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“The Second”: Carol Anderson on the Racist Roots of the Constitutional Right to Bear Arms

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Do African Americans have Second Amendment rights? That’s the question Emory University professor Carol Anderson set out to answer in her new book, “The Second,” which looks at the constitutional right to bear arms and its uneven application throughout U.S. history. She says she was prompted to write the book after the 2016 police killing of Philando Castile, who was fatally shot during a traffic stop after he told the officer he had a legal firearm. Anderson says the Second Amendment was always intended to be a means of arming white people to control the Black population. “There was this massive fear about these slave revolts, Black people demanding their freedom, being willing to have an uprising to gain their freedom,” says Anderson. “What I saw was that it wasn’t about guns. It was about the fear of Black people.”

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Gun control advocates are pushing lawmakers to do more to stop a surge in gun violence. A recent study by Everytown for Gun Safety found gun violence took over 19,000 lives in the United States last year — a 25% increase from 2019. Gun sales are also soaring to record levels.

Despite this, Republican lawmakers are pushing measures to loosen gun control regulations. In Texas, Governor Greg Abbott is expected to soon sign a recently passed bill which would allow Texans to carry handguns openly in public without a permit. It also allows people without a felony criminal conviction to carry a handgun without a background check. Abbott has praised the bill as the, quote, “strongest Second Amendment legislation in Texas history.”

Well, today we’re going to take a deep look at the Second Amendment and its racist roots. We’re joined by Carol Anderson, author of the new book The Second: Race and Guns in a Fatally Unequal America. Professor Anderson details how the Second Amendment was written to empower local militia groups to put down slave revolts and protect plantation owners. She writes the Second Amendment is, quote, “rooted in fear of Black people, to deny them their rights, to keep them from tasting liberty.” Carol Anderson joins us from Atlanta, where she’s professor at Emory University. She’s also the author of One Person, No Vote: How Voter Suppression Is Destroying Our Democracy and White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide.

Professor Anderson, it’s great to have you back on Democracy Now! Congratulations on the publication of your book. And one warning: no soundbites. So, this book is really an epic work. It is a retelling, a reframing of an amendment that we have rarely heard talked about in this way. Can you go back in time to the Founding Fathers, as they say, and talk about where the Second Amendment came from? Teach.


This emerged out of the fear of Black people, from slavery, that there was this massive fear about the slave revolt, Black people demanding their freedom, being willing to have an uprising to gain their freedom. And what that meant then was that you had this language of “We’ve got to keep this ferocious monster in chains.” And you saw, with each revolt, with each uprising, a series of statutes being put in place to say that African — that the enslaved, that Black people could not own weapons, that they could not have access to weapons. And you also saw the rise in the structure of slave patrols and militias, that were there and designed to contain that Black population.

As the nation began to develop, as you had this war of independence, there was this fear of arming Black people, the fear that even freed Blacks who were armed would get — would provide a kind of sense of what freedom looked like to the enslaved. But the exigencies of war required that arming, required having Black folks in the Continental Army. But as the nation developed after that war, one of the things that you had happening was with the Constitution, with the drafting of the Constitution. Because the militias themselves had proven so untrustworthy, unreliable as a force to fight against the British invasion, that James Madison, in drafting the Constitution, had language in there that you would have federal control of the militias.

Well, when the Constitution went up for ratification to the states, by the time it got to Virginia, the Anti-Federalists in Virginia were in an uproar. George Mason and Patrick Henry were thinking about this militia being under the control of the federal government. They were like, “We will be left defenseless. We cannot trust the federal government, that has these folks from Pennsylvania and these folks from Massachusetts, to be willing to engage the militia when the slaves revolt. We cannot trust the federal government to protect us. We will be left defenseless.” And they began to demand a Bill of Rights that would provide protection, that would curtail federal power. And they began to demand, as well, a new constitutional convention.

That threat of what that meant sent James Madison into the 1st Congress determined to write a Bill of Rights that would quell that dissent, that would short-circuit that movement for a new constitutional convention. And we’ve already seen what the power of the South has meant, in terms of the — when the Constitution was being drafted itself, how the South said that “We will not sign on to become part of this United States of America if we don’t get the three-fifths clause, if we don’t get 20 additional years on the Atlantic slave trade, if we don’t get a Fugitive Slave Clause.” And so the South had already wielded its power in terms of being willing to scuttle the United States of America. And Madison believed strongly that this threat coming out of the Anti-Federalists in the South, out of Virginia, would do the same thing. And that becomes the basis for the Second Amendment.

AMY GOODMAN: And can you talk about all of the players — I mean, you just mentioned James Madison, Patrick Henry, the slave states — and how this country came together based on this terror of slaves rebelling?

CAROL ANDERSON: Yes. I mean, so —

AMY GOODMAN: Enslaved people rebelling?

CAROL ANDERSON: Yeah, enslaved people rebelling. And that fear that — you know, so you have George Washington, who is a slave owner, who brings, in fact, some of his enslaved people to Philadelphia for the Constitutional Convention. You have Thomas Jefferson, who is not there, but he is writing in to Madison, and Madison is writing to him. And one of the things that Jefferson is concerned about is slavery, is the way that it will be depicted.

And so you have this silence. There is a silence in the Constitution. It’s hovering over the formation of the Constitution, like Banquo’s ghost, haunting it, in shaping it, but not being explicitly said. But it is the power that is creating this sophistry, this really weird “We believe in freedom and equality, but we want 20 additional years on the Atlantic slave trade.” What they said in South Carolina was that “South Carolina would be just a backward place. Our wealth comes from the Negroes. That is our natural resource. And we must protect it at all cost.” So, this is what is part of the tectonic plates moving at this time in this founding of this nation.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Professor Anderson, could you also explain the significance of the Uniform Militia Act of 1792 and its role in ensuring that weapons and guns remained in the hands of white people?

CAROL ANDERSON: Yes. And so, one of the first laws passed by Congress was the Uniform Militia Act of 1792. What it said was that all able-bodied white men between the ages of 18 and 45 would have to be part of the militia. And so, here in the law, it is specifying white men. And it said that they must own a gun. This is part of — the militia is part of citizenship. It is how you give your service to the nation, how you provide your bona fides, as it were, as an American citizen. And so, white men are the definition of American citizen in this framing, and that they must own a gun. And so, what you see here is that the militia is given this high status in terms of what it means to be able to control a unruly population, what is seen as a dangerous population.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Professor Anderson, could —

CAROL ANDERSON: And interestingly enough — I’m sorry.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: No, please go ahead.

CAROL ANDERSON: Interestingly enough for me is that we have had Shays’ Rebellion, that happened right before the Constitutional Convention, where white men gathered together to attack the government because they didn’t like a taxation policy, and that the militia would not put down these white men. In fact, you had members of the militia joining this rebellion. And you had to have Boston merchants basically finance a mercenary army to put down Shays’ Rebellion.

But what you didn’t see coming out of that was a law saying, you know, “White men with arms are dangerous. White men with arms attack the government. So we need to ban white men from having access to weapons.” You don’t see that happening. But you do see that happening with slave revolts. You see the language, the laws coming in place, saying they shall not have access, Black people shall not have access to weapons, and that the militia and the slave patrol are there to ensure that Black people do not have access to weapons.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: And, Professor Anderson, it seems — I mean, you begin your book by talking about the police murders of Philando Castile, as well as Alton Sterling, and you point out that the NRA did not come to their defense, despite the fact that they were also killed for having guns in their possession, whereas in a comparable violence perpetrated by white mass violence, the NRA immediately leapt to the defense of the people responsible for that violence, who were white men.

CAROL ANDERSON: Absolutely. And so, there was a basic silence on Philando Castile. There was nothing said about Alton Sterling. And what was said about Philando Castile from the NRA was — and this was only after being pushed by their African American members — was that “We believe that everyone, regardless of race, sexual orientation, should have access to guns, to arms,” but nothing really substantive.

What happened after Ruby Ridge and Waco, Texas, with the Branch Davidians, was that Wayne LaPierre called out federal officers as being jackbooted government thugs who believe they have the right to storm into people’s homes and take their guns and kill law-abiding citizens. Several officers had been killed in those events.

And so, to then label the response as jackbooted thugs, when you get silence with Philando Castile, it really led me to — you know, as journalists were asking, “Don’t African Americans have Second Amendment rights?” And that’s what sent me down this path, all the way to the 17th century, to be able to answer that question.

AMY GOODMAN: So, let’s go back to 2016. And this, you write in your book, Carol Anderson, about how this inspired you to write this whole book. The immediate aftermath of the police shooting of Philando Castile was broadcast live on Facebook by his girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, who’s speaking in the car next to her dying boyfriend as a police officer continues to point the gun into the car. Her little child is in the backseat. A warning to our viewers: The content is deeply disturbing.

DIAMOND REYNOLDS: They killed my boyfriend. He’s licensed. He’s carried to — he’s licensed to carry. He was trying to get out his ID in his wallet out his pocket, and he let the officer know that he was — he had a firearm, and he was reaching for his wallet. And the officer just shot him in his arm.

AMY GOODMAN: So, dashcam video released nearly a year later shows the 4-year-old daughter of Diamond Reynolds consoling her heartbroken mother, who’s handcuffed in the back of a police squad car minutes after the St. Anthony police officer Jeronimo Yanez shot and killed Philando.

DAE’ANNE REYNOLDS: Mom, please stop saying cusses and screaming, 'cause I don't want you to get shooted.

DIAMOND REYNOLDS: OK. Give me a kiss. My phone just died. That’s all.

DAE’ANNE REYNOLDS: I can keep you safe.

DIAMOND REYNOLDS: It’s OK. I got it, OK? Come here. I can’t believe they just did that.

AMY GOODMAN: There we hear the crying of Diamond’s daughter. The video was released just days after the police officer, Jeronimo Yanez, was acquitted of manslaughter. I wanted to ask you, Carol Anderson, to take us on that journey that you took, experiencing all of this, taking it in, telling us who Philando was, talking about the fact that he had a gun — legally had a gun — and told the police officer about it — in fact, had told his mother before, “I’m thinking of not carrying the gun, though it’s legal,” because of — well, I mean, just the day before, another African American man, Alton Sterling, had been killed by police in Louisiana. But you take us on this journey that led to this book.

CAROL ANDERSON: Yes. And so, it was the killing of Philando Castile. You know, I start off the book going, you know, it was like a snuff film, because we all saw that video image. And it was horrific. It was jarring. And to then get the back story, that this was a man who followed NRA guidelines, saying — letting the officer know that “I have a licensed-carry weapon with me. You have asked for my ID. I am reaching for my ID.” And the officer begins to shoot. So he is killed because he has a weapon, not that he is brandishing the weapon, not that he is threatening anyone. He simply has a weapon.

And that really led me to begin on this journey — as I saw the NRA’s virtual silence on this — on this journey to figure out: Do African Americans have Second Amendment rights? You know, we’re in this moment where the Second Amendment is like hallowed ground. It is sacred. It is one of those things that has been defined as the bedrock of citizenship. And so I started looking.

And as I went on this journey, what I saw was that it wasn’t about guns. It was about the fear of Black people. It was about the fear of Blackness. It was about the societal labeling of Black people as dangerous, as a threat to whites, and that this architecture comes in place in order to contain this Black population, in order to provide security and safety to the white community from this fear of Black people. And you get this really weird matrix happening where Black people are feared but needed. And so, it is the “How do we contain them? How do we snuff out their quest for freedom? How do we snuff out their quest for their basic human rights, while also keeping them as labor without rights? How do we do that? How do we make that subjugation happen? How do we talk about — in this land of the United States of America, how do we talk about freedom but try to keep it contained from this Black population? We don’t want them getting the ether that we’re talking about in this revolutionary moment about freedom and democracy and justice. We don’t want them hearing the words about equality. How do we do that?”

And when there was a revolt in Virginia in 1800 with Gabriel, and Gabriel had fed on the language, the revolutionary language from the United States, from the French Revolution and from the Haitian Revolution, that sent shock waves — shock waves — throughout the United States. And Virginia was trembling at the expansiveness of Gabriel’s revolt. And the response was, you know, the wrong people are getting the word about freedom and democracy. The wrong people are hearing this revolutionary language and thinking that it applies to them.

So, this was the journey that I was on to hear and to get into this milieu of how frightening, how dangerous Black people were seen as, and then to follow it all the way through to the 21st century by looking at: Do Black people have the right to bear arms? Do they have the right to a well-regulated militia? Do they have the right to self-defense? And seeing how in each of those, it has been used against Black people, and that the status, the legal status of Black folk, has not altered that significantly. So, whether enslaved, whether free Black, whether denizen — which was that halfway limbo land between enslaved and citizen — whether newly emancipated freed people, whether Jim Crow Black or whether post-civil rights African American, the right to bear arms, the right to a well-regulated militia and the right to self-defense are in fact fractured. That citizenship is fractured. It is hobbled by this intense anti-Blackness, this fear of Black people, this sense of Black people as a danger to white American society.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: So, Professor Anderson, could you talk about that, in particular, the role of Black militias, which you talk about in the book, their role in the early 19th century, to what use they were deployed, and then how it is that whites stripped Black militias of their official standing?

CAROL ANDERSON: Yes. And so, in Louisiana, when it was still the Louisiana Territory — it was before the U.S. had purchased it, but it was on its way, it was on its way — you had a well-heeled, well-trained Black militia that had been very effective. Well, as the U.S. came in, one of the first cries coming out of white New Orleans was to strip the Black militia, disband the Black militia. Well, the governor, William Claiborne at the time, you know, at first he’s like, “Yes, you know, asking for more arms, because we have all of these free Blacks, and we’ve got these Black folks with arms,” and so he’s asking for more arms from the federal government. But then he starts noticing how effective this Black militia is, and so he tries to square the circle — white fear and the sense that the Black militia is the only real effective fighting force there, given all of the challenges that are happening in that territory at the time. And so, what he comes up with is to remove the Black officer class from this Black militia and put in white officers, thinking that that will be enough for whites in New Orleans who want the Black militia disbanded.

But then there is a massive, massive slave revolt coming from Charles Deslondes. And this massive slave revolt, that included somewhere between 150 to 500 people, headed to New Orleans, headed to what they believed was freedom, just sent terror through what is called the German Coast of Louisiana. And so, William Claiborne, seeing this massive movement, this massive slave revolt, in fact, begins to enlist the Black militia as part of the forces to take on this slave revolt. And the slave revolt is crushed. I mean, the U.S. Army comes in. The U.S. Navy comes in. You have the white militia that is there, but the Black militia is very effective. And so you have a Black militia fighting against Black folk who are enslaved and trying to be free. The reward that the Black militia received for this was a further push to be disbanded, further push to not have access to be able to purchase arms. They put a law in place that folks of color, Black people, could not buy arms.

Then came the War of 1812, and Andrew Jackson is the leader, the military leader, and he sees the British coming in this Battle of New Orleans. And he sees this Black militia, and he’s telling Claiborne, “We need them. This is an effective fighting force.” And Claiborne is like, “Yes, they are. But I’m telling you, they’re just not feeling it right now, because of the way we treat them.” And he’s like, “I will treat them equally. I will treat them with the honor that all soldiers should have. And they will be paid equal to whites. They will receive the same pay. And besides the Black militia, I want two additional battalions.” Claiborne came back, and he said, “You can get the Black militia, but getting two additional battalions is going to be difficult, because whites in this area believe that arming them is arming the enemy.” So, you have Black folks who are identified as the enemy. And in that fighting force, that force beat the British. It was like 3,000 or so of Andrew Jackson’s troops against 8,000 British troops, and they won. And Andrew Jackson was like, “Wow! I knew you guys were good. I just didn’t know how good.” But the response, the reaction to that then, was to send them off as a labor battalion to work in the swamps, that white men didn’t want to go into to do the work.

So, you have this denigration of Black military contributions to fighting for America. And that was a consistent theme that we saw. So you get this erasure of this history and this erasure for the men themselves who are doing the fighting, who are being wounded, who are dealing with the loss of their fighting brethren. That has been the sense that Black men under arms, they’re a threat, and Black men who are trained how to use arms, they’re really a threat. So they must be disarmed after they have served our purpose.

AMY GOODMAN: Professor Anderson, I just wanted to follow up on the term you used, “anti-Blackness,” that you’re actually saying that the Second Amendment is not about guns, but it’s about anti-Blackness. Explain.

CAROL ANDERSON: Yes. It is about the fear. So, and the best way to do this is to talk about the kind of history that we have about the Second Amendment. We hear the history of the militia, about being this really effective fighting force to fend off a foreign invasion and also being there to fend off domestic tyranny. But what they knew at the time was that the militia had proven to be uneven, unreliable in the war of independence, the war for independence. George Washington was beside himself at the lack of reliability of the militias. Sometimes they would show up, sometimes they wouldn’t. Sometimes they’d fight, sometimes they wouldn’t. Sometimes they would just take off and run away. It’s really difficult to form a battle plan when your fighting force is like, “Mmm, I’m not feeling it today.” And it led Gouverneur Morris, who was out of New York and one of the Founding Fathers, to say, “To rely upon the militia against a foreign invasion is like to depend upon a broken reed.” And so, they knew that the militia was really not strong against a professional army. And then there was Shays’ Rebellion. What they saw with Shays’ Rebellion is that you could not really rely upon the militia in order to deal with an uprising and insurrections against government. You could not rely upon them for that.

Where the militia was consistently good was in slave revolts, in crushing slave revolts. And so, this is what led George Mason and Patrick Henry to talk about “We must control our militia. We will be left defenseless against slave revolts if the federal government controls it.” And so, it is that fear of slave revolts, that fear of Black rebellion, the fear of Blacks as a dangerous population that must be controlled by these militias, that was essential in the drafting of the Second Amendment.

When you think about the Bill of Rights, how you’ve got the right to freedom of the press, how you have no state-sponsored religion, how you have freedom of assembly, the right not to be illegally searched and seized, the right to a speedy and fair trial, the right not to have cruel and unusual punishment — and so you see these incredible rights. And then you’ve got this well-regulated militia? The right to bear arms for the security of the state? That amendment is an outlier in this Bill of Rights. And that outlier is because it was the payoff to the South to have a force under state control that could contain Black aspirations, Black freedom quests, that could contain what is seen as a dangerous Black population.

AMY GOODMAN: Carol Anderson, we have to break, but then we’re going to come back to this conversation. Carol Anderson is a professor at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. Her book is just out this week, The Second: Race and Guns in a Fatally Unequal America. Stay with us.


AMY GOODMAN: “Hear My Call” by Jill Scott. This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The Quarantine Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with Nermeen Shaikh. Our guest for the hour, Carol Anderson, professor at Emory University, author of the new book The Second: Race and Guns in a Fatally Unequal America. And we also want to get back to her previous book, One Person, No Vote: How Voter Suppression Is Destroying Our Democracy, also wrote the book White Rage. But, Nermeen, why don’t you start with your question?

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Professor Anderson, another issue that you raise in the book as absolutely critical has to do with the denial of the rights of citizenship to Blacks. So, if you could explain the crucial Supreme Court decision here, Dred Scott v. Sandford in 1857, and how even after the 14th Amendment was passed, Dred Scott continued to take precedence?

CAROL ANDERSON: Yes. And so, the Dred Scott decision was designed to try to stop the explosion that was happening, the secessionist crisis that was happening in the United States, because there had been a series of events — the Missouri Compromise, the war for Texas, the Kansas — and Bleeding Kansas. All of these things were about the expansion of slavery and the fight to contract slavery.

And so, the Dred Scott decision — so, Dred Scott was a Black man who was enslaved. And his owner had taken him to free-soil states, Wisconsin and to Illinois. And then he was taken to Missouri, which was a slave state. He had argued that because he had been on free soil for years, that he was free.

What this decision said, written by Chief Justice Roger Taney, was that Black people were never considered citizens of the United States. They weren’t considered citizens at the founding, with the Constitution. They weren’t considered citizens in that there’s — with the Uniform Militia Act of 1792. They weren’t considered citizens when the secretary of state refused to issue Black people passports, saying they’re not citizens. They’re denied the ability to carry the mail. All of these things prove that they’re not citizens. He said, in this decision, “If they were citizens, they would be able to go easily from state to state. But there were laws that prevented that.” And he said, “And they would be able to carry arms wherever they went.” And so, in there, you see that being able to carry arms is a sign of citizenship in this framing, and is saying they’re not citizens. Dred Scott was the one that said that a Black man has no rights that a white man is bound to respect. Dred Scott, in fact, did not stop the crisis. In fact, it added to it. And it helped lead to the Civil War.

After the Civil War, you had Andrew Johnson, as the president of the United States, basically issuing these mass amnesties to the Confederacy, to Confederate leaders, who then reassumed their positions in these states. And they passed constitutions and laws that denied Black people their rights. One of the laws that they passed were the Black Codes. The Black Codes — among other things, besides trying to control labor, the Black Codes said that Black people could not bear arms, they could not have weapons, and that they needed to be disarmed. You had the rise of these paramilitary groups working in league with these neo-Confederate states trying to disarm Black people. You had a bloody massacre, one right after the next. There’s a travelogue of carnage by Carl Schurz, who writes on the report of the conditions in the South that is just harrowing. Historian and legal scholar Annette Gordon-Reed calls it a “slow-motion genocide.”

And you have Black troops, Black Union troops, U.S. troops, who are part of the occupying army in the South. You have white Southerners absolutely outraged that you would have Black soldiers — Black soldiers — as an occupying force in what they see as their space. And so they begin to talk about the violence that we’re seeing, the violence that is happening, is because these Black soldiers are here. And if these Black soldiers weren’t here, then this killing wouldn’t be happening. And so Andrew Johnson removes the Black soldiers. First he removes them from the interior of the South and puts them on coastal fortifications, and then, shortly thereafter, removes them as an occupying force in the South altogether. Those Black soldiers saw themselves as a line of defense protecting the newly freed people from the terror that was raining down on them.

So, the denigration of Black soldiers, the attempt to disarm Black people after the war, the language that Black people aren’t really citizens, that Black people are dangerous, and they cannot have access to weapons because it challenges the safety and the security of white Southerners, I mean, that’s what was going on at this time.

AMY GOODMAN: Professor Anderson, I wanted to leap forward to ask about how authorities responded to the Black Panthers, which urged Black people to arm themselves in the ’60s. This is Bobby Seale, co-founder of the Black Panther Self-Defense Party, speaking in 1967.

BOBBY SEALE: The Black Panther Party for Self-Defense calls upon the American people in general, and the Black people in particular, to take full note of the racist California Legislature, which is now considering legislation aimed at keeping the Black people disarmed and powerless at the very same time that racist police agencies throughout the country are intensifying the terror, brutality, murder and repression of Black people.

AMY GOODMAN: So, if you could respond to this, Carol Anderson, to respond to Bobby Seale?

CAROL ANDERSON: Yeah, so, what Bobby Seale is talking about is the depth of the police violence and brutality that was raining down on the Black community. The uprisings that we saw in Watts, in Cleveland, in Newark, in Detroit were all fueled not only by those horrific conditions in those places, but also by police brutality. And the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense was founded as a response to the brutality of the Oakland Police Department.

And so, what the Black Panthers did, they said, “We will police the police.” They knew what the law said about open carry in California. And they also knew what the law said about the distance that you had to maintain from a police officer arresting someone. So the Black Panthers would come to those arrests fully armed with the kinds of legal weapons that they were allowed to have. And the police did not like it. They did not like it.

And so, the Oakland Police Department went to Don Mulford, an assemblyman, a California assemblyman, and said, “We need your help. We need to make what the Black Panthers are doing illegal, because currently it’s legal. We stop them, but they’ve got the right kinds of weapons. We can’t arrest them for what they’re doing. We need to be able to make their work illegal.”

And so, what Mulford did, with the help of the NRA, was to write the Mulford Act, which banned open carry, which was a gun control act. And it was a gun control act targeted at the Black Panthers. So, Mulford said, “No, there’s no racial targeting in this at all. This is about the Klan, as well.” But it wasn’t. The letters make it really clear that the genesis for this, the catalyst for it, was the “How do we curtail the Black Panthers? How do we make them illegal?”

AMY GOODMAN: Fascinatingly, moving forward 20 years, I want to go to former Supreme Court Chief Justice Warren Burger, 1991, appearing on The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour.

WARREN BURGER: If I were writing the Bill of Rights now, there wouldn’t be any such thing as the Second Amendment.


WARREN BURGER: That a well-regulated militia being necessary for the defense of the state, the people’s rights to bear arms. This has been the subject of one of the greatest pieces of fraud — I repeat the word “fraud” — on the American public by special interest groups that I have ever seen in my lifetime.

AMY GOODMAN: This has been the greatest fraud. We’re going to have to end with this final comment of yours, Professor Anderson.

CAROL ANDERSON: Yes. And that fraud has been that swaddling of the Second Amendment in the flag, in patriotism, in a sense of — that the militias were there to protect and defend democracy, when in fact the militia were there, designed to control Black people and deny Black people their rights. So, in the Second Amendment, what we have in the Bill of Rights is the right to destroy Black people’s rights. That is anathema. That is what has been committed.

AMY GOODMAN: What most shocked you in your research?

CAROL ANDERSON: How consistent this anti-Blackness was and how it carries through to today with “stand your ground” laws, how it carries through with the ways that Black people are seen as threats, as monsters, as dangerous, simply because of their very being, and that puts a crosshairs on them. That is — writing this book was hard, because writing about the past and carrying it to the future, in the midst of the killing of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, was just — in the midst of the pandemic, was just a lot.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, Professor Carol Anderson, we want to thank you so much for this book, professor at Emory University — the book, The Second: Race and Guns in a Fatally Unequal America — also author of One Person, No Vote: How Voter Suppression Is Destroying Our Democracy and White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide.

That does it for our show. A happy belated birthday to Angie Karran! Democracy Now! is produced with Mike Burke, Renée Feltz, Deena Guzder, María Taracena, Carla Wills, Tami Woronoff, Charina Nadura, Sam Alcoff, Tey-Marie Astudillo, John Hamilton, Robby Karran, Hany Massoud, Adriano Contreras. Our general manager, Julie Crosby. Special thanks to Becca Staley. I’m Amy Goodman, with Nermeen Shaikh.

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