In a climate of Black Lives Matter protests and the growing white backlash, some African Americans feel the answer is not gun control but to arm themselves
Dallas is hot right now, self-defence activist Eric Randall tells me with a shake of his head. Its well over 100F in the carpark outside the strip mall pizzeria where were talking, and the asphalt is rippling with haze. But Randall is not talking about the weather. Hes talking about his neighbourhood.
For Randall, who leads one of a small but growing number of groups organising and training for the armed self-defence of black areas, the stakes are high. Only 10 days before our sit-down, a young black man named Micah Johnson shot 14 police officers in the downtown area, killing five. The increasing friction between the black community, the police, and rightwing or white supremacist activists whove been drawn to Dallas in the wake of the killings has been noticeable, he says.
Randalls group may be in a radical minority, but he is part of a much larger body of African American opinion which is pro-firearms and pro-second amendment. Not everyone in that category shares Randalls broader political views, but many see guns as a way of being safe in a country that is dangerous for black citizens.
In Dallas, the problem is not just the heightened suspicion between the black community and the police though Randall does emphasise that those relationships are tense, very, very tense. Its also that the city suddenly has much more pull for the growing counter-movement to Black Lives Matter, which is rising. Two days before our interview, rightwing activists had convened a White Lives Matter protest downtown.
He sees the White Lives Matter protest as just a small part of the growing backlash to a renewed movement for black rights. Before it was just the police. But now these guys, these racists, have deputised themselves as the polices protectors, as if the police need any more fucking protection. Its chaotic, you cant let your guard down at all.
The rally presented itself as a defence of police, but Randall thinks that its simply a reaction to the success of Black Lives Matter movement, which doesnt even believe in guns. The biggest thing theyre going to carry is a bullhorn and a big sign.