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Making Case For Black Women And Femmes To Arm And Protect Themselves

Every 19 hours, a Black woman dies at the hands of a Black man.

92 percent of the time, she knows her murderer.

56 percent of the time, her murderer is her husband, ex, or her lover.

Read those three lines as many times as you need to. Until it sinks in. Until you get it.

About a year ago, I called a friend of mine and asked him to take me to a gun range, so I could become more comfortable handling a firearm. Having forcibly separated myself from a potentially volatile situation with a (seemingly) unstable male, I was on high alert, and uneasy. I did not convey this, or any urgency at all, to my friend; rather, I expressed my desire to become more proficient with a handgun “just in case.” My friend asked, “just in case of what?”

My mind rolled backward on a loop; remembering hands wrapped around my throat, cutting off my air. Me, kicking my feet at my child’s father in a futile attempt to get him to loosen his grip on my neck. Hands, grabbing and pulling my arms while walking down the sidewalk, leaving bruises. An ex-boyfriend hitting me with a belt buckle across the backs of my thighs while I crawled up a staircase, trying to get away. Me, holding my shirt up and twisting around and around so a friend could take pictures of the bruises covering my torso, for evidence to submit to the county Sherriff the one time I decided to press charges. I said to my friend in an even tone, “just in case I need to protect myself.”

Every 19 hours, a Black woman dies at the hands of a Black man.

I grew up around guns. My late grandfather was a huge gun enthusiast and was a card-carrying member of the NRA. It was nothing for me as a child to poke around in a closet and find a rifle, or stumble across a shotgun. Guns fascinated me; eventually, as a young adult, I developed an almost irrational fear of them. Just being in the vicinity of a firearm was enough for me to break out in a cold sweat. If I were to pinpoint this fear, I think it came from an incident with an old boyfriend I had years ago; he held me down on the bed and cursed me out for some reason or another, while his pistol was on the dresser in my line of vision, barrel pointed towards my face. I remember being absolutely terrified, and the feeling of helplessness I had that day was overwhelming. I never want to feel that helpless ever again, if I can help it.

When out in public, men young and old would approach me, predatory in their movements, lasciviousness in their eyes, and then the foul names spilling from their lips when I would turn and walk away. I was nice; I turned these men down with a smile that belied my nervousness. It didn’t matter how “nice” I was; more often than not I was cursed out and was even followed home from a club once when a man threatened to follow me home and rape me because I wouldn’t give him my number. In tears, I drove around in circles for an hour until I was confident enough that I had lost him. How differently would those situations had turned out if I carried a handgun, I wonder? Would they have scattered with fear had I pulled up my shirt or pulled my jacket back and showed them the butt of a pistol at my waist? Predators prey on the weak, and for years I was a wounded animal. I’m sure they could smell blood leaking through my pores.

Every 19 hours, a Black woman dies at the hands of a Black man.

My friend stood behind me that day last year, his hands covering mine as I held his Glock 19 for the first time, and he helped me aim at the paper target. My palms were sweating and my armpits were damp. I told him that, and he laughed at me, and told me to relax. He was very patient with me, telling me to take deep breaths as I pulled the trigger. I didn’t do terribly for my first time; I was much more accurate with his Hi-Point Carbine than the Glock 19. I made a mental note of that, for future reference. After that day, I didn’t touch a gun again for months. The urgency to arm myself hadn’t completely conveyed itself to me just yet.

Yet another incident occurred involving a shirtless Black man following me for blocks, but this time with a leashed pit bull, standing threateningly outside of the store I ducked into, trying to shake him off. I had to leave the store eventually, and he was still outside, standing a few feet away from the door. I left the store I took a deep breath and walked past him. I had on a dress made of Ankara fabric that day and it brushed the floor; I swept past this man holding my skirt up and away from him as if he was a lowly peasant. He followed me still, walking so closely behind me that he stepped on the hem of my skirt twice; instead of being afraid, this time I became angry.

Every 19 hours, a Black woman dies at the hands of a Black man.

I turned around to face this man while simultaneously reaching inside my purse. As I faced him with my hand inside my bag, I sensed something different from him, no longer predatory. Fear. He was afraid of ME. My face grew hot with rushing blood, and my jaws tightened. He threw his hands up and walked backward, far away from me. In that split second I realized that if I actually had a gun, I would have cheerfully killed this man. The thought of me putting a bullet in this man’s head didn’t bother me as much as it would have before. In that instance, I realized I was free. I purchased my gun several weeks later.

Every Black woman must arm herself, and the time is now. It is vital; every 19 hours, a Black woman dies at the hands of a Black man. We can no longer wait on our men to protect us; we will most likely have to protect ourselves from the threat of them. I never want another woman to feel as helpless as I did; I want us, women, to take back our power.

Arming and protecting ourselves IS power.

— AO Anderson

AO Anderson is a Pan-Africana Womanist, activist for Black women, children, and Black members of the community that fall under the LGBTQIA umbrella, historian, teacher, lifelong student of all things Africana and mother of three. Her vision is an eventual united front of all peoples of African descent all over the globe. She lives outside of Atlanta, Georgia. Connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of Simone Digital.

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