Kelli Slogan | Contributor
All over the nation, young people are making bold strides to break the cycle of mass shootings that have become commonplace in today’s America. Exactly a month following the attack in Parkland, Florida that took the lives of 17 people, students organized nationwide walkouts. On March 24, the March for Our Lives took place in all 50 states as protestors worked to achieve solidarity and demand change in the face of mainstream media. The issue of gun control was brought to the center of everyone’s focus, but not without injustice. The activists at the forefront of today’s wave of protests were often dismissed or abused by the media. Worse, the minority populations who have been affected by and have advocated against gun violence for years continue to be neglected. Gun control is an intersectional issue, and it’s time for media sources and political leaders to acknowledge it.
Live footage of the Parkland shooting surfaced on multiple platforms, and the trauma experienced by those involved was brought to the forefront with the sharing of heart wrenching text messages exchanged between Stoneman Douglas students and their loved ones at the time of the massacre. Young people all over are seeking awareness and are speaking out against the corruption and violence that directly affects everyone’s lives. Despite their pleas for gun control legislation, the innocent victims are often villainized by platforms that doctor false images and take their speeches out of context.
Various posts around the time of the walkout surfaced calling for a “walk up, not out,” in which young people were encouraged to talk to peers who may otherwise be outcasts rather than engage in political discussion. Rebecca Wald commented on this phenomenon of painting killers as victims, stating “The myth that school shooters are outcasts fighting back against bullies dates back to Columbine… ‘Walk Up, Not Out’ is a campaign of cowardice, promoted by adults who want there to be a solution to school shootings that asks literally nothing of us. No tough choices, no exercise of political will, no speaking out to power- just lecturing kids on how to do better.”
“Walk Up, Not Out” is yet another example of white male privilege at work. People of color, women, and LGBTQIA+ people would be the main perpetrators of mass shootings if it was true that bullying was a main cause- but time and again, it is white males who commit these atrocities. Making innocent students and their grieving family members feel guilty about the murder of fellow classmates does absolutely nothing to help the issue. This only exacerbates the trauma they’ve already been put through, victim-blames, and undermines actual political efforts to challenge the status quo and enact change.
A large portion of the mainstream media is supportive of the Parkland kids’ movement and their goals, offering platforms like verified Twitter accounts, opportunities to give speeches on popular broadcasts, and a TIME magazine cover. Though this exposure is incredible, it is important to recognize that black youth organizers in the Black Lives Matter movement were not given this support or respect. Many activists lost their jobs, faced suspension from school, were dealt fines and jail time, and even sustained serious injuries when peaceful protests turned riotous by police presence. It is pertinent to recall that racial minorities, specifically African Americans, are the most likely to die due to police armament, and that much of the narrative surrounding the March for Our Lives relied on police support. The organizers of March for Our Lives take inspiration from the Black Lives Matter movement, but were somewhat insensitive towards BLM’s aims of disarmament in their calls for increased school security by means of armed guards. The Parkland survivors and young people all over who are resisting deserve every ounce of respect. Yet until this equity is achieved, it is important to account for intersectionality in all movements and ensure that ALL voices are given a platform, not just those that mainstream, white America deem worthy.
Gun violence is and has always been an intersectional issue with women and minorities at the crux of its bloodshed. Opponents of gun control represent both an institution of the patriarchy and of white supremacy. A possible answer to the problem of gun violence lies in the fact that mass shooters have a distinct history of domestic violence. The only clear link found amongst the majority of mass shooters is not mental illness or bullying- it is that they are almost all men and almost always domestic abusers. While perpetrators of domestic violence account for only about 10 percent of all gun violence, they accounted for 54 percent of mass shootings between 2009 and 2016. Perhaps part of the solution to mass shootings would be to take domestic abusers more seriously as criminals, rather than merely shrugging off the issue of violence against women as mere marital problems or cries for attention. A woman’s right to feel safe is consciously placed below an abuser’s supposed rights to gun access.
A person’s choice to go to a concert, a child’s education, a human life should be put above the sale of weapons. Guns are not permitted on Capitol Hill, yet they’re promoted to the rest of society. Our lawmakers have made their true opinions on and their fear of guns made, yet they feel that they deserve protection while the rest of society is left to be slaughtered for their money-making agenda. One proposed solution to mass shootings with the arming of teachers is yet another excuse to facilitate the sale of assault weapons, with no concern for the safety and wellbeing of students.
As is brought up with many mass shooting debates, America is the only developed nation where this happens regularly.The National Rifle Association (NRA) has skyrocketed in size to monstrous proportions in the last few decades, selling millions of guns, many of which are assault weapons. The NRA’s Political Action Committee funnels funds directly into the campaigns and the hands of politicians. A majority of the public officials who receive money are Republican. Of the top ten Senators who receive money from the NRA, all were white and all but one were men. The same statistics were true of the House members. The evidence is there: proponents of gun violence are typically white men, and their victims are largely women and minorities. These public servants are supposed to listen to and protect us. Instead they concern themselves only with profit, and with maintaining the status quo of inequality.
The culture of gun violence and profit being placed above innocent lives needs to meet its demise. The idea that just sending thoughts and prayers or telling a kid to be nicer in school is enough is spineless. Confronting these existing structures is less difficult than losing a loved one to a senseless act of violence. Stay active and aware, call your local representatives, and demand that we as a nation do better. Gun violence is an issue that affects everyone, but, at its core, it is an epidemic that targets the most vulnerable in our societies.