The Armed Face of Privilege


It’s easy for me to forget America has changed. I get up every day, drive around Portland, make plumbing and electrical repairs and feel like a completely respected member of the community. Today I interacted with a glass contractor, tow truck driver, galvanized pipe vendor and numerous other people, including a random man who tapped on my passenger window as I ate lunch and courteously requested I be careful of his vehicle when I moved my truck later. Like usual, never once was I made to feel socially slighted or uncomfortable as a White American.

Contrast that with my wife’s daily experience as a Black American. In the days since Donald Trump’s election, she’s dealt with increased blatant racism, from being called the worst racial epithets or told to “go back home” in public. That plus many more negative experiences, such as customers at her job who would rather wait for a White clerk than be served by her. Over time, that kind of treatment can really grind a person’s humanity down.


(above) Mr. and Mrs. Eliot

But it’s not just day-to-day respect I enjoy. Over the last eleven or so years, I’ve actively promoted and conducted firearms training, primarily among marginalized groups with a leftist slant. It has all occurred in the open and often documented by this weblog or my former ‘zine, American Gun Culture Report. For example, there’s an old OCCUPY photo of me holding some socially subversive placard, with an AK-47 slung over my shoulder. In other words, my social message could be interpreted as: “Here I am, status quo, I’m striving to bring about your downfall while armed to the teeth!

Yet in all that time, I’ve never faced significant social sanction beyond the odd email or forgettable internet comment. Now, while my activities have certainly been more small scale than, for instance, Black Lives Matter, recall the massive backlash against that group and other Black Americans who organized in response to unjustified police shootings and State Sponsored Terrorism in Ferguson, Missouri.

What is the definition of modern American privilege? It’s me. Despite virtually all sensational mass shootings in the US being carried out by White men with a grudge against society, I still get a free pass to criticize with my rifle at the ready. Even when facing repressions that some might imagine only exist in the most distant, corrupt corners of the world, Black Americans are frowned upon over everything from minor rioting, to peaceful protests or even objecting when strangers touch their hair.


(above) a sample socially subversive placard

What can White Americans do in this age when action against vulnerable communities becomes increasingly acceptable? First of all, don’t be a privilege denier. It doesn’t hurt to acknowledge that worldwide, people receive better treatment based on skin color. That’s just a social reality. Next? Resist by every means possible. My own privilege has many times put me in positions to call out injustice. Determine appropriate times for the soap box, ballot box and cartridge box, then use them accordingly.

Seasoned 2nd Amendment advocates can be even more valuable. Right now many people have become first time firearm owners, alarmed by the wave of violence against people of color and others. Most would benefit from training and instruction. Be an armed ally, for those who can’t with such ease. Take new folks out to the range and teach the safety and skills they need.

But most of all in this coming era, don’t be silent. Don’t be a bystander. Take agency no matter what. Never let neutrality melt into complicity.

5 thoughts on “The Armed Face of Privilege

  1. Wayne

    I am interested in your wife’s experiences with a DT on the way… I would have expected the bottom feeders to have jumped up when Obama was running, elected. Yet we stayed calm(ish) during that time. I don’t want to discount the police shootings, just the kkk stuff. Any ideas or am i getting the wrong news? ps I help run a gay shooting group Pink Pistols, and as a straight married guy have had no trouble for all these years.

    1. Ross Eliot Post author

      Does DT stand for Domestic Terrorist? Also, I’m confused what KKK stuff you want to discount. I’m very familiar with the Pink Pistols, I was a regular member of the Portland chapter for many years…

  2. Robert Bertrand

    I love your article – rock on with your train of thought brother. You are 100% correct and spot on! As a Gay Liberal gun CARRIER from Orlando I was moved by what you said. Your wife is beautiful!

  3. JRowan

    Well said. I grew up in a reupublican area and still have some ideals that align with the (stated) goals of the Republican Party, but I also lean left in many ways as well as have a libertarian stripe. I’m registered independent, and my voting preferences tend to stay solidly Left, though. I also used to be an avid supporter of the shooting sports. I am a supporter of reasonable gun control. Lack of leisure time and cost has removed me from the sport over the last few decades.

    With everything that’s been happening over this election cycle, I have become re-motivated to take up the sport again. I now live in a red area in a blue state. I see many confederate flags now that I didn’t see before. We live 20 miles from a small town that makes no effort to hide its anti-semitism and racism, they’ve stead as much in the local paper. I’m not worried about people with different colored skin where I live. I’m worried about the militant white people who think might makes right, who also think that if you don’t believe what they believe you’re the enemy. An unamerican sympathizer. Truly, this has to be a first in American history. Liberals being driven to arms because of a radical Republican who is so unstable that he could cause instability at home and abroad while the Republican Party seeks authoritarian policy changes. Truly, this is a case where the people need to reconsider the “well regulated militia” on the Left, there are many indications that this administration seeks to override checks and balances in our system and keep itself in power artificially and undemocratically.

    Good luck to us all, stay strong and stand together. We need to be the voice of reason and balance.

    I’ve elected to re-join the sport and burden of gun ownership based on the actions and potential fallout from the incoming administration. Responsibly, and within the law. I wish it were under more “fun” conditions rather than threat. I’m also seeking a position in law enforcement where, hopefully, I can help swing the perception of the job to the side of reason.


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