Democracy Dies in Darkness

The Fix | Analysis

Hip-hop artist and activist Killer Mike’s NRA interview attracts scorn from black voters

March 26, 2018 at 2:32 PM

Rapper Killer Mike greets customers at Citizens Trust Bank during the Black Transfer Challenge in Atlanta on March 4. (Kevin D. Liles for The Washington Post)

Activist and hip-hop artist Killer Mike thought advocating gun rights in an interview with the National Rifle Association would spark a conversation within the black community. But that plan backfired, and the rapper, whose given name is Michael Render, later accused the gun-rights organization of misusing his words to advocate its agenda.

While student activists were recapping Saturday’s March for Our Lives on cable news, the NRA released a video of the artist — who campaigned for Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders in 2016 — sharing how he would have responded had his daughter participated in the protest.

“I told my kids on the school walkout, I love you, [but] if you walk out that school, walk out my house. We are a gun-owning family ... We are not a family that jumps on every single thing an ally of ours does because some stuff we just don’t agree with,” he said in an NRA video.

Render’s words were interpreted as disparaging the thousands of student activists marching against gun reform, something he apologized for later in a video on Twitter. He said:

“I’m sorry that an interview I did about a minority, black people in this country, and gun rights was used as a weapon against you guys. That was wrong, and it disparaged some very noble work you’re doing.”

But it wasn’t just Render discouraging his children from participating in one of the largest youth-led protests in history that attracted the most criticism from the left. It was Render, an NRA member, continuing to partner with an organization that black Americans overwhelmingly view negatively.

MSNBC anchor Joy Reid responded to the video by tweeting:

“Killer Mike cosigning an organization that traffics in threats against the media (including black women), that ignored Philando Castile, and that pushes gun sales through 'brown/black scare' videos is his choice. It’s also proof the NRA knows that the teenagers are beating them.”

“Their desperation to attach hip hop street cred to their desiccated brand would be funny if what they have turned themselves into wasn’t so repulsive.”

Activist Brittany Packnett said Render allowed himself to be used by an organization that is not genuinely interested in addressing issues within the black community.

“Public advocacy for black gun owners will NEVER be properly respected by a racist org. Never.

If you want to have a conversation about black gun owners, then do so with your own sizeable platform.  Heck-do it in partnership w black gun orgs YOU helped start.

Don’t provide fodder to an org that clearly hates black people.”

Other liberal activists shared their thoughts on Render’s partnership with the NRA.

The Fix previously reported that no other demographic seems to have a lower view of the NRA than black Americans.

In a Quinnipiac University poll released after the mass shooting in Parkland, Fla., Americans were asked: “Do you think that the NRA, or National Rifle Association, supports policies that are good for the U.S. or supports policies that are bad for the U.S.?”

More than half — 51 percent — chose “bad.” But black voters were especially pessimistic about the NRA, with 8 in 10 calling the group's policies bad. That number was 72 percent in October.

The majority of black Americans don’t keep guns at home. A recent Pew Research Center poll found that while nearly half of white Americans live in a household with a gun, less than a third of black Americans live in a home with a gun.

But that is changing. The National African American Gun Association was founded in 2015 with about 300 people, The Washington Post reported. Since then, it has grown to 34 chapters nationwide and now boasts more than 20,000 members.

Render said he wanted to start a conversation. But black Americans have been talking about the multiple angles that come with gun ownership for a while. However, it is clear that any conversation within the black community about gun rights is not likely to include the NRA — especially in relation to school shootings — until black voters are confident that the organization is interested in acknowledging how differently black Americans are affected by gun laws.

The NRA doesn’t need widespread support from black voters to maintain its sizable influence in politics — and it doesn’t appear that the group will be getting it anytime soon.

Eugene Scott writes about identity politics for The Fix. He was previously a breaking news reporter at CNN Politics.

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