I grew up playing with airsoft guns. I remember with pride the first time I bought my very own at 9 years old. I brought it home and shot it for hours collecting each and every clay pellet as I went. I didn’t want to lose a single one – each one was precious and expensive as I had foregone buying the cheaper plastic ones. I bought it mainly to fit in with my brother and his friends who used to play in our backyard. It was all dirt back then but we had transformed it through digging deep holes and “dumpster diving” to find parts from old houses we could use to cover up them up. We never once were caught or arrested for doing so.
There wasn’t a thought in my mind or my parents’ minds that by buying this airsoft gun at 9 years old that I would be remotely putting myself in any sort of danger of being arrested, shot, or killed. I stand here today unharmed having never been arrested.
Look at this image and tell me how I would be seen as a target.
At one point soon after I bought the airsoft gun, my brother had the bright idea of spraypainting the orange nozzle black so it looked “like a real gun”. I was game. Again, NO thought was given to us possibly being targeted or arrested or shot for this. We were just two little blonde haired white kids running around having good, clean fun.
It’s deeply disturbing to look back on this part of my childhood. Something that was seriously fun has made others lose their lives. Literally, I had essentially the same exact weapon – a semi automatic airsoft gun. Here’s the closest thing I could find that matches what I have:
Seriously, take a moment and look at that. Now imagine that orange tip is painted over. On mine, the white Taurus logo is black which makes it even harder to identify as an airsoft gun.
The same year I got the gun, my brother roped me into hiding underneath this oddly shaped tree near our neighbors house so we could shoot airsoft rounds into passing cars. I vividly remember joining him one night and the silly thrill of it. What if someone had called the police? It easily could have looked like we were about to mug people albeit at a young age.
When I was 11-12, I sat on the roof of a neighbor’s house with this gun in hand aiming it at everything from empty root beer cans to my childhood friend running around firing right back at me.
I remember police cars passing without incident while we were firing.
I don’t remember the police being called on us by any neighbors.
I don’t remember fearing for my life.
I don’t remember any thoughts about how this might put me in a dangerous situation.
I don’t remember any conversation with my parents about safety beyond a “don’t shoot your eye out, kid” type talk.
If I had grown up with a different skin color in a different neighborhood, this childhood fun could have killed me. I never realized this until the last 4-5 years watching countless black lives ended. I was ignorant of my privilege. My childhood fun was someone else’s final moments. The replica weapon the Baltimore 13 year old used looks exactly like the one I had.
It sends shivers down my spine realizing that what protected me was my skin color.
Who is going to look at a short, blonde haired girl as a threat? Our biases run deep and it’s time we start to examine them. Now take away even just the threat of a possible gun and yet we are still losing lives seemingly every single day. I’m tired of seeing exhausted posts from friends and strangers alike crying out for us to pay attention. It reminds me of the feeling of coming back from a mission trip hundreds of miles away only to find those same people I went with turned a blind eye to how they could help change things in their own backyard.
We can’t turn a blind eye anymore. We have tons of research backing well documented biases against people of different colors, age, ability, sexuality, etc. Don’t believe me? Go take a test on your own biases right now. We can’t wait until this affects someone we love – it’s too late for that.
I would like to end with this screenshot from a friend’s Facebook status (I got permission to use it) as it really brought this terrible issue home for me: