By: Kyndall Cunningham, Columnist
Following the shell-shocked weeks since the mass shooting in Parkland, Florida, students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School have taken politicians to task for their inactivity on gun reform and ties to the NRA. Survivors of the shooting, along with their families and members of the Parkland community, have prolonged a conversation about gun control in the United States longer than previous groups impacted by similar violence. The response to the #NeverAgain movement has been mostly positive, garnering vocal and financial support from politicians, celebrities and the liberal and centrist sectors of social media.
Like many people I follow on Twitter, I’ve noticed a discrepancy over the past few weeks in responses to white youth who protest injustice and black and brown youth who do the same. For the past five years, “Black Lives Matter” has been the rallying cry of black teens and young adults across the country tired of losing lives to police brutality. Prior to that specific movement, black people have been mobilizing around the issue of gun violence in their own communities where shootings occur on an almost daily basis. The problem with gun violence affecting communities of color is that it is rarely framed as “senseless.” The lives that are lost aren’t additionally noted as “innocent.” National discourse teaches us that gun violence is a horrendous tragedy when it happens to seemingly good people in suburban areas, but perfectly acceptable as a quotidian part of minorities’ lives. Therefore, people across party lines selectively rally behind the seemingly good victims, leaving communities most vulnerable to gun violence behind.
I’ve seen this trend practiced by liberals, especially those who claim to be inclusive in their progressive beliefs. The demographics of protests and demonstrations have changed a lot since the Obama administration, starting with the Women’s March in 2017, which brought out more white liberals than you would have seen at a Black Lives Matter rally in the years past. While political demonstrations are risky, even worrisome environments for people of color, they’ve become an alternative to brunch for newly concerned citizens. But amid this new wave of resistance, Trump-era demonstrators owe black youth a great debt.
I can’t tell you how proud I am of the teens at Stoneman Douglas. Since the mass shooting that claimed 17 lives, students including Cameron Kasky, Jaclyn Corin and Alex Wind have courageously led the way in confronting pro-gun legislation and politicians they view as complicit in enabling the NRA. Most notably, students participated in a CNN Town Hall where they interrogated Senator Marco Rubio for his idleness on gun control, voiced their concerns to President Donald Trump at a White House listening session and organized an upcoming demonstration called March For Our Lives in Washington, D.C., on March 24. Watching these events unfold, I’m filled with hope. But I long for people of color to have the same access to these spaces to make their voices heard. The youth in Ferguson, Baltimore, Chicago and St. Louis deserve safety too, and support when they fight for it.