The White Right to Bear Arms.

AuthorLeanza, Emilio

The Second: Race and Guns in a Fatally Unequal America

By Carol Anderson

Bloomsbury, 272 pages Publication date: June 1, 2021

By contrast, Philando Castile, a thirty-two-year-old Black man, was shot to death during a traffic stop in Falcon Heights, a suburb of Saint Paul, Minnesota, in 2016 for simply telling the officer that he was carrying a firearm.

The racist disparity between how Rittenhouse and Castile were treated by law enforcement is equally clear in other cases--like when white nationalist Dylann Roof was carefully escorted out of the church in Charleston, South Carolina, after he murdered nine people or when Tamir Rice, a twelve-year-old Black boy, was killed by police for displaying a toy gun in Cleveland, Ohio.

When it comes to the Second Amendment, the "right to bear arms" is not universal but, instead, almost always applies exclusively to white men. But it's more than that, as Carol Anderson argues in The Second: Race and Guns in a Fatally Unequal America, because the deeper issue is that Black people, whether armed or unarmed, are treated by most of this country as a threat. And while debates around the Second Amendment focus on whether an individuals right to own a gun or join a militia outweigh collective safety (or vice versa), Anderson--a professor of African American Studies at Emory University and author of the 2016 best-seller White Rage--takes a strikingly different approach.

The Second centers on the amendment's anti-Black roots and details how, from the eighteenth century on, the so-called "right" it prescribes has been used to suppress, control, and kill African Americans. ("This is not a pro-gun or anti-gun book," Anderson declares in the prologue. "The key variable isn't guns. It's Black people.") To highlight this, Anderson locates the origins of the Second Amendment as a concession to Southern slaveholders to empower state militias to put down slave revolts.

Thus an "amendment rooted in fear of Black people," she writes, became a "Faustian bargain" enshrined in the Bill of Rights, binding the United States together in anti-Blackness after fighting a revolutionary war waged ostensibly for...

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