In a previous post (The Rifle on the Wall: A Left Argument for Gun Rights), I remarked that: “Only in the ridiculous political discourse of the United States, where Barack Obama is a “marxist" (or any kind of “leftist” at all) can citizens' right to gun ownership be considered a purely right-wing demand.” I discussed how it was the Black Panthers who embraced gun rights forty-some years ago, much to the consternation of conservative Republicans, including California governor Ronald Reagan. And I mentioned how the Panthers themselves were inspired by Robert Williams, a North Carolina activist, whose book, Negroes With Guns, made the forceful case for armed resistance to racist oppression in the United States.
Robert Williams died in 1996, and Rosa Parks delivered a passionate eulogy. Mabel Williams, Robert’s amazing wife, outlived him for many years, continuing her own activism. Mabel died on April 19th.
In the video clip below (about 10 minutes, see full discussion here), from a conference on “Self Respect, Self Defense & Self Determination” held in Oakland in 2004, you’ll see what a amazing woman she was, as she and Kathleen Cleaver discuss the issue of armed self-defense in the black community. They talk about how Williams argued that an armed black community “reduced the level of violence,” since it forced murderous white racists “to make a calculation: are they willing to risk their superior life to take your inferior life.” They discussed how “all the black people had guns…It was just not even discussed. You had guns. ..If in fact they heard the Klan was going to ride, they would be prepared. There was no discussion. ” They stressed that, for black revolutionaries: “That was fundamental: the notion that people had to accept the responsibility for standing up for themselves.”
You know, just a couple of gun nuts.
In this clip, Mabel starts out by describing how Robert’s radicalism was energized by the kind of incident that, we must (and don’t) remember, was completely ordinary in these United States. It was an incident that got Robert “accused ..of being a communist, of course,” since only communists would raise a fuss about such things. Mabel Williams tells us how the story of Robert Williams and Negroes With Guns began, as do many great stories, with a kiss: