Prolific author, historian and educator Dr. Carol Anderson joins us to discuss her book The Second: Race and Guns in a Fatally Unequal America. We talk about what sparked her interest in writing it, and dissect the role of anti-blackness in the formation and upholding of the second amendment. Carol reveals how she thinks of her writing in terms of persuasion versus education, and why this is the hardest book she had to write.
The Stacks Book Club selection for March is Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay. We will discuss the book on March 29th with Shanita Hubbard.
*Due to the nature of podcast advertising, these timestamps are not 100% accurate and will vary.
Traci Thomas 0:08
Welcome to The Stacks, a podcast about books and the people who read them. I’m your host Traci Thomas and today I am honored to welcome historian, educator and writer Carol Anderson to The Stacks. Dr. Anderson is the Charles Howard Chandler Professor and Chair of African American Studies at Emory University, and she was named the Guggenheim Fellow for Constitutional Studies. She is the esteemed author of White Rage, One Person, No Vote, Bourgeoisie Radicals and Eyes Off the Prize. Carol is here to discuss her work and her latest book, The Second: Race and Guns in a Fatally Unequal America, which was released in 2021, and is now out in paperback. The Second is a powerful account of the way anti-blackness has been integral in the creation, survival and evolution of the Second Amendment. Our March book club pick is the essay collection Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay. Shanita Hubbard will be back on March 29. For our discussion of the book. Quick reminder, everything we talked about on each episode of the show can be found in the link in the show notes. If you love The Stacks and want more of it, like our incredible community on Discord, our bonus episodes and our monthly virtual meetups to discuss our book club picks, you must join the stacks pack on Patreon for just $5 a month you got all of that and more and you get to know that you’re a part of making this black woman run in the podcast a reality every single week head to patreon.com/the stats to join now, I want to give a quick thank you to our newest members of the statspack Sophie Allison Samsung Jessica Kristen dragons Susan Chu, Triana II, Kelly Anderson and Bill Lindenberg. Thank you all so much. And of course, thank you to the entire stacks pack. All right. Now it is time for my conversation with Dr. Carol Anderson.
All right, everyone, I am so honored today to be joined by Carol Anderson, whose newest book The Second which I read when it came out in hardcover is now out in paperback. The book is called The Second: Race and Guns in a Fatally Unequal America. Carol, welcome to The Stacks.
Carol Anderson 2:22
Thank you so much for having me.
Traci Thomas 2:24
I told you this as soon as we got on, but I’m such a big fan of yours. And I’m so honored that you’re here and excited to talk to you about this book and about your work a little bit more broadly. For folks who aren’t familiar, can you tell us in about 30 seconds or so what The Second is about?
Carol Anderson 2:39
The Second is about the role of anti-blackness in the Second Amendment, the way that it was shaped by the fear of Black people during slavery, and how that fear has carried through into the 21st century.
Traci Thomas 2:54
Yeah, I mean, so your other books, White Rage, One Person, No Vote. And now this book, The Second, what I love about what you do is, you’re obviously a very smart person, because you can take these huge ideas and these huge topics and bring them down to like 200 pages that any normal like me can read. And so I was like, when I picked up The Second, I was like, there’s no way I’m gonna understand this book. And I read it in like, a day and a half. I just I devoured it. I thought it was so smart and so interesting. And there were so many ideas that, you know, maybe I had thought about, but I hadn’t quite like really wrapped my brain around them that you lay out so beautifully in this book. And so my question here is like, where did you get the idea to write about the Second Amendment in this way?
Carol Anderson 3:47
It came from so the the spark for this book was the killing of Philando Castile. Okay, because you have this black, this black man in Minnesota, who got pulled over by the cops for some traffic violation. When the police officer asked to see his ID Philando Castile gives him the NRA approved way to say, officer, I’m reaching for my ID but I want you to know that I have a license to carry weapon with me so that the cop doesn’t freak out if he sees a gun while he’s reaching for his ID. The moment Philando Castile said that the police officer began putting bullets into Philando Castile. So you have a black man who is not threatening the cops at all right, but as gunned down because he has a weapon because he has a gun. And the NRA went virtually silent. And I was like whoa, what, what and it and so they eventually they gave some kind of milquetoast we believe everybody has the right to bear arms, yada yada yadi but it was like this is not the same NRA going crazy. Over folk over Ruby Ridge and Waco talking about jackbooted government thugs. This is what people everybody. And so people began asking, well do black people have second amendment rights? I thought Black folks had Second Amendment rights. And with all of the books that I had written before, I had never dealt with the Second Amendment. And that’s what got me going. And so then I started doing the research. And it was in the research, that all of a sudden the questions about is this about an individual right to bear arms or a right to a well regulated militia? I was like, That is not the issue. The issue here is anti blackness, how this course is through from the very beginning, you start seeing these laws on the books in the 1600s, before there was a United States of America, about black people shall not bear arms, black people cannot have guns, black people cannot have weapons, they cannot have ammunition. And it was this fear of a black revolt. That was at the fear of black people the fear of black violence that was just driving this thing in the 1600s. And is that fear that courses through till today? Yeah,
Traci Thomas 6:08
I mean, remind me if I don’t get to it on my own. I want to talk about Ruby Ridge and Waco when we get when we get there. But I’m going to try to keep us a little bit more focused on your book until till we get there. I have an obsession with Waco. Just it’s the 30th anniversary this year. So I’ve been reading through all the books that are coming out about it, there’s like three big ones. So I’ve just been steeped in that conversation anyways, you talked about, you know, before there was ever a constitution, before there was ever an America, there was this fear about black people with guns? And what are we going to do about the black people that we’ve so graciously brought to this country? And and then you say in the book, you know, the variable in the gun conversation is not the guns. It’s not about the guns themselves. It’s about black people. Can you talk a little bit more about what you mean by that?
Carol Anderson 7:02
Yes. So that, and I guess the best way to do it, I’m a historian. So the best way to do it is to tell the stories.
Traci Thomas 7:11
Go for it. It’s a podcast. That’s what we do here.
Carol Anderson 7:15
So it is when you think about the Black Panthers, right? The Black Panthers were formed because of massive police violence raining down on the black community. And none of the political figures would do anything about it. In fact, they were basically silent on that the violence raining down on the black community from police officers. So the Panthers come into being as a self defense committee for the black community. And so they were going to police the police. They knew California’s gun laws, they knew how they could carry they knew what they could carry. And they knew how far away from the police they could carry it. And they follow the law to the letter that ticked off the cops because you have folks carrying guns legally, and it ticked off the cops, and so they ran to the state legislature. This inset we’ve got to make what they’re doing illegal. And Don Morford with the help of the NRA, wrote the law to basically make the way that the Panthers were carrying the guns to police, the police to keep the police from from beating up on black folk during an arrest to make that illegal. So you’ve got the NRA working with Republicans to strip the guns away from black folk. Now, have we seen that same kind of configuration? When white men gun down folk? No, no, I mean, so even even after Uvalde even after buffalo, right, even after Aurora, Kentucky, even after Dylann Roof, even after even after even after you get this, this this? Guns are sacred and what’s really going on here, and I’m going to move to a book called Dying of whiteness. Yes. Jonathan Metzeler. Right. Where one of the things that he does is he looks at he goes into rural Missouri, and he’s in a support group for whites who have had gun violence in their family. And the question of gun safety legislation comes up and they are adamant. Absolutely not. You will not take my gun That’s because those people from St. Louis will come down here and try to take everything that we have. Wow. Or you think about how the mcklusky is in St. Louis, and why guys hold the guns out? Yes. Right. Forgot about rights matter. Right. peaceful protesters, how the mcklusky is get embraced, right? And are actually at the Republican National Convention. Right. So it is the the imbalance in the 1840s? I believe it is. So I’m going way back because, you know, this stuff has history. In the 1840s. Actually, Georgia had passed a law that dealt with the construction of guns for everybody. Because white folk were killing each other left and right. was like, Yo, G stop. And the courts came back and said, that law is illegal, because it violates white folks, Second Amendment rights. However, the law that you have been in black folk, the enslaved and free blacks as well, is still in place, even with this decision. So white folks can have their guns, black folks free and enslaved cannot.
Traci Thomas 11:25
Yeah, yeah. When you so I don’t I vaguely remember hearing this somewhere. I can’t remember the gentleman’s name. He wrote another book about gun rights. Igor, something. Yes, yes. I feel like I heard him say once that the NRA joining forces with the Republican Party to make laws against the freedom of owning guns, when it came to the Black Panthers was the first time that they’d ever got into politics, right like that. They had sort of been this like hunting group, and then all of a sudden, they became a lobbying group in the response to the Black Panthers. Is that am I remembering that right? Yes, you are.
Carol Anderson 12:05
They had a tepid response to a law in the 1930s. That was dealing with machine guns, because you had the gangsters. Okay. Yeah. So they were really tepid there. But you know, yeah, okay, maybe. But, but it really was basically, with the rise of the civil rights movement. Got it. Where you start seeing this, this transformation from a sporting club, to a lobby group, a lobbying group, right?
Traci Thomas 12:39
Right, I want to so just for we’ve been talking about the Second Amendment, but for people who aren’t totally familiar with the language of it, I’m just gonna read the Second Amendment itself to you all really quickly. It’s very short, it says, 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. The writing is insane. It’s totally nonsensical. There’s commas all over the place. But I just wanted to put that out there. Because this is my second time reading this book. And something that stuck out to me the my first read, what really stuck out to me was a lot of like, the Black Panther story, a lot of like the the more recent stuff that I had a better relationship to now the second time, I was really struck by a lot of the history, especially how the Second Amendment came to be, and how, you know, as we know, with the history of America, there was so much negotiation around the worth value and impact of black bodies in the country and what like political maneuvering was going to happen and who was you know, there’s this whole faction of like, we don’t want a Bill of Rights, the Constitution is the thing. If you’ve seen Hamilton, you know, they talk about that a lot. If you’re familiar, but But I, I found this idea of the militia, to be so important to the Second Amendment in a way that I do not think about it being important now, like the idea of a militia, to me is like, that’s an old timey thing, or whatever. But in reading this book, the second time, all I could think about was militia. And so I’m wondering, sort of like, from what you’ve laid out, what is the historical impact of moving away from militia as like because we don’t talk about militia super, I mean, a little bit now they’re kind of they’re back in trends a little. But like, I think when we think about the Second Amendment so much, it’s like, this person’s right to have a gun, like was old boy in Wisconsin, was he legally allowed to shoot those people with his gun, which he wasn’t supposed to have that gun but, you know, it becomes that conversation and it’s not about this bigger thing of like a militia bringing security to a free state.
Carol Anderson 14:53
And, and, and so I’m going to start back with the militia, okay, and then move us through do it.
Traci Thomas 15:00
This is awesome. It’s like a private history class. I’m in heaven right now.
Carol Anderson 15:04
So part of what you saw happening in the 1600s, with slavery is that you had the slave patrols. And those were the smaller groups that were managing governing the movement of the enslaved people going through their cabins making sure there was no contraband there that could like books, like weapons, anything that could bring about the revolution.
Traci Thomas 15:30
Seems like those are the two things we are still talking about now. Right? Books. Right, a little changes.
Carol Anderson 15:37
And, and, and then there was the militia, and the militia had multiple roles. One of the roles was to, to stop a foreign invasion or to, or to help with basically fighting off the indigenous people. But another key role of the militia was to put down slave revolts, because they were bigger than the smaller slave patrols. And so this militia was absolutely instrumental for controlling enslaved people, for hunting them down when they tried to flee to free land, for terrorizing them, because they had the audacity to believe they had the right to be free, that they weren’t property, but they were actually human beings. And so the role of the militia was about controlling black people, but also in terms of protecting the white community. And so that became one of the key debates happening with the ratification of the Constitution, because James Madison, who was a drafter of the Constitution, had put control of the militia under the federal government. And he did that because the militia had been really erratic during the War of Independence. Sometimes they show up, sometimes. A little bit, and then sometimes they’re like, you know, peace out, I’m done. Take off running. So in George Washington was like, dang, how am I supposed to fight a war with folks who won’t show up? Right? Well, the whole point of putting it under federal control was to begin to standardize their training and all of that, well, the slaveholders like Patrick Henry, and George Mason, and in Virginia, when they were doing the ratification of the Constitution, they brought that up, they were like, wait a minute, let me see if I get this right. You put the militia under the control of the federal government, and that federal government has folks like from Pennsylvania, and from Massachusetts, who are like getting rid of slavery? Oh, no, no, no, no, no, we will be left defenseless. When our enslaved folk rise up, they will sit in the militia to protect us, we have got to have protection. And if we don’t get protection, we will scuttle this thing called the Constitution. And we will scuttle your United States of America. You know, and James Madison is just like, dang, because he has worked so hard, right, right, right thing together. And he’s like, okay, okay. Okay. And so what they basically agreed to is he agrees to work on a bill of rights. And Patrick Henry and George Mason have made it clear, if they don’t get the protection that they demand, they will hold another constitutional convention. And Madison is scared out of his budget numbers. And that’s the scholarly term that another constitutional convention will lead to going back to the unworkable Articles of Confederation. Right. And, and so he’s going to do everything he can to satisfy the anti Federalist of Patrick Henry and, and George Mason. And that includes this bill of rights. And so when you think about the Bill of Rights, you’ve got the right to free press the right to freedom of speech, the right to, to not have a religion controlled by the state rights, the right to not be illegally searched and seize the right to have a free speedy and fair trial. The right not to have cruel and unusual punishment, the right to a well regulated militia. You see how that thing just sticks out? It does? It does and it sticks out because that is the bribe to the south, that they will control the militia, they will be able to control black people and protect the white community from these black people. Right? And that thing carries through and so you’re asking about the change. The change happens, I think, with the increased professionalization of the police, and the way that that becomes the containment company. opponent for black folk, I see. And with the NRA really hyping in on the individual right to bear arms. And so you’ll see that with the language of crime, crime crime. So you think about Richard Nixon’s law and order. And you know, and the campaign to show cities and flames. And, and I’m the party of law and order on demand of law and order, and the boy was a crook. But, um, Law and Order law and order, right with all of that, in that sense that black folk Gone Wild that they had lost the containment of Jim Crow. And so now when they’re out there without having that kind of white structure around them, that told them what their place was, they had lost their ever loving minds. They were rioting, they crime everywhere. And with that, you started getting this sense of, I have to have my gun. And so you see the the NRA really pushing hard on this individual right to bear arms. And so even in their headquarters, that top part about the militia is no longer there as part of the Second Amendment. Instead, what they have in the entry to their, at their headquarters, is that second part about the individual right to bear arms shall not be abridged?
Traci Thomas 21:29
Okay. I have to I have one very small question. And I don’t know if you have the answer, but I’m sure you have a thought about it. In the Bill of Rights. Are we to believe that the amendments are written in order of importance or No, no,
Carol Anderson 21:42
I’ve always wondered. No, if there were just a jumble. Would there were over 100 amendments that that Madison was dealing with that were coming in from the States. And he started working and revising and working and revising. And then he had like, 17 of them, then he had 12. And then the Senate looked at them and reworked them and, and put them in so no, they’re not in any kind of specific order in terms of importance. It’s just the way that it rolls. So it’s not like the Second Amendment is like,
Traci Thomas 22:15
well, you hear that sometimes people are like, you know, the first two amendments, the right to free speech and the right to bear arms, like you hear people kind of, you know, talk about those two as like, and sometimes you hear people who are, you know, anti gun, say, the Second Amendment is overtaking the First Amendment or, you know, like, sometimes you hear people use that kind of language. So I wasn’t sure if there was any historical precedent for that idea.
Carol Anderson 22:38
And the third amendment is the one about not quartered in private homes are just like,
Traci Thomas 22:43
totally not a thing for us at all. I always, even as a kid, I remember being like, this is three, like, okay, all right, go off. You really did get some great stuff there. Let’s take a quick break. And we’ll be right back. All right. So in the end of your book, in the new in the new book, you have a new conclusion, which I loved. And you talked about the Second Amendment is about white people’s right to wield violence and support of a racially exclusionary worldview. Here’s my question, is the Second Amendment an end? Or is it always just a means?
Carol Anderson 23:21
The second amendment is a means to an end? What’s the end? The end is white dominance and black subjugation. The end is making sure that black people understand their place, that they do not have the right to self defense, that they do not have the right to bear arms, and that they are to be subservient and submissive to whatever the dominant white power structure says. Because that was slavery, right? And that’s the roots of this thing, right? And it allowed whites to have inordinate power over black people to the point of being able to kill them without consequence. And so this is why I take us through from the 1600s to the point where the the legal status of African Americans keeps changing, right. So flow from property to Denizen that eventually leads to after the Civil War where they’re freed people, and they’ve got the 13th 14th and 15th amendment, and they’re still getting slaughtered. And there are no consequences. Right. You know, so when President Ulysses S Grant after the Colfax massacre in the Hamburg Massacre, says, you know, what the states have in common is not Christianity. It is not civilization. It is the right to kill negros. It’s like take
Traci Thomas 24:55
Yeah, he just said the quiet part out loud.
Carol Anderson 24:59
That’s Like, whoa, and it’s like an without consequence without consequence, without consequence, right. And then, so we go from free people to Jim Crow, African Americans, when they’re trying to defend and protect themselves in Atlanta. They’re slaughtered in and then I look at Houston, Elaine, Arkansas, Brownsville, Texas, slaughter, slaughter slaughter with out consequence. Right? Because black folks didn’t know their place. Right? Yeah. So in Atlanta, the ostensibly it was because black men were lusting after white women. Sure. Course Always, always. But what it really had to deal with was you had a prominent black business community. And you had the move to try to disenfranchise black folk, because black folks were trying to exercise their citizenship rights, their right to vote, how do we stop that? We slaughter them, we put them in their place. And so that’s what we’re seeing in terms of this, this ability of whites to enact enormous violence. Yeah, without consequence,
Traci Thomas 26:17
it’s so funny, because the thing that keeps coming up throughout the book, it’s in every chapter is black people can’t have guns, because then they’re gonna rise up and start a race war. Which, I mean, it’s like, it’s like every other page, there’s some quote from some white guy being like, they can’t have guns, they’re gonna kill us. And it’s just such a like, to me it just such a crazy thing to say, from the people who stole black people and created race and created wars about race and have been killing and hurting black bodies for centuries. Like it’s like, they’re, it’s like, when my kid when I tell my kid Don’t hit me. He’s like, you don’t hit me. I’m like, Hey, but I’m not hitting you. You’re you’re three and you’re literally hitting me right now. Why are you yelling? Like, no, like, I know you are but what am I? That’s what it feels like. It’s like, okay, but we’ve, we’ve never actually done that. Like, you guys have been doing that. And we’ve never actually had it. We’ve never started like, it’s just, it feels so it’s so it’s a gaslighting, right. It’s like if you’re gaslighting, but one of the things you mentioned, I think, in that in that finale, or the conclusion is that the relationship to gun ownership and slave ownership now are tied together so that the states that had the most slaves, per capita or whatever now have the most guns per capita.
Carol Anderson 27:44
That was my thing is like, when you do the research, when you when you look when you ask the question, it’s sitting there it is right there. There. You know, so I think about how I’m okay, so this fear of Black Folk Hmm. So it’s like when you when a black person is pulled over, because of a broken taillight? Sure, and they end up being killed by the cops. And the cops say that I was afraid. But when Dylann Roof slaughters nine black folk, he’s taken alive when pagans are on him buffalo. Basically, following the great replacement theory, Pottstown black people actually goes hunting for them, and slaughter still. He’s taken alive. You don’t hear the cops say I was afraid for my life, right? But they do that with Tamir Rice, who’s 12 years old playing with a toy gun in the park, in an open carry state? Right? Yeah. I mean, so it’s like, you keep looking and you keep seeing it. It doesn’t stop. And it doesn’t stop because this society has not dealt with anti blackness, right. And so the discussions that we have about guns, guns, guns, we can’t get where we need to go because we’re not dealing with the anti blackness is at the core of the Second Amendment. That’s at the core of this society. So we’ve made a deal to be a trade off, that we’re willing to be unsafe in our schools, unsafe in our restaurants, unsafe in a recreational facilities, unsafe in movie theaters, unsafe and universities, right. Unsafe in our churches, right. Unsafe in our synagogues, grocery stores, grocery stores, as long as we can make sure as Jonathan metal hood laid out that those people from St. Louis, don’t come and take everything that we have.
Traci Thomas 29:55
There’s a fantastic book called children under fire about children and gun violence. And, and to me, like, that’s the argument that I’m just like, Look, if you want to be an adult, and you want to risk getting killed, that’s on you. But like these babies, you know, it’s just, it’s just so I’m hearing what you’re saying, I wonder if you know of any organizations that are, you know, gun control or gun, you know, reframing guns, and and doing that through a lens of anti blackness, like who are doing activism in that way? No,
Carol Anderson 30:35
not that I know of. And let’s, let’s be honest, in in the US, talking about race talking about black folk.
Traci Thomas 30:46
Carol Anderson 30:48
just not easy. And it becomes the thing that people call a distraction. Yes, of course. And it’s not a distraction.
Traci Thomas 30:55
It’s the cool thing. It’s the thing. Okay, so then let me ask you this, because one of the things I love about your work is how you lay out these arguments, right? Like, and I think people listening here can hear that you’re, you know, it, it’s coming off the top of your head, like you don’t have notes, you know, anything in front of you, you know, this stuff in, in the core of your being. And I think a lot about audience, obviously, as a as a reader, and who are you writing for and who you’re writing to? And I’m curious about how you are thinking about your audience and how you’re thinking about persuasion versus education, or maybe something else, like cementing ideas like into the cultural consciousness, like, because I know that persuasion is really hard. And you just mentioned like, anytime you bring up black folks, it’s like, oh, wall goes up, we can’t do it. So who are you thinking that your audience is? And like, why are you putting these books into the world?
Carol Anderson 31:44
I love that question. My first two books were academic books, right? eyes off the prize, and bourgeois radicals, okay. And then I was in this thing called the Op Ed project, okay, which taught faculty members how to write for a public audience. I already have a very accessible writing style. And but how to craft that into into these op ed pieces. And so I was at my computer, we had a workshop later that day, was at my computer, and I have my TV on in my office. And Ferguson was on fire. Okay. And all of the pundits were talking about didn’t matter which station I had on because you know what the remote and they were all talking about all this black rage. Look at black folks Burnin Up where they live. Who can you believe? Who burns up where they live? I mean, what good is it going to do to burn up where you live? Why are they burning up where they live? Look at that black rage. And I’m shaking my head. Like like, you know, I’m all Amy Winehouse, no. This is white rage, right? And I went, whoop. And I just started writing. And out came the op ed that ended up in the Washington Post on white rage. And from there came the book. And so my audience is a broader public beyond the academy, folks who are hungry to figure this thing out. And the way that I do history is I grew up in the church. But I cannot quote a Bible verse to you. I don’t know what Matthew third chapter 49 verses, I have no doggone idea, right? I don’t even know if there’s a 49 Verse I don’t write. But what I remember are the stories, right? Because it’s the stories that stick with you. It’s the stories where you get what are the issues here? Why did this thing unfold the way that it unfolded? What were the options available to folks? And why did they choose to go down this route and not that route? Right. So that’s how I do history, I do history for an audience that is hungry for knowledge that wants to figure things out, that knows that we could be better we could do better. For those who want a great powerful story that leaves them hungry, fit fulfilled in one way but hungry for more knowledge. That’s who I write for.
Traci Thomas 34:33
Can I ask you this follow up? Because I and I don’t mean this to be totally disrespectful to all the people I’m about to shit on right now. But a lot of people and it’s not their fault. We have not a great history situation in America as far as education goes. And so when you’re writing for people who are curious and interested, you know, like they’re rooting for you. They’re not like out to get you, but they don’t have any of the infirm. Asian or like they’ve been taught history wrong, or they thought that there were benevolent slave owners and like these kinds of things, how is that difficult for you? Is that frustrating? Like, what does that feel like for someone who’s dedicated their life to history to then be writing for a broader audience and realize that like, outside of academia, I mean, probably inside academia too, but especially outside that there’s a lot of people who just have these like, huge gaps, or like misunderstandings, or wrong ideas, like, how do you deal with that, and I’m sure it comes up at like quest q&a, is that book events and stuff, because those are scary.
Carol Anderson 35:35
The way that I deal with that, if you’ll notice, my books have a lot of pages dedicated to the sources
Traci Thomas 35:42
Carol Anderson 35:45
Because that’s the way that I deal with it. Because one of the things is that it’s easy, and I’m putting that in quotes, to ride on race in the United States, without documenting it. For those who are hungry, for those who, who questioned for those who, who have been taught that slavery was benevolent for those who had been taught that, you know, the Civil War was not about slavery. For those who had been taught that it was all everything was all over. But the shouting after the Civil Rights Movement, we took the signs down. Now, this is an equal rights society, oh, equal opportunity, society, you know, having that documentation, where when I say something, it’s not just me saying it, they can look and they can go to those sources, and they can read the sources. That is what is so key for me is that it allows folks to go deeper in doing the research by saying the steps that I followed, and then coming off of those steps,
Traci Thomas 36:45
and writing the second what came easily and what was the hardest part?
Carol Anderson 36:50
This was the hardest book I’ve had to write. Really? Yeah. It was hard for multiple reasons. One, was the depth of the violence was unrelenting against black. Yeah. The trauma Lord, just and so that’s why the dedication is to my elderly aunt uncle. Because they have lived through this mess. And I quote him a Hell yeah, Jackson, my soul looks back and wonders, you know, oh, I got over, because they had to come through this. Um, that was hard. And what was hard was dealing with that trauma and then having to pull back analytically, to say what this means. What does this violence mean? Why did this violence happen in this way? Right. Yeah. What was driving this violence? What were the consequences of this violence in a nation of loss? Yeah. And watching that the law meant and you don’t get that protection? Right. You know, so it’s like, Elaine, Arkansas, who? So here you have black folks working from paint to Kate, as sharecroppers, and having their wages stolen from them, right. You know, imagine working in a tire year, and then you go to get paid, and they’re like, Oops, Bs, that was times. Yeah. And so they began to organize a labor union. And the the reaction for them, organizing a labor union so that they can get paid for their labor, right, was to hunt them down and slaughter them. And when they fought back, then to bring in the US Army, with machine guns used in the war in the First World War, and to begin mowing them down. So something like 800 African Americans were killed, and he laid Arkansas, but the black folks who shot back are then charged with murder, right? I mean, you look at that, and it’s just like, wasn’t this war to make the world safe for democracy? What about America being safe for democracy? Right? Yeah. So in so that was what was so hard about this book. Also, frankly, what was hard about this book is I’m a trained 20th century historian. Okay. But like I said, the Philando Castile killing. So I knew I had to go back. And so I am reading deeply and broadly in colonial history. And then in antebellum history in the Republic history, early republic history and antebellum history. And I was like, whoa. And so this is where having wonderful colleagues having a community of scholars around you, so I’m like okay, sharing chapters with them, asking about sources asking about what they call historical graph. Cool interpretations. So like the Stono Rebellion? Um, you know, there was one article that I read that said that it wasn’t planned, it was just spontaneous. That didn’t seem right to me No. Right at all. And so I asked my colleague, because I’ve been reading other stuff, and they’re like, oh, yeah, they plan, they plan. They plan as my colleague, and he had written on stone Oh, and he said, Oh, they planned. They plan and I went, okay. Okay. So it was doing being able to do that kind of vetting, vetting, making sure that I was sound and solid on this. And so when I was dealing with Haiti, and the fear of the Haitian Revolution, by the founding fathers, I turned to my colleague who writes on Haiti. And she went, Oh, this is God. Yeah, yes.
Traci Thomas 40:54
I love that. How long did it take you to write this? Did you actually start in two? Was that 2016 With clemco Castillo or is that 2017?
Carol Anderson 41:03
Yeah, I start. I actually, I wanted to start in 2017. But the election of 2016 happened, and seeing the pundits just get it wrong.
Traci Thomas 41:14
Yeah, you’re like, Okay, let me go do this. Let me go.
Carol Anderson 41:18
So that’s how one person no vote came into me. Because because they just got it so long about, you know, well, black folks just didn’t show up because they just weren’t filling Hillary. Right.
Traci Thomas 41:29
So you wrote that book very quickly. Yes. Because I came out 2018, right. Yes. Yeah. Yes. Yes. quick turnaround. How and what about this one? This one took longer?
Carol Anderson 41:40
This one took a bit longer. I started writing it in 2019. And it came out in 2021. Oh, so
Traci Thomas 41:47
not too much longer. Wow. Yes. Okay, I have a I want to go back to that waco thing from the beginning. I didn’t forget. So I had a question written down for you about what is the actual difference between a militia and a gang? Is there one?
Carol Anderson 42:04
That’s a great question. I got ready to say that a militia has structures but gangs have structure gangs have structures. And the way that militias have operated in the US they usually have some kind of where they used to have some kind of official sanction. Okay, you know, you know, governmental sanctions. So there was the state militia. Now, militias are more of the kind of right wing element for domestic white domestic terrorism,
Traci Thomas 42:40
right? Yeah. But there’s no real difference except for that they’ve been given a different name to make them somehow feel more legit. It feels like, right, like, it feels like that, at least nowadays. Like maybe in you know, 1725 it was different, but I feel like now I’m like, Okay, you guys are just white and like Trump, like, but you’re doing the same shit. Like you have guns, you have meanings. You do stuff. Arguably, you’re less you give back last year communities than some gangs. But I mean, I’m even thinking of like cop gangs, like they’re essentially a militia, and a lot of ways to write like this, like unsanctioned, or like this government, adjacent community of people with guns who are terrorizing others. But my question, I guess, about Waco, I’ve been reading a lot about it. And one of the things that I found really interesting is that waco was not the people the Branch Davidians, they were not all white, there was actually some racial diversity there, which nobody talks about, because the legacy of Waco is a lot of white supremacists and they they use what happened there as a way to be like white power and the government and hands off our guns and Don’t tread on me and you know, we hate you. And I’m wondering if you know of any groups, or people black people or people of color who have also embraced waco because from what I’ve read a lot of the lessons of Waco are similar to a lot of the things I think about about like abolish police and like that the government is like too aggressive and horrible to citizens and like, it’s a different messenger, but I was just wondering if you’ve ever heard of that side of it?
Carol Anderson 44:23
No, I haven’t. I haven’t. I’ve heard the anti government component of it. I’ve heard the freedom of religion component. I’ve heard the, the feds came in hard hot and heavy and shirt and and and just blew those folks away. component of it. I’ve heard the weird cultish component with courage. But no I haven’t heard of any black group that has embraced it. I embraced it. Yeah, so it doesn’t mean it hasn’t happened yet.
Traci Thomas 45:04
I haven’t either. I’m very curious about it, it’s gonna become my new life’s work is figuring this out. But anyways, I wanted to ask you about your process a little bit. So clearly write these deeply historical books very quickly, which is so impressive. How do you write how many hours a day? How often? Is there music? Are you at home? Are you out of the home? Are there snacks and beverages? Do you like candles, like set the scene for us?
Carol Anderson 45:28
The scene is when I research, I then put the the components, the key phrases, quotes and everything on note cards. And then I print out the note cards, this is old school, print out the note cards, organize them by topic on my desk. And then I start writing. So I’ll have the music on or I’ll have the TV on. And I’m writing and I usually write for 10 to 12 hours a day. Wow, when I got that kind of block of time, if not, because I also wrote white rage, one person, no vote, and the second while chairing the Department of African American Studies.
Traci Thomas 46:16
That’s a whole other interview.
Carol Anderson 46:18
Whoa. And so um, I would do then, Oh, how I wrote my dissertation because I worked full time while working on my PhD is that when I got home and got the kids down, then I would would would write, or then I would research so I would do what I call wedge writing. Because I believe that you’ve touched your project every day. It stays fresh. So there were days when I knew I didn’t have 10 hours or when I didn’t even have five hours. But I was like, but you got 10 minutes. So I would do something on the book, whether it was just massaging a sentence, or hunting up an article. But it was touching the project every day. Was was the goal. And what about snacks or beverages? Lots of iced tea.
Traci Thomas 47:07
Oh. Always available? Is that Home Brewed or is our brand that you drink. Lipton
Carol Anderson 47:14
Traci Thomas 47:15
Okay, I love Yes. And I always ask this question, but I especially like to ask it to smarty pants like you what is a word? You can never spell correctly on the first try?
Carol Anderson 47:26
Probably occurring. Oh, sure.
Traci Thomas 47:31
Oh, is that the oh, that gets you know, it’s
Carol Anderson 47:33
the dog. Oh, yeah, the double R. But I remember you know, so. So I read somewhere that somebody’s like, everybody remembers the word that kicked them out of the spelling bee. That is not your word. My word was roommate. Oh, is our two M’s. Two M’s. So I realized that my my weakness,
Traci Thomas 47:56
double consonants. That’s where I struggle consonants get me to it’s funny people do say that about the spelling bee. I don’t. either. I got kicked out so early because I’m a terrible speller. Or we didn’t have one because I don’t remember it. And I love to hold a grudge show I would remember. So I either got like kicked out on a room like or like a word like dog or something or else like it didn’t happen, because I don’t have that memory at all. But I’m such a terrible speller that you know, who knows?
Carol Anderson 48:24
You probably spell dog da WG.
Traci Thomas 48:27
That’s a different spelling, but accepted in some communities. mine personally. Um, I have to ask you, who is the coolest person who mentioned or expressed interest in the second?
Carol Anderson 48:38
I want to say Igor volsky. Oh, that’s that’s the bad guy. Yeah, yeah. Yeah. And it was just such a wonderful conversation. Because he was like, wow, you know, we have been on this for a while and, and haven’t looked at it from this perspective. This is this is going to cause us to rethink. Yeah. And I was like, Yeah, cool. Yeah, I love that. I’d love that.
Traci Thomas 49:03
I think he’s a cool, I think he seems like a very cool guy. Like he’s like, if you had a cause he’s the kind of guy you would want on your side. Yes. Holy, totally. Yes. For people who love the second, what are some other books you would recommend to them? Obviously, if you love the second, you have to look at all the sources in the back because there’s tons but if there was a handful that you could pick that you were like, these are great ones to continue or to think about this stuff in a different way or whatever.
Carol Anderson 49:28
I think Michael Waldman’s the Second Amendment, really good. Igor volsky. Is guns down. loaded by Roxanne Dunbar Ortiz. Okay, yeah, because she’s looking at the ban on guns for indigenous people. And so when you begin to see how racialized these gun bans are, how racialized gun ownership is, it helps us think through the United States. of America, it helps us think through what this real history is. So we can have deeper, better conversations.
Traci Thomas 50:07
Yeah, it’s funny, you should mention those two books, because are two of those books. Because when I think in 2018, or maybe 2019, I went to the LA Times Book Festival, because I’m based in LA and I saw Igor volsky. And Roxanne Dunbar, Ortiz, and maybe two other people, they don’t remember talking about guns, because I guess maybe that’s when those books both came out. But you mentioning that I’m like, Oh, right. I do remember. My last two questions. One is, what do you hope folks will keep in mind as they read your book,
Carol Anderson 50:37
The Power of anti blackness, in shaping American history? Yeah, it’s shaping those icons that we think of, like the Founding Fathers, like the Constitution, like the Civil War, like Supreme Court decisions.
Traci Thomas 51:00
Carol Anderson 51:01
like policing, the power of anti blackness in American society has shaped so much of the contours of the political, the legal in the social realms in which we live. That would if we understand the power of anti blackness, we’re having a very different kind of conversation. And this I’ve got to say, this is one of the reasons I believe that you have this massive backlash against the teaching of real American history. Yeah, against the teaching of African American Studies. Yeah. Because it causes you to think critically about the things that you thought you knew, when you’re asking questions. And if you want folks to stay in their place, you don’t want them asking questions.
Traci Thomas 51:48
Yeah, yeah, that’s so right. Because I mean, I can, even for myself, like reading your work. There’s a lot of people who’s reading Harriet Washington’s work, who’s who reframed so much of what I thought that I understood by shaping it through a lens of of the black experience and anti blackness and all of that. It’s just, it changes fundamentally. I mean, I’ll never forget reading, I think it was Harriet Washington, where she talks about blood pressure, and how black people aren’t actually genetically predisposed to higher blood pressure. And it was this moment for me of like, Wait, if that’s true, what are we talking about? What is this? And it was like, Oh, my, it’s racist. Like it was like this moment of like, holy shit, racism is changing our blood pressure, because black people in Africa don’t have high blood pressure, necessarily.
Carol Anderson 52:45
Right? It’s so it is. So when you think about when you get in your car, and you see a cop, a cop? Yeah. You immediately get tense. Yeah, right. You immediately tense. You think about going into a store? And you’re like, okay, am I going to get followed? Or am I going to get weighed in on? Right? I mean, so you’re having to go through all of these calculations about things that you shouldn’t have to calculate, right? It’s when you’re, when you’re applying for a job. You ask yourself Self, do I identify myself by my race? Because if I do, there’s a good dog on Well, chance that I’m not going to get this job. That’s right. And you know, and we have the data to prove this. Yeah, all of this. And so then all of the claims about black folks getting affirmative action, so they’re getting jobs that they’re not qualified for. Okay, that that, again, is projection. It’s not real. It’s not real good, because one of the things that I laid out in in white Rage was that the greatest beneficiary of affirmative action in college admissions are males. Wow.
Traci Thomas 54:06
Of course they are somehow somehow it works out for them in the end, always. Yeah. Wow. Okay, here’s my last question for you if you could have one person dead or alive read the second who would you want it to be?
Carol Anderson 54:22
My parents, because they’re both dead. And they had to come through some sort the hell of Jim Crow. And I would love for them to see their story framed in a way that would make sense and that their baby girl did that work.
Traci Thomas 54:46
Yeah, I love that so much. I thought a lot about my father and reading this book, who’s also passed, who was an older generation. He was born in the 30s in the south and and I thought so much about him and his family as I as I read this book, and as I read all of your work, Really? So thank you for that. All right, we’re, we’ve come to the end of this interview everyone at home, you must read the second by Carol Anderson. It is so so so good. It is reframing how we’re talking about guns and anti blackness. And it’s, as you heard, very accessible, like it’s just so easy to understand and to read and to follow, and I cannot recommend it highly enough. Dr. Anderson, thank you so much for being here.
Carol Anderson 55:29
Thank you so much for having me. This was wonderful
Traci Thomas 55:32
Thank you, and everyone else, we will see you in the stacks
Alright, y’all, that does it for us today. Thank you so much for listening. And thank you again to Dr. Carol Anderson for being our guest. I’d also like to say a quick thank you to Amanda Desinger for helping to make this conversation possible. Remember, our March book club pick is Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay. We will be discussing the book on March 29 with our guest Shanita Hubbard. If you love the show and want insight access to it, head to patreon.com/the stacks to join the stacks pack. Make sure you’re subscribed to the Stacks wherever you listen to your podcasts and if you’re listening through Apple podcast, or Spotify be sure to leave us a rating and a review. For more from the stocks follow us on social media at thestackspod on Instagram at the stackspodunderscore on Twitter and check out our website thestackspodcast.com. This episode of The Stacks was edited by Christian Duenas with production assistance from Lauren Tyree. Our graphic designer is Robin McCreight. And our theme music is from Tagirijus. The Stacks is created and produced by me Traci Thomas.
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