a need for gun-reform laws.
However, as a black, feminine woman, I am no longer willing to put my life in the hands of others, by being a person who is not armed … legally, of course.
Clutch aims to foster and advance conversations about issues relevant to black women by presenting a variety of opinions, whether or not those opinions are shared by our editorial staff.