On May 2, 1967, 30 young Black men and women, clad in black leathers and berets and armed to the teeth, marched into the California State Capitol building in Sacramento. Then-Gov. Ronald Reagan happened to be giving an interview on the lawn when they approached, and he ran like a rabbit.
Of course, no one was after him. These men and women belonged to the Black Panther Party, and they were exercising their right to openly bear arms. They brandished rifles, pistols and bandoliers of ammo strapped across their chests.
Summarily rounded up, they were stripped of their weapons and arrested by the police. But they weren’t breaking any laws. Gov. Reagan then passed a law banning open carrying of arms in most public places in California. From that one incident, several Black Panthers in the Bay area were harassed, maligned and jailed throughout the rest of their lives.
Fast forward to 2009: We actually have groups of White folks showing up to presidential events and town-hall meetings armed to the teeth. They openly carry assault weapons and wear pistols on their hips. This has never happened under any previous presidential administration.
Why does this new development coincide with the tenure of our first Black president of the United States? I say that it’s precisely because of that fact.
Gil Scott-Heron once said that the revolution will not be televised. I agree. It certainly feels like hostilities and tensions are rising to a boiling point when people who happen to be White are allowed to carry weapons openly to political events without repercussion. At the same time they’re bringing hate signs, comparing Barack Obama to Hitler, and misquoting Thomas Jefferson to justify a call to arms.
Folks in the “scream media” are talking about taking their country back. Back from whom? They say things such as, “This isn’t the country imagined by our Founding Fathers or the Constitution of the United States.” The subtext being, this isn’t the country where I was a n***er or considered three/fifths of a human being. Most importantly, this isn’t the country where the president is supposed to be White.
Yet, I take you back to 1967. The Black Panthers were jailed for exercising their legal right to bear arms. Maybe that’s because it was never supposed to be legal for Blacks to ever have arms. After all, what would happen if a subjugated population had the weaponry to overturn their subjugation? Might there be a revolution?
Which brings us to health care. There are 45 million uninsured Americans. They truly have the right to be angry. What happens the day they realize that and decide to exercise their right to bear arms?
The revolution will not be televised.
Right now, many of us have the luxury of working our jobs, coming home, turning on the TV, and observing the latest rantings coming from Idiot America. But what happens when it isn’t on TV anymore but instead is right out on your front lawn?
Remember, the revolution will not be televised.
Locally we’re grappling with budget cuts in the City of Minneapolis. The mayor says that everyone must feel the pain, so that may include cuts to the Civil Rights Department. I will argue that Blacks and other marginalized and disenfranchised populations have always felt the pain, even when others didn’t know that pain existed. As Malcolm X once said, “When America catches a cold, Black America gets pneumonia.” The Civil Rights Department is sometimes the only buffer of protection that vulnerable populations have – especially if super-empowered White folks feel that they can intimidate by openly carrying firearms.
The irony here is that all of this happens at a time when we have a very rational and even-tempered president currently presiding after eight tumultuous years under the leadership of a gun-toting cowboy.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m all for the Second Amendment and so is Barack Obama. After all, he recently signed a bill into law that expanded the right to carry in national parks. I personally believe that every adult should have the right to legally defend themselves with firearms in their own homes.
But when people start openly carrying weapons with hostile attitudes, that’s when they have my attention. I’m in it, whether I want to be or not. Come to think about it, there aren’t any prohibitions against openly carrying weapons to community meetings.
So if hostilities are amplified, I don’t want to be caught sleeping and neither should you. If you don’t like the revolution that’s brewing, register your discontent. Don’t let the lunatics take over the asylum. If you want health care, make your voices heard. If you don’t want cuts to the Civil Rights Department, voice your concerns to your council members and the mayor. Otherwise, the loudest voices will tend to rule the day.
Just imagine if groups of people wearing Islamic attire were openly carrying weapons to political events. You already know what would happen. Hell, imams can’t even pray in airport terminals. Why do some White populations get a pass?
It’s time for all progressive communities to raise our collective voice against idiocy. Otherwise, I fear that it will all come down to armed combat. If some craziness goes down and the right-wing nuts start coming after my friends and family – White, Black, Asian, Latino, Native and LGBT – as a means of self-defense I’m gonna be right there with guns in the air and a beret on my head.
Ralph Remington is the Minneapolis 10th Ward city council member. He welcomes reader responses to Ralph.Remington@ci.minneapolis.mn.us.
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