Three days later, I’m still thinking about the lady with the gun.

The thing happened on June 26, as I was embedded with the protest group known as the Three, who spent most of the afternoon shutting down Friendly Center in Greensboro with marches, street takeovers and other acts of disruption in service to Black Lives Matter.

We’ve been covering these protests for a while now, and each has moments that stick with us, small points on the narrative arc that grab us, pull us along.

That day I saw retail workers come out of their shops, fists raised in solidarity. I saw a young, Black organizer interact with an older woman stuck in her car in a moment so affecting it ended in cathartic tears. I saw Harris Teeter set out water for 40 or so occupying protesters, and allow their employees to take part. I saw a car muscle through a line of bicycle protesters near Ben & Jerry’s, where the #BLM crew had just gotten free ice cream.

I saw cops in riot gear and weaponized bicycles, as well as the LRAD sonic disruption device — a non-chemical form of crowd control — mounted atop a police vehicle and pointed right at us. I saw so much anger and passion on the faces of protestors, rage and fear all around.

Rage and fear.

I never saw the gun. This was when the group had taken over the intersection at Northline Avenue just outside the Green Valley Road entrance, that incorporates the West Wendover exit. Traffic had backed up about a dozen cars or so on the ramp, and some of the protestors marched down to Wendover, past the growing line of cars, chanting and taunting as they went.

Then one of the organizers shouted, “We got a gun!”

It was a white woman, just a couple clicks up the generational ladder from me. According to an organizer, she took out a pistol and placed it on the seat next to her, making sure that everyone who passed her car saw it.

The protestors seemed surprised. “We don’t got no guns,” one shouted. But they went their way and, eventually, the lady with the gun went hers. It was just a footnote, really, one of a thousand such brushstrokes that make the picture, and ultimately inconsequential to the story.

So why do I keep thinking about the lady with the gun, what she thought was going to happen, what she would have done if it did?

I read an article in the Washington Post in 2014 referencing a study about relationships between white people and Black people, and also a quote from Chris Rock:

“All my black friends have a bunch of white friends. And all my white friends have one black friend.”

But it’s a bit worse than Rock’s anecdotal evidence implies.

This study by the Public Religion Research Institute found that more than 75 percent of US white people don’t have any Black friends — nor any Asian or Latinx people in their friend circles.

Astonishing. But revealing.

Maybe the lady with the gun doesn’t know any Black people? Maybe all she’s seen are looting videos? Maybe she was unable to discern between emphatic political protesters and a roving gang of marauders set on dragging ladies from their cars?

And maybe I shouldn’t be making excuses for her.

Because, when faced with an energetic group of young people using their time to bend the arc of justice, her first instinct was not to reflect on the injustices they may have experienced and witnessed, or listen to their message, or even drop it into Park and turn on the radio.

Instead she reached for her gun.

And the protest went on, undaunted.


  1. Has it been considered that, maybe the reason so few of white people don’t have a black friend, is because blacks are roughly 13% of our Nations population? If a person doesn’t have many friends, there’s a good chance none of them will be black.

    It’s not racial, it’s mathematical!

  2. Why does it surprise you that she had a gun and had it available during a protest? There is video after video of people being assaulted by criminals that are at these protests. I applaud that woman for taking the steps to protect herself, everyone should.

  3. So many situations that started out as people peacefully protesting turned into aggressive assaults on innocent individuals or bystanders.
    I understand the thought of “self protection” because as an elderly female coming up on a situation of UNKNOWNs, there’s nothing wrong with the thought of self protection.
    I carry a gun because I want the ability to protect myself if necessary, not because I plan to harm someone else but the ability to protect myself in an Unknown situation, surrounded by unknown individuals, whose intentions are not known , is not wrong.
    You sir, had the luxury of having been “embedded” as you described it, with the group over a period of time. Due to this you were able, over time, to assess their intentions.
    This lady did not have that luxury. She found herself thrust into an unknown situation that may have appeared to have the potential to become threatening. She did not know. She did nothing wrong by demonstrating that she had the means to defend herself “if” that potential turned into danger.
    You stated that she laid it on the seat. I didn’t hear you say that she pointed the gun at anyone. I did not hear you say that she accosted anyone. I did not hear you say that she threatened anyone with it.
    I do not understand the implied wrong doing you appear to suggest in her action. It is not wrong to have keen “situational awareness” or to be be acutely prepared for any potential threat that could develop in an unknown situation.
    You always hope any individual’s intentions are good, but you must always be aware that they may not be. We are very naïve if we live in this world and think that everybody operates from a sense of ethical and moral goodness. Unfortunately many times that’s not the case otherwise there would not be the crime we see about us every day.
    God allows us the ability to protect ourselves and our families yet is very outspoken against the “shedding of innocent blood.”
    We can only hope for a better land. One that we love one another no matter who they are.That we do indeed judge each other by the character of the man, not the color of the skin. That we see and call every man, woman, and child “friend.” That we see the potential that each man has, For that is what God sees,…..not our flaws, our failures and our mistakes, But rather who and what we can be as God optimizes us each through His unconditional love freely offered.
    That we love God and follow his commandments to love each other is His most important command.
    He said in His word “no greater love has any man, than that he would lay down his life for his friend.
    Let us call every man friend. Let us see the potential one every man as God does. Let us reach out and help anyone we see a need. Let us love our neighbors as ourselves. Let us demonstrate to those around us the peace, love, and joy that can be found through exhibiting Christ likeness In all that we say and do.
    I’ll leave you with this thought, instruction to live by….
    God tells us to “warn those who are unruly, comfort the faint hearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all. See that no one renders evil for evil to anyone, but always pursue what is good both for yourselves and for all.”
    Let us do that!!!!

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