Classes are resuming as American students return from a spring break consisting of weeks that have captured the nation’s attention – in two very, different ways – regarding the exact same issue: gun violence.
On March 24th, 2018, members of Never Again MSD in coordination with Every Town for Gun Safety led the March of Our Lives rally in Washington, with young student activists leading the forefront for a both a discussion and protest.
Here’s the underlying issue with mass protests like these – gun violence is an issue that impacts different local communities differently. Mass shootings, police brutality, and gang violence all fall under the category of “gun violence” – yet they disproportionately affect different groups of people. In predominantly Black/Latinx communities, gun violence and police violence are interchangeable. However, it doesn’t seem to be portrayed as such in the media, whose reports often attempt to isolate incidences of police brutality instead of giving it the crucial national media attention it deserves.
Take the murder of Stephon Clark – an unarmed black man fatally shot eight times in Sacramento, California just last week – for example. Black Lives Matter protesters have taken to the streets nearly every day since March 18th, yet there is hardly any major news coverage. Limited coverage equals a limited message.
When will this stop?
The themes of intersectionality presented at the March For Our Lives rally really resonated with people. Why? Because gun violence is an issue that affects everyone, despite the support of it having a long history of being both legally and illegally discriminatory to Black and Latinx communities. Coverage has been limited, and often extremely racist, painting a picture of falsehoods and misunderstandings in order to further oppress and dehumanize individuals and communities of color.
So, when white students choose to step aside and let students such as Naomi Wadler and Trevon Bosley use their platform as a means to educate, it is a big deal. White allies using their platform to create awareness allows mass audiences to listen to voices that they otherwise would’ve ignored, from either willful or socially perpetuated ignorance.
Intersectionality has been creeping up on protests for some time now – during the Women’s March in 2016, jokes were made about how this would never be the turnout at a Black Lives Matter protest.
…They weren’t wrong.
For the first time, I myself as a young person saw mass support for stricter gun laws that actually featured young students of color at the forefront – all thanks to the white Parkland students deciding to expand their platform to feature crucial voices. The only other time I’ve seen such solidarity was at the Women’s March in 2016 – and even then, comments were made about how this would never be the turnout at a Black Lives Matter protest. It still leaves a feeling of unsettlement within me, especially given such a blatant display of how white privilege allows for mass protests to be organized regarding issues that have plagued communities of color for decades. As an activist, I believe that intersectionality should neither start nor end with Parkland, and that if we wish to see change happen within the world, every voice needs to be heard.
These identities will not disappear as soon as the television is shut off. These voices will not be silenced as they have been in the past. And, if no policy changes occur, these problems will not go away.