Since Trump took office, Black citizens have been increasingly arming themselves, a practice rooted in the long Black radical tradition of armed self-defense and articulated in Robert F. Williams’s Negroes With Guns. In a recent interview with Jeremy Scahill of The Intercept, historian Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz argued that the Second Amendment “needs to be abolished.” Doing so, however, would disarm not only right-wing vigilantes, as she wants to do, but also Black citizens.
In her new book, Loaded: A Disarming History of the Second Amendment, Dunbar-Ortiz convincingly argues that the “gun culture” of the United States is rooted in the nation’s history as an expansionist, capitalist, settler colonial, white supremacist empire. Given that white colonizers in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries were living on stolen land and living off stolen labor, these colonizers had to defend their plunder from the Indigenous and enslaved populations who were resisting their dispossession and exploitation.
Seen in this context, Dunbar-Ortiz concludes, the Second Amendment was evidently designed to substantiate the right and the duty of white male citizens to arm themselves against the colonized. Anyone who understands the racial and colonial history of the Amerikan Empire will readily agree with Dunbar-Ortiz’s historical analysis.