Every morning before The Broadcast, we have a production meeting to go over the day's segments and trending hot topics for table talk. We all give input on the discussion topics (although I have admittedly scaled back my input for various reasons) that range from celebrity news to sports and even Kim Kardashian's backside (or front side depending on the week). Priorities, I know. But every once in a while, difficult and substantive topics come up because our social media timelines and feeds are saturated with them. They can't be ignored. And shouldn't be. Because they're important. Really, really important.
Michael Sam. Iraq. Trayvon Martin. Elections. Ray Rice. Obama. Ebola. Ferguson. #ICantBreathe.
And don't forget #AlexFromTarget.
Open carry. Governor-elect Greg Abbott said recently that he would sign any open carry legislation that made its way to his desk. In Texas, public display of rifles and shotguns is already legal, but handguns must be concealed. For now anyway. Folks want to be able to snatch those guns out of their waistband holsters when confronted by dangerous thugs. Easier access to a deadly weapon. For protection. Shoot first, ask questions later.
The article was tossed across the table. And I cringed.
John Crawford, age 22. Tamir Rice, age 12. Trayvon Martin, age 17. Mike Brown, age 18.
The names of the first four people I thought about after reading the headline. The first two were both holding air pellet guns when they were shot and killed by law enforcement. The latter two were unarmed. None were given the benefit of the doubt. But all were so inherently dangerous that their deaths were justified (the investigation into the officer's actions is currently ongoing in Tamir's case).
These four have something else in common... they were all black. Sigh. Breathe. I don't want to have this discussion. I'll be accused of bringing up race again. Of playing the race card. But how do I discuss gun control without discussing race, when the hashtags #ICantBreathe and #BlackLivesMatter are trending topics worldwide? Yes, we have to discuss open carry. Yes, it's important and necessary. And yes, it's not going to go well. And it didn't.
Me: You've got 12-year-old kids in parks with those soft pellet guns...
Co-host: (interrupts) Oh here we go again...
Me: (pause) I'm sorry?
Co-host: Oh go ahead.
Here we go again? With what? I continue to make my point that this 12-year-old kid is now dead because law enforcement had a split second to decide whether or not someone pointing what looked like a real gun was dangerous. Alas, it was a child. With a toy. Who wasn't dangerous. And now he's dead. And this is why open carry makes me cringe. Guns that are more easily accessible. Makes me shudder just thinking about it.
On to the viewer comments from Facebook... one viewer wrote: "If thugs can carry open and illegally, we should carry our guns open and legally."
My question... who are the thugs? Who are you referring to when you say the word thugs? These guys?!?
I asked the question - who are the thugs? Silence. I asked again. Who are these thugs? Someone said, "Criminals." Who are the criminals? I can't tell you how many times I heard the peaceful protesters in Ferguson, Dallas, New York, etc. referred to as "thugs." Use of the word "thug" in and of itself has racist undertones (and overtones I guess) - which is exactly why it needs to be discussed. We could've kept this game up for a while until someone actually acknowledged the truth - by thugs and criminals, they mean black men. The "thuggification" of young black men is a real thing - I didn't make it up - it's so eloquently described here.
But hey, here we (I) go again...
I pray for the day when we no longer have to discuss race. We're just not there yet. If you're tired hearing about it, imagine what it must be like to live it. At least someone feels me...
For perspective's sake... our discussion about Ferguson a couple weeks ago. Click here.