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Black voices and gun reform

Last week, black students who survived the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida stated in a press conference that they have been largely ignored in the media’s coverage of the Parkland shooting. As debates about gun violence continue, many mainstream conversations have unfortunately continued to neglect to discuss how gun violence specifically affects black youth. Young black activists have been advocating for gun reform for decades without much attention or coverage from mainstream media. Fast forward to today, we can see that the black students of Parkland are likewise being left out of the mainstream media and that their voices too have been neglected.

Black youth are the most vulnerable group when it comes to gun violence with the CDC reporting that “black children face the highest rates of firearm mortality—a difference largely driven by black youth being more likely to be shooting victims than children from other racial groups.” Some have voiced that to address gun violence in schools that there should be specific policies put in place to increase school security. However, increasing school security has done the opposite of protecting black students by contributing to the phenomenon of the school to prison pipeline. Having police in schools has led to incidents of police assaults against black and brown students and higher rates of legal punishments for misbehavior for black and brown students. On average, black and latinx students face harsher disciplinary consequences than white students, which contributes to the overrepresentation of black and latinx students in the school to prison pipeline. 

Schools represent a microcosm of a larger phenomenon: state violence. Gun violence is oftentimes strongly condemned when a member of society comes into a place and conducts a mass shooting. However, when civilians are being killed by members of society who wear a badge and a uniform, the uproar about gun violence is often much quieter. Police brutality against black citizens has become so normalized, and police officers being acquitted in these cases is more often than not the expectation. When it comes to justice for gun violence, we have to examine a complete picture, and this includes including a critical look at police officers within the conversation about gun violence. 

When students across the nation, including Duke students, are organizing for gun reform and against gun violence, several factors need to be taken into account. This includes whose voices are being neglected, what populations are most affected, how proposed solutions such as increasing school security will harm certain populations and questioning the ethics and levels of condemnation of gun violence by state officials. To seek justice against gun violence in the first place, black voices need to be centered. Although recognizing the importance of young black voices like 11-year old black activist Naomi Wadler within the mainstream media is a step in the right direction, the conversation still needs to include many more people of color in order to truly be representative of the gun reform movement.  


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