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Black Americans Have Always Been Excluded from Second Amendment, Says Author Carol Anderson

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Carol Anderson, author of “The Second: Race and Guns in a Fatally Unequal America,” says the Second Amendment was written in the interest of Black oppression, and its protections have never applied to Black Americans.

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The Second Amendment of the United States Constitution states that Americans and well-regulated militias have the right to keep and bear arms without infringement. However, with the police and other historically anti-Black institutions taking fatal action against Black gun owners, it can be said that people of color have never had the same right.

We’ve got to remove the Second Amendment from its hallowed ground … sitting in the middle of the Bill of Rights we have a right to control Black people … that anomaly has done enormous damage. We need to treat the Second Amendment the same way we treat the Three-Fifths Clause. Both were founded on Black inhumanity.” —Dr. Carol Anderson, Emory University

 “The Second: Race and Guns in a Fatally Unequal America” is a new book from Dr. Carol Anderson exploring the history of the Second Amendment in the context of the Black community. She writes that the amendment was written in the interest of Black oppression, and its protections have never applied to Black Americans. 


Listen: Carol Anderson on the racist origins of the Second Amendment.


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Carol Anderson is a professor of African American studies at Emory University and author of “The Second: Race and Guns in a Fatally Unequal America.” She says the Second Amendment was specifically worded to support Black suppression in the time of slavery. “’Militia’ is the key word there,” she says. ”In the war for independence, the militia was not reliable … What the militia did do really well consistently was to put down slave revolts.” The right to bear arms has never applied to people of color, Anderson says, because it was created to deny them freedom. “Its very genesis was designed to contain and to control and to deny Black people their rights.”

Anderson says, historically, Black gun owners have felt the need to arm themselves because of the constant threat of white violence, and the nonexistent police protection for communities of color. “The key element here … is the anti-Blackness in American society that defines Black people as the default threat … as something that challenges the safety of the white community.” 

The only way to reform the Second Amendment is to repeal it, Anderson says. “We’ve got to remove the Second Amendment from its hallowed ground … sitting in the middle of the Bill of Rights we have a right to control Black people … that anomaly has done enormous damage. We need to treat the Second Amendment the same way we treat the Three-Fifths Clause. Both were founded on Black inhumanity.”

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