As the father of four black children, I’m forced to reevaluate my ideals
Let me be clear: I am, at least in the hallowed halls of my ideals, as anti-gun as a person can be. I have railed against what I believe to be the antiquated concept of the 2nd Amendment, quoted gun violence statistics ad nauseam, and pointed out the obvious correlation between gun availability and gun violence in the United States more times than I can count. And yet, I find myself seriously considering buying a gun.
My anti-gun stance is more than an academic exercise. I grew up witnessing the destructive power of firearms. There were periods of my life when I carried one with me everywhere I went, and I’ve seen the devastation they’ve wrought from both sides of the barrel. I’ve lost friends to gun violence and I’ve lost friends to prisons for pulling triggers.
From an engineering standpoint, I’ve always admired the elegant efficiency of guns. They’re a near-perfect machine. Human ingenuity has distilled the power of dealing death and pain down to a process as simple as using a computer mouse. Point and click; point and shoot.
Ideals are admirable. Aspiring to the highest form of a principle or belief is a measure of one’s character and can shape a person’s very nature. Unflinching idealism, however, can become a self-imposed cage of unrealistic expectations of the world; and the world I find myself in today may just require me to own a gun.
My role in the world today is entirely new to me. Two years ago, I married the most amazing woman on the planet and simultaneously became a stepfather to the four most incredible children alive. I am a white man, but my wife and children are black, and I find myself forced to confront the fact that the privilege that has always kept me exponentially safer than 90% of the rest of the people on Earth does not extend to my family. Just as proximity to blackness does not give me any real understanding of the racism they face, their proximity to whiteness will not protect them from the violence that same racism propagates.
My will and strength are quite literally outgunned, and I find that to be an untenable situation where my children’s safety is concerned.
It terrifies me every day when I consider how emboldened white supremacists have become, now that they have one of their own leading the nation. Confederate flag T-shirts, Nazi Iron Cross tattoos, and the myriad other symbols of white supremacy have moved out of the back of people’s closets, and become everyday occurrences in the grocery store aisle.
How do I keep my kids safe in this world?
I’m probably as tough as any other guy my age and size walking around. I boxed a bit when I was younger; I can handle myself with my hands. But these folks are openly carrying pistols and assault rifles into Chipotle. I’ve got a great left hook, but all the anger and love in the world won’t make my fist strong enough to stop a bullet. My will and strength are quite literally outgunned, and I find that to be an untenable situation where my children’s safety is concerned. And so, I’m at a crossroads with my ideals, and the path ahead is far from clear.
Infull transparency, I am livid at the thought of being forced to make this compromise. Even worse, in doing so I’d introduce an entirely new set of risks to their safety. I’m not convinced they’ve created a gun that is safe and secure enough to keep my brilliant children out if they were so inclined to examine it. They deserve a world where I don’t have to choose the least dangerous way to keep them safe.
But black children aren’t allowed to just be children. Their very existence comes prepackaged with the weight of an entire history of anti-blackness, baked into our very culture; a weight they feel every time they leave home.
My oldest son is 11 years old, stands 5 feet 11 inches, and looks like an adult from 10 feet away. There’s no way possible for me not to think of Tamir Rice and Trayvon Martin any time he walks out of our front door. He is a child facing down the dangers of white America’s fascination with the “mythic masculinity” of the black man — and he’s not yet a teenager, let alone a man.
When I became a husband and parent, I promised my family I would do whatever it took to protect them. There are dangers that exist for black Americans every day that I will never truly understand or comprehend, but that doesn’t mean precautions can’t be taken. I hate that I live in a world where owning a gun may be the only way to keep my promise, but that doesn’t change my reality nor abdicate my responsibility.
I still haven’t decided. What I do know is that this world needs a lot of healing, and it’s hard to imagine that owning a gun can help in that process. I can admit, however, that when weighed against my family’s potential safety, a large part of me doesn’t care.