Kashana Cauley on How the Black Panthers Inspired Our Modern Gun Control Movement
This Week on The Maris Review
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On approaching subjects from a place of curiosity:
Kashana Cauley: It’s really common to go in to practice law and to follow all the rules, to stay up all night writing a brief, to kill your weekends, to waste your twenties, to miss important holidays, to not see family and friends, and still not have anything to show for it at the end of the day. And no one will be particularly grateful to you for having done it…
Maris Kreizman: We see Aretha making so many justifications for the kind of work she does, too.
Kashana Cauley: Very common. When I was a lawyer I had friends who represented banks that financed Apartheid… It’s very common to have clients who you don’t personally agree with and who are not doing great things. In order to continue to doing the job, a lot of people lean into the salary and just find some way to justify the actual substance of the work.
Maris Kreizman: Your novel is set just after Hurricane Sandy, and Aretha is working for the insurance companies.
Kashana Cauley: There are, in any catastrophe, going to be lawyers and people in the insurance industry who hate that you got injured and will do anything they can to separate you from any sort of recovery. And those are her people… If you come out of the kind of law school Aretha has come out of, then well, we’re intellectuals, we’re on the frontiers of law, we’re promoting new and exciting thoughts about how the law should be. And so you can justify that too.
How the Black Panthers inspired our modern gun control movement:
The Black Panthers had a pretty famous open carry thing they did in California in the 1960s and it seemed to inspire our modern gun control movement. They just wanted to be able to take advantage of the second amendment as much as anyone else in this country was able to do. I don’t think they were necessarily in the we’re-gonna-use-these-guns-on-the-steps-of-the-State House camp.
I don’t know that a lot of the Black folks I’ve known who’ve owned guns are very much we’re gonna parade this through a Target or maybe you got the parking spot first and we’re going to have something to say about it kind of way. The tradition I tacked to Brittany (Aretha’s roommate) and her family is: Is someone going to come into our house? Is anyone going to help us with that? Is there community support for us? We’re not sure about those things, so we should double down on ourselves.
Kashana Cauley is a former Midtown antitrust lawyer and Brooklyn resident. She is a writer for the Fox comedy The Great North, a contributing opinion writer for the New York Times, and a GQ contributor. She’s written for The Daily Show with Trevor Noah and Pod Save America on HBO as well as The Atlantic, The New Yorker, Pitchfork, and Rolling Stone, and has published fiction in Esquire, Slate, Tin House, and The Chronicles of Now. She now lives in Los Angeles. Her first novel is called The Survivalists.