Gun Rights, the Black Panthers, and ‘the South’ in the United States

From a report by Aaron Lake Smith in Vice:

The Dallas New Black Panthers have been carrying guns for years. In an effort to ratchet up their organizing efforts, they formed the Huey P. Newton Gun Club, uniting five local black and brown paramilitary organizations under a single banner. “We accept all oppressed people of color with weapons,” Darren X, who is 48, tells me in a deep, authoritative baritone. “The complete agenda involves going into our communities and educating our people on federal, state, and local gun laws. We want to stop fratricide, genocide—all the ‘cides.”

Interesting, and brings up the question: will the NRA support their right to bear arms, or will they revert to their early 20th century stance and begin supporting gun control again? Also in the article is a bit of history:

The seeds of what was to become the Black Panther Party lie in the 1940s, when black veterans returned to the South after fighting in World War II and found themselves dehumanized by segregation.

I’ve often wondered about this. The desegregation of the South and the achievements of the Civil Rights movement were perhaps the greatest human accomplishments to come out of World War 2 and the Cold War, and this has startling implications for libertarians who advocate for a hardline non-interventionist foreign policy. Libertarians in the US point out that worldwide empire is bad, even a liberal empire, but without it I don’t see a Civil Rights movement happening (which in turn means nobody in the developing world has a model to look up to).

After Germany and Japan surrendered Washington was forced to cede political rights to blacks because of the hypocrisy that pro-rights marches highlighted to the world. The US was engaged in a propaganda war with the USSR, and the segregation of blacks and whites in the US was very bad press. Without the Cold War, blacks would probably have remained official second-class in the US (and the world). Libertarians should be proud of the Civil Rights movement, even if the legislation passed didn’t conform perfectly with individual rights (i.e. affirmative action instead of reparations, or nothing but individual rights!) and even if blacks got their individual rights through legislation rather than law.

Smith’s reporting in other places is less than convincing, though:

Shootings of civilians by police officers reached a 20-year peak in 2013, even as the incidence of violent crime in America went down overall.

I believe that the shooting of “civilians” by police officers is a violent crime, but unless I am missing something Vice simply treats the data as if shootings by police officers are different from shootings by people who are not police officers. Nothing will change as long as this kind of mindset is prevalent in the US. I understand that police officers have a job to do, and that their job makes them different from people who do other jobs (say, a doctor or a lawyer), but it does not place them above the law.

Also, a more disturbing implication of this would be that a more violent police force decreases crime. This is not discussed by libertarians or left-liberals. I don’t like it, but it cannot be ruled out as a possibility just yet. I hope somebody will debunk my notion in the ‘comments’.

One last fascinating tidbit from the article is the difference between the old leaders of the Black Panthers (one who claimed that the Koch Brothers are behind everything, thus showing – to me, anyway – that hippies and Black Panthers have more Baby Boomer similarities with each other than they’d like to admit) and the new leaders (“all power to all people,” including gun rights). Racism is so interesting to me in the American context because of the demographic perceptions amongst other reasons). My parents and grandparents have very different types of racist assumptions than I do, but I’m getting way too far ahead of myself. More on American racism later, or just take me to task in the ‘comments’ section!

(h/t Chris Blattman)

5 thoughts on “Gun Rights, the Black Panthers, and ‘the South’ in the United States

  1. I have a suspicion that the civil rights movement was unnecessary and frankly harmful. The Great Migration (starting in the turn of the century and continuing until the 1970s) of blacks away from the south would have caused the south to reform to become more attractive to labor. Historically the south did not have to build institutions favorable to labor as it could simply import or otherwise acquire more slaves. After freedom was granted to the slaves though it no longer had that avenue. The south initially attempted to regulate labor to suit its own needs (and so the rise of the Jim Crow laws) and this worked in the short term. In the long term though blacks realized they could migrate. And by heavens did they migrate – hence the great migration waves of the 20th century.

    I suspect the Civil Rights Act actually retarded the reformation of the southern economy by reducing competition in the southern labor market.

    I don’t have the data to back my hypothesis up, and for that I will have to ask your forgiveness. One of my goals in life is to get said data in order to prove this point, but till such time I ask that you humor my above idea as is.

    P.S. A similar force was likely in play in Europe with the rise of towns. Before the rise of towns the labor market was heavily regulated in Europe in the form of serfdom, robot service, etc. etc. With the rise of towns though peasants have a viable option to migrate and get urban jobs. Former land nobility had to reform their economic structure if they wanted to remain relevant.

    Another historical example of emigration having positive political externalities would be the discovery and settlement of the Americas. The UK had to keep its subjects sufficiently happy lest they migrated abroad or, in the case of the US, outright seceded.

    • No forgiveness needed. I look forward to your teasing this out here at NOL!

  2. I do not see the government solution to racism being anything more than covert racism. They made laws banning discrimination in public places, education, hiring, and holding public office. They create set asides and preferential treatment for minorities real and imagined. The government funds abortion which is done 87% on minorities. The government gives out free food, housing, and EBT cards along with other perks.
    Slavery and discrimination are bad things, I just do not agree with the governments solution. My feeling is the government and politicians push racism and a means to an end. “When you rob Peter to pay Paul, Paul will always be your advocate.” My 2 cents. 🙂

    • John,

      All good points but this one stood out to me:

      They made laws banning discrimination in public places, education, hiring, and holding public office.

      This is true but also odd, since the legislation you note simply banned older legislation that mandated discrimination. The fools would be better off just repealing laws rather than banning their old ones.

Please keep it civil

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