The cynic would would say it wasn’t until a bunch of privileged white children got killed at their school that suddenly gun violence is an issue to them. It points to an irony Civil Rights Activist, Luvaghn Brown, speaks about in the award-winning film, “The Uncomfortable Truth”. Black people killing black people is not what white people are concerned about. They’re not even concerned about white people killing white people. What they’re really worried about is black people coming into their neighborhoods and killing white people even though most white people are killed by other white people. And yet, here we are with the March For Our Lives rally that stretched across the country in cities and towns with citizens who are saying enough is enough because a white person killed a bunch of white people. This shouldn’t surprise anyone who knows their history but more on that in a moment.
You know something is changing when the NRA has to resort to laying down a verbal assault on the students who organized the marches by saying the only reason they are famous is because their friends were killed.
These sort of tactics are nothing new. The organized attacks on the Civil Rights Movement activist were similar in tone. They were called communists and accused of trying to destroy the country and our constitutional rights. Of course, it should be noted, the white power structure didn’t jump into action to make an attempt to secure the rights and liberties of all Americans on a national scale until white Americans had seen the violence exacted on white civil rights workers. The black population had been getting attacked and killed for years so seeing that played out in the press didn’t move the greater American conscience all that much. But when it happened to “one of their own” that was just too much. White America called for change. They came to the stunning realization that had faced African American citizens for several hundred years: violence and civil rights violations against Blacks was wrong.
The students walked out. We’ve marched for our lives. Now what? The March on Washington in 1963 was definitely a spectacle fit for television to call for change but there had been years of protests leading up to the march and it would take another year for the Civil Rights Act to be made law and year after that for President Johnson to call for a Voting Rights Act in 1965. For real, meaningful change, the marches need to continue, our elected officials need to know we are “sick and tired of being sick and tired”. It’s good to see people of color sharing the stage with these white students. Should that have been necessary? No. But it’s happening. As my mother, Joan Trumpauer Mulholland, tells students, “Find your allies.” You might not share the exact same issues but you probably share a lot in common (March for Our Lives and Black Lives Matter for example) that you can work together to make change. I’m glad we’re seeing that.
Former SNCC Chairman and Civil Rights Activist, Stokely Carmichael once said about Dr. King’s nonviolent tactics that, “In order for nonviolence to work, your opponent must have a conscience. The United States has none.” Perhaps we do now when it comes to gun violence. Yes, it took a bunch of privileged predominantly white kids to wake the nation up even though it’s been going on in black neighborhoods for years. One can be cynical about that or embrace it. While we would hope people would’ve cared when it happened to their proverbial “neighbor” they at least are starting to see the interconnection and beginning to care now.