By Sean Yoes
AFRO Baltimore Editor
I’ll be 55 years old in July, born and raised in West Baltimore and I’ve never owned a gun.
I’ve lived in three of the most violent cities in the world: Baltimore, Los Angeles and Detroit and I’ve never even fired a gun. I’ve never wanted to.
However, the murder of Ahmaud Arbery has forced me to rethink my position.
I don’t give a damn what the State of Georgia ultimately says about the two White men who hunted down Arbery, 25, who would have been 26 on May 8, and gunned him down in February. It was murder simple and plain; a modern day lynching in Georgia, a state stained with the blood of our Ancestors murdered with impunity by White men for generations.
To be clear, I hope those two dogs receive the “Southern justice” they were all too eager to deliver, in the form of a state sanctioned death penalty for their crime. But, even if “White Justice” prevails and they walk free, nothing will change the fact that they murdered that young man in cold blood because they believe they were entitled to.
Racist White entitlement runs rampant in MAGA America.
We have seen mostly White men, many of them armed storming state capitals across the nation because they want a haircut. But, we are also seeing something most of us haven’t witnessed since the 1970’s: Black men reaching for their guns in protest to oppression and threats of physical violence.
Earlier this month in Michigan where White protests to “re-open the country” have been particularly rabid, with mobs displaying nooses, Confederate flags and semi-automatic weapons, State Rep. Sarah Anthony arrived at the State Capitol escorted by at least two Black men and a Black woman armed with rifles.
Anthony, a Democrat who represents Lansing’s 68th House District said she didn’t ask for the armed protection, but she welcomed it.
In Georgia, armed members of the Black Panther Party also accompanied those protesting the murder of Ahmaud Arbery recently.
Maybe in 2020, Black people are finally sick and tired of being sick and tired.
Some of our elders and Ancestors saw the writing on the wall and the blood in the streets in 1967.
Almost 53 years to the day on May 2, 1967, a dozen armed members of the Black Panther Party, which was founded in Oakland, Calif., stormed the California State Capital of Sacramento exercising their legal right to bear arms. According to reports, 10 of them made their way to the back of the Assembly Chamber before they were disarmed by state police and escorted out of the building. The Panthers were protesting an anti gun bill.
Just days later, then California Gov. Ronald Reagan signed the bill, which was backed by the National Rifle Association (!), panicked by the sight of armed Black men marching through the streets of Sacramento. The Panthers formed a year earlier in Oakland as the Black Panther Party for Self Defense, founded by Huey Newton and Bobby Seale. They patrolled the streets of Oakland armed with rifles and handguns to protect the Black residents from harassment and violence at the hands of the Oakland Police Department.
If past is indeed prologue, the country may be facing a more formidable foe than the coronavirus pandemic; the centuries old bane of the American color line.
The words of the iconoclastic Harlem poet Langston Hughes from his 1967 poem, “Warning,” perhaps resonates even more powerfully in this moment in 2020:
Sweet and docile,
Meek, humble and kind:
Beware the day
They change their mind!”
Sean Yoes is the AFRO’s Baltimore editor and author of Baltimore After Freddie Gray: Real Stories From One of America’s Great Imperiled Cities.