I want to take a moment today to draw attention to my friend Leslye Colvin, who has written an insightful response to a scary situation I watched happening on Facebook and Twitter the other day.
In case you missed it, the situation she’s reacting to is that a young white Catholic priest posted a selfie holding a large firearm, as well as some facetious comments about potentially having to defend his church property against “Pagans” that might deface it. He seemed bemused when his photo and remarks were made public and people responded with revulsion. He said the gun was just for going to the shooting range for fun, which is very common in the South. Apparently the comment about pagans was a tasteless joke. I’m not going to share those screengrabs with you because the priest apologized, and because some of his remarks were posted friends only and then exposed by somebody else (the photo and his initial, sarcastic response to our horror were public on Twitter and Facebook). But I do want to show you Leslye’s response.
I, personally, didn’t grow up in a culture where guns were normal. Hardly anyone I knew had one. But both Leslye, a Black woman, and the priest, a white man, did, and their thoughts and experiences about guns and violence are very different. Listen to her:
As a Black woman in a southern state, I am aware of the use of law and order rhetoric as a racist trope as is the priest’s expressed intention of “protecting my people and property.” We also live in a period when stand your ground laws are used to justify murder. Sadly, I remember the murder of a child, Tamir Rice, who was killed because he was a Black boy playing with a toy gun.There are many people who respect firearms and use them for hunting and sport. They understand and respect the deadly force at their fingertip. Growing up in a household with firearms, I also was taught to respect them. They were neither toys nor props, but a tool to be used as a deterrent or for protection. As an African-American in an openly racist state, my father would often discreetly pack a pistol for our road trips. Even as children, we knew he had a rifle in his closet. Similarly, my paternal grandfather hide his firearms in a rack above the fireplace in his bedroom. Not to exclude them, but a number of my aunts also owned firearms.