Young chronicles his attempts to bond with his white father-in-law by embracing the gun culture that he previously held at arm’s length.
Toward the end of this short memoir about marriage, guns, and race in America, the author writes, “gun culture in America is inherently racist because white people historically fear black men with guns.” He builds a convincing case that the NRA has become predominantly concerned with protecting the Second Amendment rights of white people to protect their property against the black intruders they most fear. He also notes how an increasing number of black people, particularly black women, are arming themselves, feeling like if they don’t protect themselves, who will? “We are in a literal arms race,” he writes, “ramped up by the racialized fear peddled to us by damn near every institutionalized force in the land.” Amid his reportage, his personal story—about his mixed marriage and how it played out in conservative Oklahoma, where he always felt like a minority—doesn’t hold together quite as well. He first noticed his wife-to-be as a privileged white girl at a graduation party where he was the lone black guest. He always thought of her, at least within this book, as white first and was conscious of himself as black first. But they got together and stayed together, at least until the Donald Trump victory, “when my country chose to show its true face, as bigotry stood at the doorstep and opened the door wide,” and as he impulsively shouted, “I hate white people!” His wife, naturally enough, took offense, but rather than proceeding into a discussion of race and complex emotions, it led to the end of the marriage. Before then, however, he had committed himself to becoming a better shot than his marksman father-in-law and an instructor certified by the NRA.
Race and guns make an explosive combination.