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Alexander's Column

A Black Female Harvard Professor Reconsiders the Second Amendment

"The NRA has long been a boogeyman for me."

Mark Alexander · Mar. 13, 2019
“The ultimate authority … resides in the people alone. … The advantage of being armed, which the Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation … forms a barrier against the enterprises of ambition, more insurmountable than any…” —James Madison (1788)

A New York Times op/ed by Harvard history professor Tiya Miles has received some questionable praise and promotion from a few conservative commentators this week.

Miles, who describes herself as “an African-American historian and, on most issues, decidedly liberal,” asks an introspective question: “Could I rethink my anti-gun stance?”

Apparently, the answer is “yes,” because what follows is an essay titled “The Black Gun Owner Next Door.”

Now I have to admit, when I first read that title, I thought the black gun reference might be to what the Times and other Leftmedia elitists often describe incorrectly as “assault riles.” (For the record, I am proud to live next to “black gun” owners irrespective of their race or ethnicity.)

But alas, I was mistaken.

Miles’s opinion provided a case study of an academician who started off in the right direction trying to discover the significance of the Second Amendment only to become lost in her own cultural delusions.

Despite her reconsiderations, Miles fails to grasp the most rudimentary understanding of the Liberty and Rule of Law enshrined in our Constitution, as assured by its Second Amendment enumeration of our First Civil Right: “To Keep and Bear Arms.”

As I’ve made clear in many columns over the years, the Second Amendment is the most vital of all constitutional proscriptions against government infringement of the Endowed Rights of All Men. Of that most essential right, Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story wrote in his seminal Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States (1833): “The right of the citizens to keep and bear arms has justly been considered, as the palladium of the liberties of the republic; since it offers a strong moral check against usurpation and arbitrary power of the rulers; and will generally, even if these are successful in the first instance, enable the people to resist and triumph over them.”

Of course, leftists tell us that because the Bill of Rights was ratified more than two centuries ago, it is antiquated. It may have been relevant in 1791, they argue, but surely no longer so in our post-modern culture and under the protection of enlightened Left-elite.

Actually, this is where Miles contemplates disagreement with those who would deconstruct and repeal the Second Amendment. Sadly, however, she dissents for the wrong reasons.

Her perspective is compelling because it demonstrates how paranoid and deranged some otherwise reasonably rational people can become when confined in academic and media bobblehead bubbles, or when unduly influenced by those who are.

So why is Miles hedging on her anti-2A position? Because she seems to have embraced the leftist line that Donald Trump is a racist, and because a race war may follow if he’s reelected in 2020. Thus, she wants her black neighbors armed so they can defend themselves — and her.

Miles’s near-epiphany was sparked by a visit to the historic 1850s home of black abolitionist Lewis Hayden on Boston’s “Black Heritage Trail.”

Here are a few excerpts from her thought progressions.

As she approached Hayden’s house, which in the 1850s was a protected stop on the Underground Railroad for escaped slaves, she was taken aback by the presence of a National Rifle Association sticker displayed by the current owner on the home’s front window. According to Miles, “This moment, which might not have caused a reaction in others, set me on a path of reflection, not just on the life of Hayden and those like him, but on the meanings of African-American gun ownership and my own deeply held beliefs about guns.”

Well, that was a good start.

“To me, the pairing of Lewis Hayden and the NRA felt like an affront,” complained Miles. “I knew for certain that Hayden fought for the right to be free from violent repression by white citizens wielding guns, capital and political influence. … The NRA, on the other hand, has long been a boogeyman for me. I see it as an organization that stands … hardened to the destruction that rampant gun violence wreaks.” Yes, somehow the NRA is responsible for urban “gun violence,” overwhelmingly black-on-black violence, the result of generations of catastrophically failed Democrat policies.

“Who,” Miles ponders, “would plaster this flagrant symbol of white conservatism on the antique home of a black abolitionist?”

Miles was invited in for a visit with the current owners of the house, Mary and John Gier. She says, “They are proud of their heritage (English, Dutch, Irish and German) but resist hyphenated labels like ‘Euro-American’ or ‘African-American.’” (Apparently they don’t subscribe to the Left’s hyphenated “identity politics.”) The Giers have restored the house to the condition when it was occupied by Lewis Hayden and his wife, Harriet — in an era when they were well armed and ready to defend the innate right to Liberty of former slaves.

Miles insists it was clear that the Giers “saw the NRA emblem as simpatico with the home’s spirit. To them, Lewis Hayden is a ‘model for America.’ Mrs. Gier thinks if he were alive today, he would be a member of the NRA or the National African-American Gun Association.”

Mrs. Gier asked Miles, “Can you imagine what would have happened had he not had his guns? I believe that Hayden would have left no stone unturned to maintain his defense. In that sense, he is not unlike our law-abiding citizens today who are protecting their constitutional rights.”

Indeed, disarmament and gun confiscation in the United States has racist origins, particularly in the destructive wake of the War Between the States.

After a bit more research, Miles discovered that, according to historian Manisha Sinha, “Black abolitionists, especially those involved in the abolitionist underground and Vigilance Committees, tended to arm themselves. … Fugitive slaves often resorted to armed self-defense when confronted by slave catchers and law enforcement.” Sarah Bradford, biographer of famous Underground Railroad leader Harriet Tubman, wrote that she carried at least one gun.

Unfortunately, Miles’s reconsideration of the Second Amendment collided with her own unhinged cultural bias.

She asserts that we are in “another moment of peril for African-Americans — with rates of racially motivated hate crimes on the rise, organized white supremacist rallies and open advocacy of white power ideology becoming more common,” and for that reason, “black gun ownership has surged … markedly after the election of Donald Trump.”

However, despite her disdain for the NRA, Miles concedes that many black gun owners are “super assertively pro-gun,” including Maj Toure, the founder of a group called Black Guns Matter, who “sees the NRA as an important civil rights organization.”

Likewise, Philip Smith, founder of the National African-American Gun Association, maintains “close ties to the NRA.” Smith impressed upon Miles that “black gun owners are not a monolith. ‘We have black Republicans, Democrats, gay, straight.’”

Miles was shocked to find that among Smith’s NAAGA membership are people who want to be self-sufficient in a crisis and take care of their neighbors, including many women. There are “even black gun owners preparing for natural or human-made disasters (‘preppers’),” and black women make up more than 60% of his organization. In fact, NAAGA is now in 30 states and is expecting to have chapters in all states by 2020 — although Miles is unlikely to join.

Miles was even more astounded to find, after she “took an informal family poll,” that many of her relatives “store weapons in hidden chambers inside homes where we gather; possess permits to carry concealed weapons and take target practice; have friends who bring guns to church in case the congregation should need shielding; and are prepared to ‘protect my family no matter who comes through the door.”

Her conclusion: “I did come to realize through a series of unexpected exchanges that the issue was more complicated than I had allowed and that my views of just coexistence and human flourishing might not require the absolute prohibition of arms.”

Unfortunately, she then reverts to her deranged concerns about Trump and race wars: “I would not abide having a gun inside my dwelling or my children’s schools. But where would I want to be if civil society topples and 2020 feels like 1820?”

In a home like that of the Haydens, she says, where someone else will defend her against the latest generation of “white citizens wielding guns, capital and political influence.”

What Miles can’t begin to conceive, much less concede, is that black Americans are among the major beneficiaries of the Trump administration’s economic policies. She might also be horrified to discover that black American approval of Trump has significantly increased over the last two years.

Clearly Miles’s worldview is the product of willing confinement in a leftist groupthink echo chamber. There, she and her ilk can safely convince themselves that their president is a racist, the nation is ablaze with racist attacks, a race war may ensue if Trump is reelected, and black people had better arm themselves so they won’t be enslaved again.

Miles, unfortunately, can’t even see that she’s already enslaved — by the shackles of her own dimly lit worldview.

Semper Vigilans Fortis Paratus et Fidelis
Pro Deo et Libertate — 1776

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