Is historian right Second Amendment about ‘anti-Blackness’?


Fact Box

  • Carol Anderson is an American historian, educator and author who works as a professor at Emory University in American Studies. She is known for “White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Nation’s Divide” and her recent book, “The Second: Race and Guns in a Fatally Unequal America.”
  • In her new book, she says, “the second amendment was written in the blood of enslaved black people.” She mentions the Second Amendment was created to “suppress slave insurrections” and that racist practices have denied Blacks the ability to defend themselves. 
  • Slavery was abolished on January 31, 1865, and adopted as the 13th amendment on December 18, 1865. 
  • The Second Amendment of the US Constitution ensures “the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”
  • America has 120.5 guns per 100 people, which amounts to about 393,347,000 guns—the highest per capita worldwide.

Kevin (Yes)

Carol Anderson is not the first to make the connection between the historical racism that played a part in the founding of the US and the Constitution as it was written. Some would argue that the Second Amendment was about the security of the nation, but it is important to consider the context that the land was being stolen from indigenous people at the time of that writing and that one of the jobs of the militia mentioned in that amendment was putting down slave revolts. Both of those things contributed to those concerns about security. As Anderson points out, at the time of the signing of the Constitution, the Southern delegates extracted several concessions from the Constitutional Convention for the purpose of upholding slavery, including protecting the militia which put down slave revolts. Even in the North, since Black people weren't considered full citizens, they were not allowed the rights provided by the Constitution, including gun ownership.

Racism and anti-Blackness are part and parcel with the founding of the US, though it is worth noting that this is not the only nation with such a history. Also, just as the origin of the Second Amendment has problematic associations, the same can be said of many gun control laws that have been passed since then. If we are to move past these issues, the past must be understood and reckoned with. While it may not be possible to fully ever understand the intent of those who wrote the Constitution, history provides enough clues here to support Anderson's claims.

Stephanie (No)

With recent gun control and racial issues simultaneously occurring throughout the nation, historian Carol Anderson wrongfully took the opportunity to attack Constitutional rights in claiming that the Second Amendment is 'about anti-blackness:' The Second Amendment guarantees physical protection from a tyrannical government, regardless of race, and applies unequivocally to African Americans. Anderson cites the recent case of Philando Castile, who was shot to death after a police officer learned he was armed. Unfortunately, this remains another example of tensions within police departments but is not indicative of who may exercise their Second Amendment rights

Anderson's argument that the Second Amendment was designed for slaveholders to protect themselves against 'armed Blacks' is flawed: when slavery was prevalent, slaves did not possess many of the rights enjoyed by free individuals. While these injustices are still infuriating today, it is illogical to single out the right to bear arms. Of course, slaves were not entitled to do so! Just like voting rights, former slaves struggled to obtain these rights even after slavery was abolished, but they eventually did.

Upon grammatically deconstructing the verbiage of the Second Amendment, one can see that it clearly pertains to the people's rights and does not apply to slavery whatsoever. It is also notable that Constitutional rights (in varying degrees) apply to all individuals in the country, regardless of citizen status, and are not limited to just Americans. While Anderson and others who have issues with the Second Amendment are using her recent claim against it, Constitutionalists will argue vehemently that the US Constitution was not meant to be treated as a 'living document' that should undergo drastic changes.

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