Fly In The Milk

Embracing Diversity In Your store

Shall we play a game?

First, pick a place where you’ve never been — not a specific destination, but a general category or type of place.

Choose a place built to house an activity or practice, like a law library, hookah lounge or mosque. Maybe you’ve never been to such a place because that activity just never interested you. For this game, we’ll call it place “[P].” While we’re at it, let’s call the activity “[A].”

Next, pick a human trait you do not possess — something readily apparent to onlookers and not easily hidden or altered. Choose a trait that’s typically built-in rather than deliberately acquired, like freckles, blindness or short stature.
Remember, it must be something foreign to you. Let’s call this elusive trait “[T].”

Got in mind the unfamiliar place, activity and trait? Don’t cheat — go ahead and designate a place [P], an activity [A] and a trait [T] not part of your usual routine.

Now imagine you’re on a walk one day and you happen to come upon [P]. The doors are open, your curiosity is piqued and you’re feeling adventurous. So, you stroll on in for a quick look around. Even though it wasn’t the goal of your innocent venture, you can’t help but notice everyone at [P] is doing [A] and everyone is unapologetically [T].

And while they have no reason to say it out loud, everyone at [P] is palpably aware you’re the “Lone Ranger” who can’t do [A] and will never be [T]. Maybe everyone is polite and maybe your trip is perfectly pleasant or even phenomenal. But the awareness is still there — hovering stubbornly, like a wet fog.

When Ruger launched its Max-9 in 2020, it used noted Second Amendment advocate Colion Noir
in its promotional images. Subtle efforts like this will be effective in expanding gun ownership to
non-traditional groups — verifying ”yes, you do belong here! as a potential guest.

“Otherness” Can Be Loneliness

Welcome to otherness. Being the only freckle-faced non-smoker at the hookah lounge is perhaps a laughably mild analogy.
But if the hypothetical game sparked even the slightest sense of awkward cultural distance or non-belonging, then congratulations! You have only barely scratched the surface of what it’s like to be a bi-political, urban, relatively young, formerly anti-gun, three-degree-wielding black female attorney in the gun world.

On the surface, otherness is usually ancillary and inconsequential to most everyday endeavors. But the more you scratch away at it, the more you understand what Annette Evans, founder of On Her Own, calls “the power of ‘looks like’” — which she expresses quite eloquently in an On Her Own post (

“Acknowledge and openly celebrate diversity in your shop. Cultural differences keep things interesting. Embrace them.”

To describe this sentiment, Evans said, in part:
“‘Looks like’ matters not just for the inspiration, but for the comfort level. It can get exhausting, always being the different one. There are so many unspoken details of our lives that could be communicated wordlessly if only we had someone who was part-mirror to us, that could be understood by someone who’s lived a life with similar features to ours.

They might not be completely pertinent pieces of the task in front of us right now, but they come up nonetheless. Maybe they’re just a joke that isn’t nearly so obvious to someone without a shared cultural experience, or a struggle that specifically affects folks with characteristics unique to us. It’s not [that] others can’t understand or can’t have empathy, but it can be nice to not have to explain. When we’re somewhere that’s already a little bit of a stretch for us, a little outside our norm, it can be nice to have a small representation of home, a small reflection of who we are in somebody else so we don’t feel quite so alone.”

If these concepts are alien to you, it’s a privilege. I know “privilege” is a heavily charged word in the context of race, and I use it here decidedly. Privilege isn’t about silver spoons or hefty inheritances. And it’s not about racism, either.

Instead, it’s more about the subtle luxury of never noticing omnipresent emotional pinpricks others have no choice but to navigate every day. It’s the luxury of never having felt the mild jolt in your chest when the box of Band-Aids or hosiery at the drug store boasts of being “invisible on your skin” (except, it’s not invisible on mine). These tiny instants leave people like Annette Evans momentarily “wondering if I should be there at all.”

Celebrate diversity by promoting it in ads or social media posts. It will do wonders breaking down barriers.

Hyatt Guns has experienced a notable shift in its customers served over the past two years.
According to Owner Larry Hyatt,”a smile and a greeting that’s sincere” has gone a long way
toward making everyone feel welcome in his establishment.

Getting Proactive

I laid the groundwork above in hopes of suppressing any natural impulse to become defensive in response to my next statement: We need to be more proactive about attracting women and minorities into the firearms ownership and training community.

Notice I didn’t say “allowing” women and minorities. It’s not enough. They’re already allowed. (Gazelles are “allowed” at the watering hole, too.)

Beyond the obvious, I’m talking about firearms retailers and training venues developing thoughtful strategies of marketing and branding to affirmatively verify “yes, you do belong here,” rather than just passively assuming people will take this for granted just because the doors are open.

To be clear, gun retailers have zero obligation to do any of this. (And no, you’re not a “racist” or a [fill-in-the-blank]-ist if you decline to seek out business from communities other than your standard clientele.)

However, I would humbly submit pretending all people are the same can be problematic for your profit margins. More importantly, given recent trends in population demographics, the colorblindness strategy does very little to secure the Second Amendment’s longevity or the universality of our individual right to self-preserve.

Smith & Wesson has also done a good job promoting inclusion
in its advertisements and promotional materials.

Do’s & Don’ts Of Diversifying Your Customer Base

Friends and colleagues in the business sometimes ask me how they can diversify their customer base. I certainly can’t speak for all black people, all women or all minorities. But if anyone is interested in my personal two cents, here’s a quick list of do’s and don’ts.

Do read “The Power of ‘Looks Like’” by Annette Evans (link on facing page). While you’re at it, go ahead and bookmark her blog,

Do try to meet people at 60% instead of just meeting them halfway. This sage advice comes from Tony Simon, who founded the 2A4E: Diversity Shoot (The Second is For Everyone). Meeting folks at 60% means going a bit beyond just enough to check the box. Instead of merely advertising on your favorite radio station, consider running ads on black stations or posting flyers in black churches. Meet people where they are instead of always expecting them to come to you.

Do acknowledge and openly celebrate diversity in your shop. You can do so with simple gestures like varying the type of music you play, or by selling books by Nicholas Johnson or Stephen Halbrook, or by hanging a photo of Otis McDonald or Rhonda Ezell from the famous pro-Second Amendment federal court rulings or by using non-traditional models in product photography for your apparel merchandise.

“The colorblindness strategy does very little to secure the Second Amendment’s longevity.”

However, please don’t turn a blind eye to otherness. It’s a powerful factor of human social reality whether we like it or not. To ignore this is to delude oneself. Cultural differences keep things interesting. Embrace them.

Don’t oversimplify things. Yes, self-defense is a natural human right, period — but not end of story. Just a few generations ago, many inhabitants of this land were considered neither citizens nor fully human in the eyes of the law.

It’s a legacy we must overcome, but we also cannot forget — lest we tempt history to repeat itself.

Don’t overcomplicate things. In most cases, being a decent human and treating others as you want to be treated isn’t that difficult and solves problems before they arise.

And to my non-white readers out there: please don’t assume every uncomfortable encounter with a white person means that person is racist. Give folks the benefit of the doubt, stop catastrophizing and remember you don’t know that person any more than he or she knows you. Quit judging. Relax. Open up. Take a chance.

Change Is On The Horizon

Whenever I go to a firearms-related event, I’m always excited to see people from widely disparate walks of life. It’s nice every now and then to not feel like the fly in the milk. For now, those moments are still relatively few and far between. But I’m eagerly awaiting a day when I can finally enjoy the privilege of not standing out. I see it in the distance.

Recent years have ushered in exponential growth in firearms ownership and training by minorities and women. To all the many retailers and trainers who have taken active steps toward advancing that progress — keep up the good work. Change is on the horizon.

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