The National Rifle Association (NRA) is no stranger to using white supremacist rhetoric to target Black people. Founded in New York in 1871, the NRA is a U.S.-based organization for firearms safety training, shooting skills, and most significantly, gun owners’ rights advocacy. NRA boldly hails itself as the oldest civil-rights organization, a claim as laughable as it is fictitious. What is factual, however, is the historical anti-Blackness of the NRA and that is clear with its latest recruitment video—an all-time-low, even for this racist organization.
In a short, 1 minute and 4 second clip, the NRA exposes viewers to America’s longest, never ending tradition: racism. Though the video— ‘The Violence of Lies’—stops just short of explicitly calling for violence against Black and brown people, it’s rather simple to understand the video’s intention.
They use their media to assassinate real news. They use their schools to teach their children that their president is another Hitler. They use their movie stars and comedy shows and award shows to repeat their narrative over and over again. And then they use their ex-president to endorse the resistance — all to make them march, make them protest, make them scream ‘racism,’ and ‘sexism,’ and ‘xenophobia’ and ‘homophobia,’ to smash windows, burn cars, shut down interstates and airports, bully and terrorize the law abiding until the only option left is for the police to do their jobs and stop the madness. And when that happens they’ll use it as an excuse for their outrage. The only way we stop this, the only way we save our country and our freedom, is to fight this violence of lies with the clenched fist of truth. I am the National Rifle Association of America, and I’m freedom’s safest place.
Loech’s narration can easily be dissected as conservative propaganda and hate speech directed to mobilize the NRA’s squadron of already angry white gun owners. When she speaks of assassinating “real news,” it follows the two-year tirade of President Donald Trump referring to all news that isn’t Fox News as “fake news.” When Loech speaks of awards shows repeating the narrative of Trump being another Hitler, it doesn’t escape me that the 2017 BET Awards aired days before the re-release of the recruitment ad. What’s worse, we obviously understand Loech is referring to former President Obama in saying, “their ex-president.”
In it, she underscores that all these combined leads to resistance to make Black and brown people protest, march, and yes, even scream ‘racism,’ ‘sexism,’ and yes, ‘homophobia.’ If this wasn’t enough, Loech even falsely claims that marginalized communities are protesting because of untruths, bad moments we have made up, just to smash windows, burn cars (hope she has never seen white sports fans lose or win any game), and shut down airports. The video, full of propaganda has already been viewed nearly 7 million times since its unfortunate release.
But, we know the purpose of this video was not to seek truth. It was nothing more than a hateful woman speaking her opinions as facts. The video was intended to play on white people’s privileged, teary-eyed, unchecked emotions and to use them to incite violence against already marginalized groups, particularly Black and Latino people, the LGBTQ community, women, undocumented folks, and Muslims; populations that experience the brunt of Trump’s deadly policies.
We know that nothing the NRA does should be shocking as it has a history in supporting racist gun laws. In the 1960s, white legislators wanted to curtail any likelihood that Black people would have access to guns. From the Mulford Act, to the Gun Control Act of 1968, the NRA has supported and, to an extent, taken credit for these bills; a changed support of gun control (against Black people). These were also laws rather quickly passed after Black activists and organizations like Malcolm X and the Black Panther Party (BPP), respectively, began publicly discussing the importance of Black people bearing arms for self-defense. Because if Black people defended themselves against racist white people, then how could they then effectuate their racism?
From then until now, the NRA never intended on protecting Black bodies. We have seen that with Philando Castile, a legal gun owner, was killed in 2016 and his murderer was acquitted of all charges.
A few days after Castile was killed, the NRA released an unclear statement noting how it would not comment on an ongoing investigation – often a code word for “we don’t want to misalign ourselves with law enforcement that serve our interests.” That’s why last year when a Black man killed five officers and wounded seven others in Dallas, Texas, the NRA responded immediately – no investigation needed. Until recently, NRA’s vague response was the sole statement the NRA made about Castile’s brutal killing. Where was the usual hard-hitting message from the NRA about the importance of gun ownership and Second Amendment “right to bear arms” freedoms? Where was NRA’s press release about how the police completely trampled on Castile’s rights?
On CNN, nearly one year later, Loesch commented that Castile’s death was “absolutely awful” and “[c]ould have been avoided.” But it’s clear that if Loesch and the NRA felt this way it wouldn’t have taken them one year to respond to last year’s events, particularly because it was only made after the latest ad received criticism, even being petitioned to be removed. The NRA’s relative silence about Castile, a lawful gun owner, shows the only time it will care is when a white person is pressing the trigger.
Thankfully, many organizations are speaking out against the NRA’s call to incite violence by making response videos. The Black Lives Matter – LA chapter, for example, released a video, modeled after the NRA’s gut-wrenching video.
“They use their new president to enact a ‘law-and-order administration,’” Funmilola Fagbamila, member of BLM-LA says in the response video. “All to make them shoot first, to make them ask questions later, make them scream, ‘I thought he had a gun in his hand’ and ‘I feared for my life’ and ‘he matched the description of a suspect’ and ‘she was threatening us’ … until the only option left is for black people to disrupt the systems that keep us oppressed and build the kinds of communities in which we want to live.”
Speak this Truth, Fagbamila!
Despite what we know about the NRA, it’s critical for black people to continue speaking up because what they want is our silence and acquiesce—and they won’t get that.
Preston Mitchum is a Washington, DC-based writer, activist, and policy nerd. He is a regular contributor with theGrio and The Root and has written for the Atlantic, Think Progress, OUT Magazine, Ebony.com, and Huffington Post. Follow him on Twitter here to see just how much he appreciates intersectionality.