The Parkland shooting and subsequent student activism have made a powerful impact. Millions of folks from around the country protested gun violence at March for Our Lives events around the country last month and those voices have grown stronger. If we want to end gun violence, our elected officials must stop lining their pockets with NRA dollars and fight for substantive gun control. But while this debate has gone on for weeks, I’ve noticed some really important groups missing from it.
I’ve found myself reflecting, particularly, on what safety looks like across the country for Black and Brown youth. That’s why voices like Edna Chavez have been so important. Her March for Our Lives speech, “I’ve Learned to Duck from Bullets Before I Learned How to Read,” pushes us to explore the complexities of gun violence for youth of color.
Though she may not have survived a school shooting, gun violence overwhelmingly shapes Edna’s experience in and outside of the classroom. Unfortunately, this is quite common for youth in the many Black and Brown communities. In the U.S., Black children or teens represent 43 percent of all youth gun related deaths and one dies from gun violence every 6 hours. For Latinos between the age of 15-24, it is the second leading cause of death. Young folks like Edna make it clear that we must fight issues like poverty, underfunded schools, and police violence to end gun violence, and that arming teachers or putting more resource officers—glorified police—in schools would not make them more safe. Where do these realities fit into the debate on gun control going on right now in our homes or on Capitol Hill?
What brings me hope is the work prominent student leaders like David Hogg have done to share their platforms with black and brown youth. At the D.C. March for Our Lives, he powerfully pointed out the lack of visibility for Black students from his high school and challenged the media and public to keep all students in mind. At the age of 11, Naomi Wadler took the stage to honor young Black women whose gun related deaths never make the evening news. Since then, I’ve been reflecting on what I can do to ensure their lives mattered. To start, I plan on joining the growing groups in my neighborhood that work to ensure Black and Brown youth are empowered to be heard and have their needs addressed. What will you do?
Jimmy Donelson III is Greenlining’s Diversity and Inclusion Fellow.