By Cash Michaels –
A top North Carolina civil rights attorney warns that the recent displays of high-powered weapons by angry Whites during demonstrations—even here in North Carolina—are a harbinger of deadly things to come, and African Americans should be paying very close attention.
Irving Joyner, law professor at North Carolina Central University School of Law and chair of the NCNAACP’s Legal Redress Committee, says the signs of White domestic extremists arming themselves amid times of Black advancement “…are very similar to racist activities which preceded the November 1898 Wilmington [race] massacre.”
Joyner should know. He was the vice chair of North Carolina’s 1898 Wilmington Race Riot Commission twenty years ago, which studied the tragic events when angry White supremacists attacked Black citizens in the Port City, killing many, and driving others out of town, all the while violently taking over the city’s government.
With a close, well-informed eye toward history, Prof. Joyner says, “Since the election of President Barack Obama, governmental reports show a significant increase in Whites purchasing guns, many of them assault-caliber weapons, in this country. Those purchases have increased with the election of Donald Trump, and much of this purchasing increase has involved members of right-wing, conservative, and White racist organizations. There has also been a significant increase in the number of these groups and their efforts to recruit other Whites to join their racist movement and activities.”
Joyner continues, “Examples of the presence and boldness of these groups were present in the several heavily armed demonstrations conducted in North Carolina to demand the reopening of the economy and the increasing presence of self-proclaimed racist and patriotic groups who mobilized to monitor African American demonstrations to protest police misconduct under the claim that they are protecting property or confederate monuments. White individuals have invaded churches where African Americans have been killed and have acted as private law enforcers to apprehend African Americans whom they wrongly suspect or accuse of being engaged in criminal activities.
“The common targets of these groups and activities are those activities in which African Americans are engaged to protest against oppressive conditions which they and other African Americans find themselves in. The signs of an escalating and emboldened racial antagonism are present all over the country, and these racist groups and individuals are becoming more visible—as Donald Trump has regularly complimented and encouraged them to come out to protect his claim to the presidency.”
A quick scan of the recent record proves Joyner’s points.
It is well documented by FBI data that gun sales in the United Sates exploded between 2009 and 2013, with more than 65 million background checks conducted. It is safe to assume that the majority of those gun sales were by Whites.
Since March, when the COVOD-19 pandemic shot to national consciousness, gun sales have surged across the country, including in North Carolina, according to The Charlotte Observer. The Guardian has reported a 55% increase in White-nationalist hate groups in the Trump era.
In August 2017, America got a taste of White nationalist violence in Charlottesville, VA during the clash between anti-hate demonstrators and right-wing White nationalists. President Trump infamously said there were “fine people on both sides.”
Here in North Carolina, “ReOpen NC” demonstrators went to Raleigh several months ago to demand that Gov. Cooper remove his COVID-19 restrictions so that small businesses could reopen. Many of those predominately White demonstrators displayed semi-automatic weapons: several were photographed openly carrying them in a Raleigh Subway sandwich shop.
And thanks to almost daily rhetoric from Trump, armed White militias have showed up at several peaceful demonstrations since the May 25 death of George Floyd, antagonizing unarmed protestors. A 17-year old White boy in Illinois—a youth photographed immediately behind the president at a pro-Trump rally earlier this year—is charged with “first-degree intentional homicide” in the shooting deaths of two people during demonstrations after the police shooting of a Black man in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
Finally, given that the presidential election is now less than 50 days away, Trump himself has said that if he loses, his supporters would take to the streets in violent reaction.
Given attorney Joyner’s dire warning and the confirming evidence, the question is, what should African Americans do now?