The Current

Black journalist RJ Young explores why guns matter to white Americans

RJ Young, a black journalist, learned to shoot in order to better understand the place guns hold in U.S. culture, and among white Americans – including his new in-laws.

To get to know his new in-laws, Young learned to shoot

RJ Young, a black journalist, learned to shoot in order to better understand the place guns hold in U.S. culture. He wrote Let It Bang about the experience. (Ronald Taylor/Raincoast)

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When RJ Young met his future wife's family for the first time, her father ran out of the room, and came back with a gun.

"He had it in both of his hands — he was not pointing it at me, I need to emphasise that — it was a trophy. It was the kind of thing that he was very proud of," Young told The Current's guest host Laura Lynch.

The older white man handed the gun to Young, who is black, and began to tell him all about it.

"That was my first real interaction with a person holding a gun, and holding it in such a way that it is quite valuable to him, and it represents a large part of who he is."

But for Young, it felt like "a flaming scimitar."

To get to know his new in-laws, Young learned to shoot, and embarked on a journey to examine the place guns hold in U.S. culture and among white Americans in particular.

He spoke with Lynch about his experience, and the book he wrote, Let It Bang: A Young Black Man's Reluctant Odyssey into Guns.

Listen to their full conversation with RJ Young near the top of this page.

Produced by John Chipman.


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