The Second Amendment individualizes white hegemony in state violence and it needs to be abolished

The Second Amendment individualizes white hegemony in state violence and it needs to be abolished

The police aren’t the only state violence Chicano, Black, Native, LatinX, Asian American, and Pacific Islanders need to contend with in the U.S. White men empowered by the Second Amendment are part of state violence. This is a leftist stance. The Second Amendment individualizes white hegemony in state violence, and it needs to be abolished.

When James Madison, one of the United States founding fathers and a primary drafter of its Constitution, added the Second Amendment, it was with much debate.

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

Those words were written explicitly for white men. They were shaped in part by Virginia Governor Patrick Henry.

Henry an anti-federalist (state’s right in the 1700s) and also a founding father of the US. He is famously known for his declaration to the Second Virginia Convention: “Give me liberty, or give me death!” 

He was an attorney, planter, politician, evangelical pastor, orator, and an enslaver of African people. He enslaved people, bought people, sold people, and traded people until his death. He was at one point the largest enslaver in Virginia. He died owning 67 enslaved people.

At that time, nearly all the upper white classes in the US enslaved people. Henry lived in eastern Virginia, a place where enslaved Black people outnumbered their white enslavers.

Slave rebellions were a constant threat. Fresh in white Southerners’ minds was the 1739 slave rebellion in Stono, South Carolina. This is known in Black oral history as the Stono’s Rebellion. Enslaved Black people from the Central African Kingdom of Kongo, rose up and literally took white people’s heads.

It doesn’t take decapitations to terrorize the white racist’s self-centered imagination, but 1739 gave the soon-to-be US racist a lot to contemplate.

The self-centered focus of enslavers hindered and almost lost the American Revolution. The South REFUSED to commit its militias during the American Revolution, holding them back in reserve to control imagined and occasional enslaved people’s rebellions. The British took advantage of this situation and offered Freedom to any enslaved person that emancipated themself and joined the British Army. The British gravely underestimated the sadism of the South.

The South for the most part liked England and was neutral to the idea of American independence. They were neutral until April 1775. In 1775 John Murray, the Earl of Dunmore and Virginia’s royal governor, threatened to free all slaves if the colonists even thought about rebelling against British authority.

“I do hereby farther declare all indented servantsNegroes, or others (appertaining to rebels) free, that are able and willing to bear arms, they joining his Majesty’s troops, as soon as may be, for the more speedily reducing this colony to a proper sense of their duty, to his Majesty’s crown and dignity.” —Lord Dunmore

The very idea that England would threaten to take their property (Black people) enraged Southerners. They switched allegiance and in a cowardly irony sent the poor white people to war to fight on their behalf. 

At the 1788 ratifying convention when Henry read Madison’s draft, specifically Article 1, Section 8, he said, “Let me here call your attention to that part.”

“To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;”

U.S. Constitution, Article 1, Section 8

Henry remembered well the “horns of the dilemma” the rich enslavers had faced in prior years. 

  1. Federalists asking Southerners to use their militias to help in the Revolution, which would open them up to enslaved people rebelling and losing their property —Black people.
  2. England threatening to free their enslaved people, their PROPERTY —Black people.

“Henry feared that without checks upon it [Article 1, Section 8], Congress could undermine the ability of militias in Virginia and elsewhere in the South to suppress slave uprisings and pursue runaway slaves.”

2019, Nicolaus Mills, “How Slave Owners Dictated the Language of the 2nd Amendment” Daily Beast

Madison didn’t really want to deal with the Henry, the South, and their histrionics, so he added in the Second Amendment, which could be interpreted as “state’s rights” to protect its own brand of white hegemony, with guns if necessary. 

James Madison even rewrote the Second Amendment into its current form during the 1788 Virginia Ratifying Convention in response to that state’s largest slaveholder, Patrick Henry, demanding that Virginia’s slave patrols be explicitly protected.

2019, Thom Hartman, “Latest massacre shows the Second Amendment model of “slave patrols” is still in effect” Salon

State militias as the Second Amendment was written means slave patrol. Within the context of the time, the Second Amendment was written to control and murder Black people who were at the time white men’s property. 

“In Georgia, for example, a generation before the American Revolution, the colonial government passed laws in 1755 and 1757 that required all plantation owners or their white male employees to be members of the Georgia militia and those armed militia members to make monthly inspections of the quarters of all slaves in the state. The law defined which counties had which armed militias and even required armed militia members to keep a keen eye out for slaves who might be planning uprisings.”

2019, Thom Hartman, “Latest massacre shows the Second Amendment model of “slave patrols” is still in effect” Salon

By pretending that the Second Amendment is not about the white hegemony that is the warp and weft of the United States’ structure, you allow for white supremacy to be unassailable on a national level. You empower white hegemony to kill with the Second Amendment, and at the same time, you disempower democracy to fight back. Each murder of a Native, Black, Latino, Asian American, and Jewish person becomes a random act of violence. However, they are not random. It is state violence. 

Every time an individual white man uses his Second Amendment to kill someone with a gun, it is state-sanctioned violence. 

The Second Amendment gives white men the de facto right to deputize themselves into police, judge, jury, and executioner for the benefit of preserving the values and ideals of white supremacy, Christianity, and patriarchy.

No one else can easily and as freely get away with murdering people with a legal gun as white men and at times white women.

Its direct and exact purpose is so white men can murder people in defense of white male hegemony.

By refusing to acknowledge the structure of this violence, we allow the state through its proxies to murder people and shift the responsibility to individual states, organizations, or people. 

The Second Amendment legitimizes the murder of Black, Native, Latino, Asian American men and women, transgender and cisgender people, and even white women and white children. 

The Second Amendment is based on a fell and festering principle, and it needs to be removed if we truly want everyone to be free.  

Chattel slavery no longer exists and the abolition movement must include the abolishment of the Second Amendment, the police, prisons, and TANF. These are all tools in white supremacy’s final goal to once again literally owning human beings. 


Teka Lo, Public Intellectuals

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