Art by Quinten Willemsen
Art by Quinten Willemsen
Content warning: this piece discusses gun violence
Leather saddles, ten-gallon hats, and snake-skin boots. If you want to ask me about these things when I tell you that I’m from Texas, please don’t. Matter of fact, don’t ask me about a few other topics either like racism, guns, and Trump. These might seem like valid questions, but whenever I hear the same thing time and again from white Brits and Europeans I immediately tune out. The bullshit is always the same and no matter how many different ways they ask me, their basicness comes through like skid marks in undies.
But since they won’t stop asking, here’s a sample of why their questions are really basic.
For white Europeans, the United States might as well be Mars considering how alien the concept of “white supremacy” sounds to them. As a Black American Southerner from Mississippi and Texas, my only response to this first of the basic ass questions is: “What’s racism like in America? The same as it is here…”
Racism, like any other form of oppression, can't be reduced to data points alone. Even though the US outranks the UK in terms of police brutality and incarceration rates, in other sectors such as higher education the UK gets a shiny golden #1 sticker for continuing white supremacy.
It wasn’t until 2018 – two-zero-one-fucking-eight – that Olivette Otele became the first Black woman to be made Professor of History in the entire thousand-fucking-years of British universities. From 2016 to 2017 there were only 25 Black women and 90 Black men among 19,000 professors across the UK. At my uni there are only three in all of the humanities and soon to be two because I’m one of the muthafuckas finishing my PhD.
I’m not a Republican by any means. I don’t have the mental stamina to twist the facts (looking at you Candace Amber Owens) or the internalized self-hatred (still looking at you Candace Amber Owens...) to vote for the Cheeto-in-Chief, but I’m not a hard left, down-for-the-cause Democrat against gun ownership either. This is my second-hated basic ass question because it assumes that minorities can’t be legal gun owners. I agree that some people shouldn’t have access to guns and some guns shouldn’t be accessible to the people. But mass disarmament? Hell-to-the-naw!
To be very clear: I am for stronger gun control laws, but guns have always been part of my life. This has been in all of the negative ways you can imagine as someone who has lost family members due to gun violence and nearly been shot myself, but also positive ways you probably can’t, like bonding with my father. No one needs to remind me that the majority of gun victims are Black or that the likelihood of unarmed Black civilians being shot and killed by the police is five times higher than unarmed white civilians. These are just a few of the many other dangers, which is why my family of legal gun owners taught me from a young age how to own and use one properly.
I also know that even though the Second Amendment applies to all Americans and Republicans claim to support the Second Amendment, Ronald Reagan passed the Mulford Act restricting gun rights as a direct response to armed patrols of Black Panthers in California cities. More recently, legal gun owner Philando Castile was shot to death in his car while reaching for his gun permit. I can’t fully explain why guns are still, and may always be, a thing in America, but saying that no one should be able to own a gun is an extreme reaction to extreme cases of people walking around with AR-15s and other weapons from Call of Duty.
I remember the morning train ride the day a reality star won the White House. I was still living in Midwood, Brooklyn. That morning, the day after he won, had to be one of the most silent rides I’ve ever had on the Q-line. I remember a young white girl in a blue felt coat with a Hillary “I'm With Her” button on the lapel, holding her Starbucks latte and looking into it as if the world had fallen into a piping hot pool of lava.
I was elated.
Not because I was rooting for the Apprentice or because I wasn't with her (I wasn't with her), but because the white liberal bubble of New York City had been popped and exposed to the reality of their massively racist and white supremacist country. This reality had never dissipated for the Black minority; especially not for the ones in the Deep South like me used to Confederate flags and KKK parades.
When Europeans ask me how an overtly racist, sexist politician from the upper class got elected (sound familiar, Britain?) in this supposed post-racial era they don’t really want to know about America’s history. They just want to gloat in its demise like an episode of House of Cards. I wish I could tune out of the series finale, but ignoring Trump isn’t possible. He affects too many people’s lives and that’s why I hate it when non-Americans remind me of the shitty thing he did last week as if everything he’s done his entire life hasn’t always been shitty except for maybe making white liberals feel for a few years what the rest of us have been feeling for a few centuries.
I know he’s shitty. He knows he’s shitty. Three years later some of the people who voted for him probably know it too. Stop centering every conversation around him just because I’m American. America has had loads of other shitty presidents and even though I liked Obama’s two terms, I’d much rather talk about the shitty things he did *cough* drone strikes *cough*. That would at least mix things up for a bit. And finally not be so basic.
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