Writing at The New York Times, Charles C.W. Cooke offers a nice history of the central role that armed self-defense has played in both the civil rights movement and the broader struggle for racial equality. "For centuries," he writes, "firearms have been indispensable to black liberation: as crucial a defense against tyranny for Frederick Douglass and Martin Luther King Jr. as for Sam Adams and George Washington." Cooke is correct: Civil rights and gun rights are inseparable.
Cooke, whose day job is writing for National Review, also offers some excellent advice to his fellow conservatives at the National Rifle Association:
It is one thing for the N.R.A. to celebrate black Second Amendment advocates such as its spokesman Colion Noir, and Sheriff David A. Clarke Jr. of Milwaukee County, but it is quite another for Wayne LaPierre to inveigh against "home invaders, drug cartels, carjackers, knockout gamers, and rapers, and haters," and for the camera to then pan around a sea of white faces clapping in unison.
Malcolm X may have a deservedly mixed reputation, but the famous photograph of him standing at the window, rifle in hand, insisting on black liberation "by any means necessary," is about as American as it gets. It should be celebrated just like the "Don't tread on me" Gadsden flag. By not making that connection, the movement is losing touch with one of its greatest triumphs and forsaking a prime illustration of why its cause is so just and so crucial.
If supporters of the right to keep and bear arms want their pleas to be heard in their proper context, they might consider talking a little less about Valley Forge and a little more about Jim Crow — and attempting to fill their ranks with people who have known much more recently what tyranny really looks like.