Patti's POV: Students Call BS!
The uproar that America is hearing from its children demanding safe schools and freedom from gun violence is, moment by moment, drowning out the confusion and polarization by its adults. It's like a breath of fresh air wafting across the monotony of the same old arguments. One million students walked out of their schools this month to protest the lack of safety and the proliferation of gun violence in schools and on the streets. Inspired by the students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, who survived the massacre where 17 students were killed, young people all over the country are calling BS on the unwillingness of lawmakers and leaders to enact common sense gun restrictions. They will protest again, the March For Our Lives, on March 24th in Washington and in 700 cities across the country, along with millions more adults as allies this time. Children and youth are leading in a very authentic way. Students have always led, started and participated in the "revolutions”. I remember the civil rights and anti-war protests in the late fifties and sixties: Students led the anti-Vietnam war protest movement; black students sat at the segregated lunch counters in the south; students joined the freedom rides to protest Jim Crow policies; students walked the gauntlet to desegregate schools in Alabama and Arkansas and faced down angry mobs and dogs; Chicano students walked out of their schools in East LA and ignited a movement. A well-known reflection about that time: "In 1968, the kids kicked the doors open.”
It's happening again as the kids of 2018 engage in social action and are reaching out across geography, identity politics, race and class and embracing intersectionality. The Parkland students are getting the warm reception that the youth who protested in Ferguson didn't get. This is not lost on the Parkland survivors. They have instead challenged the media for neglecting to adequately and honestly cover the impact of gun violence in black communities. David Hogg from Stoneman Douglas High School called the unequal coverage an obstacle to #NeverAgain, the student led anti-gun violence movement. People of color are most affected by gun violence. The Washington Post reported that 62.6% of students exposed to gun violence are indeed children of color. Black students from the south side of Chicago were invited to Parkland, Florida, one of the most affluent communities in the country, to meet with the survivors from Parkland to strategize for the March For Our Lives. Parkland youth reciprocally went to Chicago to expand and nurture the connections. The kids are connecting and communicating.
Student movements have been powerful in the past and this organizing by youth around gun violence could and should be a galvanizing moment for our country. They are challenging adult indifference to their safety and wellbeing. During the 19 years since Columbine, more than 187,000 students have experienced a shooting on campus during school hours. Witness/survivors to school shootings and other gun violence encounters in the community experience trauma that can have long lasting impact. At what point do the American people decide that, while this has become our “normal,” it is not healthy? Kids are asking good questions. How can we tolerate living in a country where part of the curriculum is training students in active shooter drills? How many vigils do families who lost their children have to attend? Gun violence is connected to domestic violence, suicide, mass shootings, etc. and the kids are planning to do something about it. Have we gotten to the “crazy place” where wanting children to be safe in school, in their homes and on the street is a "liberal" idea, not worthy of action? Students want answers and they want action. They are calling BS on the power of the gun lobby. They are calling BS on the arming of teachers to solve the problem. They are calling BS on the inability of adults to compromise. They are calling BS on the political logjam. They are demanding that all children, no matter their age, gender, color, or community, live free from the tragedy of gun violence. THAT is not BS!