No matter how you look at it, it’s a race issue.
In the wake of the horrific shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, U.S. high-school students have mobilized in support of stronger gun-control legislation. Despite protesting for an honorable cause, these students have been met with threats of suspension and other disciplinary action So, universities issued statements of support saying they would not penalize students involved in these peaceful protests.
These #NeverAgain protests have also sparked positive political debates and nationwide media attention. Celebrities Oprah Winfrey and George Clooney have donated a total of $1 million to the “March For Our Lives.”
Yes, these recent responses are more than necessary as these students fight for a crucial cause. But this issue of gun violence in schools is not a new thing.
Predominantly black and brown communities and schools have suffered from and protested against gun violence for years. Yet it is only now when gun violence targets a white and affluent area that people start to listen, states pass gun-control bills, and Americans start saying, ‘Oh, this really is a problem.’ And that’s bull.
Don’t get me wrong. I fully stand with these Parkland protesters and all U.S. students involved in these peaceful protests. We need to support these students who are forcing acknowledgment of America’s gun problem. But we can’t ignore the deeply ingrained power of race, class, and socioeconomic status in predicting the visibility of these movements. We can’t disregard the fact that people only begin to care when white bodies are targeted.
When gun violence targets predominantly minority schools and communities, which happens daily, media attention is usually minimal or nonexistent.
One study examined 42 school shootings from 1995-2014. Of these 42, 24 school shootings — a majority of which occurred in urban areas — never received national news coverage. Twenty-two of the 24 that did not receive national coverage were either known to involve African-American or Hispanic/Latino youths, or occurred in schools whose students were overwhelmingly members of those communities.
I’m sure the majority of people can't name one school shooting that occurred in a predominantly minority community. If I were to mention the school shootings in Liberty Technology Magnet High School (2013) or Delaware Valley Charter High School (2014), would you know that these harrowing school shootings happened and that they affected predominantly black students? Probably not.
But this is not your fault; it’s all of ours. If I were to ask you to list school shootings, you’d probably name Columbine, Sandy Hook, and Stoneman Douglas. How is it that the only school shootings that we can easily call to mind are those that happened in predominantly white and wealthy neighborhoods? How is it that when the U.S. media actually does cover shootings in predominantly minority schools, it is said to be related to “gang-violence,” while white neighborhoods’ shootings are related to bullying and mental illness?
While communities and schools of color have been penetrated by gun violence for years, the Parkland students have been invited to a town hall with U.S. senators and an NRA spokesperson, have raised more than $5 million in donations, and have been hailed as heroes on the cover of Time Magazine.
I will reiterate, I support the Parkland student-leaders. But I want Americans to say the same for all youth activists, not only ones that happen to be fair-skinned.
And if you think I’m that “angry minority” always mad about something, I’m not the only one sick of how this country hasn’t highlighted minority students’ voices.
Jacklyn Corin, a survivor of the Parkland shooting, said: “We recognize that Parkland received more attention because of its affluence [and whiteness]. But we share this stage forever with those communities who have always stared down the barrel of a gun."
Why is it that no one listens to Black Lives Matter students of color who are yelling at the top of their lungs until their voices grow raw and hoarse, but when white kids do the same thing, people suddenly care?
We as a nation should not act only upon issues that have received the white stamp of approval — issues that affect predominantly white people. We, as minorities, must continue to crusade against these whips of indifference inflicted upon our black, brown, and beige bodies. And those who revel in white privilege must utilize it to speak for and protect those who have had their voices stolen. Your white privilege shouldn’t be seen as a curse word or a taboo subject. Maybe then will the media, America, and the entire world listen and act upon problems that do not only affect white faces. Maybe then.
Maryam Asenuga is a rising junior at Duke University.