Me [Clickety clickety keyboard clack]: “Hey, who here is going to NRAAM next month?”
Black Female Gun Owners FB Group: [Cricket chirp… Cricket chirp…]
Me: [Digital blank stare…. Thinks to self: Hmm… Did I spell it wrong?]
Group Moderator: “Hey Tiffany, maybe you could explain what NRAAM is for those who don’t know.”
Me [feeling guilty for assuming]: “So sorry, everyone. NRAAM is the National Ri…..”
Record scratch! Thunder, lightning, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, nuclear blasts, global annihilation and stuff.
In a nutshell, I got three responses. The first (the overwhelming majority) was deafening silence. Utter non-response. It wasn’t quite hostile. It was more like the sort of benign neglect that one affords to a barely tolerable stray dog roaming the neighborhood – not menacing enough to oust; not endearing enough to welcome. The second response was a chorus of taut, crisp, efficient knock-out punches. “No, I don’t support the NRA.” The “Period, end of story, and don’t try to convince me otherwise” was implied, though not stated. Or even worse, the dreaded pinprick: “No.”
Now, anyone who’s ever spent much time with black women knows there’s a big difference between “No” and “No.” The former can be safely interpreted as, “perhaps if your next report card is impressive, No could turn into Maybe.” The latter is more like this:
I got the latter. And once again, in most of the “No” responses, an embedded “I dare you to ask me that one more time” just oozed from every pixel.
The third response came from one lonely dissident, who didn’t engage much in the thread but sent me a private message. She asked if I was open to having a roommate at NRAAM. And that was the one, tiny, solitary opening that emerged from my otherwise innocent but ill-fated post. I did make a few modest pleas in the thread, but it became apparent to me in short order that few if any inroads would be had at that juncture. So, I retreated from the battlefield and lived to fight another day.
I completely understand why those women don’t f*ck with the NRA. Lots of people I highly respect have resigned their memberships recently. I’ve contemplated doing so many, many times. I also debated whether to return to NRAAM after my last trip, when I could have sworn I saw SS bolts tattooed on sumdood’s arm (I could be wrong about that) and a white associate of mine casually spewed the n-word in my presence (definitely not wrong about that). I came real close to giving the NRA a savory melanin-soaked middle finger.
But then, I was reminded of a scene from the 1998 Touchstone Pictures sci-fi joint, Armageddon:
Hey, black folks! Hey, people who don’t like country music! Hey, [insert NRA-alienated demographic de jour]! If you really wish the asteroid would change its trajectory, you have two options (bear with me while I mix metaphors). You can either get off the bus and watch it keep rolling without you, or you can be like:
T-shirt available on Amazon, BTW.
I haven’t resigned my NRA membership yet. It’s still a possibility as long as the media campaign keeps driving away fresh perspectives. But for now, I’m in. In fact, I’m in pretty deep. I was an annual member, then I beefed it up to a five-year renewal, then to a life membership. Then I snagged one of those fire sales and bumped it up to Endowment, then Patron, and finally I lost my mind and threw in all my chips: NRA Patriot Life member, Benefactor Level. Now they’ll stop harassing me with donation campaigns, right? Ok, maybe not. But I digress.
I pushed for one more NRA upgrade recently. I’ve been a certified instructor for years, but I finally took the Training Counselor plunge. Two weeks ago, I jetted myself over to that infamous, nebulous, ominous building in Fairfax, VA and successfully completed the now-four-day (formerly three-day, soon-to-be five-day) Training Counselor Workshop. That means now, not only can I teach NRA stuff, but I can teach people how to teach NRA stuff. Kinda excited about that.
I also got to take a rare peek under the hood while milling around over on Waples Mill Road. The NRA has some redeeming qualities that rarely catch headlines, due in part to what I consider to be the missteps of its own media campaign. Setting aside for a moment the rabble-rousing political faction (which always screams the loudest), the Training Division is more quietly making some major changes – changes I welcome. It’s moving away from the old school tin-can-popping type stuff and leaning more into the modern self-defense world. It’s discouraging politically-driven, dogmatic finger-wagging in favor of more objective, approachable education. It’s updating stale assumptions and clearing out some cobwebs. And it is here, in the right-to-protect-yourself ranks, that I think we can find common ground. Not everyone agrees that abortion is murder and immigration gives you cooties and gay people burn in hell and country music powers the earth’s rotation, but everyone can relate to the basal instinct of self-preservation.
Andy Lander (former Training Counselor Program Coordinator) is gone now, but I had the privilege of being in his very last TC class, and he honestly renewed my faith in the NRA. So now I’m excited to be a training counselor and raring to teach my first instructor certification class (team teaching one this month, actually – thanks, Aqil!). And just imagine the potential ripple effects. If I teach teachers, and they go out and teach, and then their students talk to their friends, and so on and so forth, is it possible we could eventually start to counter the devastating effects of the Ted Nugent wing of the NRA?
I don’t know the answer to that. But here’s my bet for the time being: if there are aspects of the NRA that I want to blow up, I stand a better chance of doing so from the ballot-casting inside than from the sign-wielding, social-media-saturating, external periphery. I can look to folks like Adam Kraut to help get things done rather than just idly simmering in my distant discontent. Like dude from Armageddon said, out on the sidelines, all you can hope to do is inflict a minor, temporary burn. And right now, I just don’t think that’s enough to right the ship on Waples Mill. Don’t worry; I have no desire to blow up the NRA completely. But there are some wormy parts that ache for metamorphosis. And I never saw a butterfly emerge from outside the cocoon.
So, into the belly of the beast I go. Wish me luck. But I’m only one chick. I need some help! That means, hey, NRA, stop alienating people. And hey, alienated people, hold off on ditching the NRA. Instead of scoffing at how ignorant everyone is, perhaps we could help educate each other. Who knows, maybe one day we won’t need a separate Facebook group for black female gun owners. Crazy idea, huh?
24 comments on “Belly of the Beast”
I was going to leave a comment, but then I decided to make it a blog post.
Thanks for the link. I’ll check it out! ?
Good post. Never heard of you until Tam linked to this. Glad she did. Keep it up. Also, don’t be afraid to engage the “No”s here and there. Your tact, intelligence, patience and knowledge will in time overcome any emotional responses.
Thanks, Lyle. I appreciate the encouragement. ?
You just heard about Tiffany?
I feel sorry for you, because she’s wonderful.
I also envy you, because you have a journey of discovery ahead of you, reading everything she’s written.
There’s much I disagree with the NRA about as well. But, as you say, it can’t be changed from the inside and there ARE changes that need to made. I share your frustrations and I’m what is, I suppose, the target demographic: middle aged white male.
I think you’ve got the right strategy, Tiffany. It’s going to be a long road to broadening the gun-owning culture, and it’s going to be painful for those of you not in the hard inner core of it. I guess I’m _mostly_ in that core (straight, white conservative Christian southern male), but not completely, and even I can relate to feelings of ostracism sometimes.
In that core’s defense, though, I hope that those who want to be a part of the 2A family will keep in mind that it’s that group of people who carried the torch while the night was darkest. And I believe that is why there’s such a monoculture around guns right now: they were the only ones obnoxious enough to draw the line no matter the cost. It’ll take time, patience, understanding and forgiveness from everyone before we all feel at home here.
Nice to “meet” you. Tam brought me.
As an OFWG, I agree about changing it from within. As a member of Gun Culture 1.5 (came for the hunting & stayed for the 2A) from the reddest of red states, even I find the NRA tone deaf. I’m tired of bro faux-country, Ted Nugent, Dana Loesch, and dudes who tell you every 3.2 milliseconds they’re a veteran (appealing to their own authority).
To be honest, the freshest ideas I’ve heard lately come from Maj Toure. Combine that with Colion Noir’s charisma and Tam’s ability to dissect a situation, and we’d get somewhere.
It’s nice to have you on the team. I hope to read more of your stuff in the future.
Thanks! I’m a die-hard Tam fangirl, so any friend of hers is a friend of mine!
If the N word is so bad, then why do SO MANY black people use it on each other? And so casually? Why isn’t that racist? Why is it only bad when a white guy uses it?
I wasn’t there, and using that word in front of you was indeed in bad taste, but really…. At the end of the day, why is it bad when a white guy uses it (and you should have stabbed him..) but not when a black one uses it?
And yes, if you want to fix things, help get more and more black people into the NRA. It’s the only way.
Hi, B. Thanks. Trying my best.
I can’t speak for all black people. There have been several theories published by sociologists and culture critics about why black people use that word. There’s a decent amount of formal and informal commentary on it, not just in pop culture and media but also in academia. Some theories are more plausible than others, IMHO.
For present purposes, suffice it to say I personally wish black people would stop using it too. I wish no one would use it. But I confess it affects me differently when I hear a black person use it. I know that sounds like a double standard. It’s a topic that likely can’t be adequately covered in a few sentences.
Sorry I don’t have anything more satisfying to contribute right now. ?
I won’t presume to speak for Tiffany but I grew up in the 60s, am a white male, and I KNOW how offensive a word it is. Maybe you’ve just had to see the hate behind the word at closer range than you have. That some in the African American use it doesn’t begin to make it ok for others to as well.
Thanks, Mike. ?
Keep up the great work, Tiffany! If only the media followed more people like you instead of the mouthy malcontents. Intelligent dialog is still appreciated, just look at the rise of podcasts and the likes of Jordan Peterson and Jocko Willink. Maybe that’s your next move ;D
Read minds much? ?
Welcome to the TC ranks. We will all miss Andy.
There is a Facebook group dedicated to helping TCs
Ping me for info on Facebook. Daniel McMonigle
Thank you for your stick to it ness. Struggling to make change is always hard, especially in larger organizations .
Thanks, Dan! Will do! ?
Good luck, Tiffany. We believe in you, and what you’re doing.
Thanks, SBS! ?
Saved for reading later, when I’m sober ?
For now, I’ll just say I wish you were the EVP of the NRA. I let my membership lapse, after 30 years or so of annual & 5yr signups. I can’t stand their tone-deaf videos.
I love you, truly, deeply, and hope you can help make a change in the NRA. I do get that the Democratic party is screwed up on issues relating to firearms, but the NRA support of GOP pseudo-christian theocratic fascists has turned me off. I’ve gone to the Liberal Gun Club. Tiny, tiny membership numbers compared to the NRA, but more in line with my issues.
Your comments are always so kind to me, David! I appreciate the encouragement. It’s an uphill battle, for sure. Perhaps the NRA will start noticing when the membership starts defecting to other groups in larger numbers. We shall see.
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