I have recently been so inspired by the thousands of students across the country demanding movement on gun control and gun safety. My heart fills with joy to think of the new generation of young activists marching and organizing to make our country a better and more equitable place. Since the tragic shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., the activism of young people has not faded into the media cycle. They refuse to let yet another school shooting pass by as if these actions are normal and should be accepted. Now more than ever, we must support our young people. However, in doing so, we must support all of our young activists, from Parkland to Chicago.
I am not the first to notice the significant difference in the way the media has covered and primarily praised the young mostly white students who have been leading the movement against the NRA in the past weeks since the tragic shooting at their high school. It has also not been lost on me and many others that the demands of the students in Florida are similar to the demands of Black high school students in Chicago and across the country…pleas and demands that have been present for several years now.
Young Black activists in Chicago have been marching and organizing against a historically racist police department, the influx of guns into their communities, the overwhelming presence and power of the NRA and a mayor who seems complicit in disproportionate numbers of school closings in Black neighborhoods and unprecedented violence in the city he has sworn to protect and represent equally. However, their organizing efforts have not reached the mainstream media and their demands have definitely not been received as endearing and admirable attempts to change the status quo. To my knowledge, George Clooney and Oprah Winfrey did not pledge $500,000 to their efforts, nor have hundreds of celebrities pledged their willingness to fight for their message.
The disproportionate framing of the two types of student activism and the activists themselves is cause for us to reflect on our ability to support all of our students, not just the students who hail from particular wealthy ZIP codes or have certain resources, networks and/or the sympathy of the media based on their racial and ethnic backgrounds. If we are truly going to say #Enough, we must stand shoulder to shoulder with all of our kids who are demanding our attention as they change the course of the future.
Ending gun violence in schools should be a top priority. Similarly, listening to all students without the lens of the “politics of respectability” will actually assist us in hearing the needs and wants of all affected by gun violence in this country.
Christina Greer, Ph.D., is the 2018 NYU McSilver Institute Fellow and an associate professor at Fordham University, the author of “Black Ethnics: Race, Immigration, and the Pursuit of the American Dream” and the host of The Aftermath on Ozy.com. You can find her on Twitter @Dr_CMGreer.