On a recent road trip we made a stop at gun range in Austin, Texas. I posted a picture on Instagram of myself aiming a Beretta pistol down the range, and a white friend posted a comment that read, “You’re scaring us.” The picture had no menacing intent; I felt it joined many images of men, women, children and even blind people with guns. This Instagram comment may have come from a sincere place. But it made me think about how guns are viewed in black hands.
Imagine a sweaty muscular white man kicking a door off its hinges with two machine guns in his hands. He pulls the triggers, massacring everyone in the room. Out of context, this moment is psychotic and disturbing. But reflected off many faces, premiered on televisions and smartphone screens, appearing in countless action movies, thrillers or even comedies, this Hollywood scene is a reflection of a nation with around 270 to 310 million civilian firearms. That’s the most in the industrialized world. It’s inevitable for children to look up at adults and want to gesture guns with their fingers, or play with water guns, paintball and laser-tag. In Cleveland, Ohio, police responding to a 911 call found Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old black boy, playing with an empty BB gun. He was shot and killed two seconds after the police arrived.