In One of the Most Diverse Cities, Black Voices Remain Silenced
The gun control debate has pretty much taken over this nation as students continue to demand their safety in schools. However, this topic does not just affect schools. Statistically speaking, schools are the least of our concerns. Statistically speaking, low-income, predominantly black communities are the most affected by gun violence; yet somehow, statistically speaking, black voices who have experienced gun violence and live in these communities are not being highlighted in this conversation. All the Parkland students are white; and when the black MSDHS students tried to speak up, they were met with almost no recognition compared to their white peers and racist Twitter comments. Here in Los Angeles, the Los Angeles March for Our Lives and the South Bay march were both organized by white and Asian parents and students. As of my knowledge, no black people were represented; and if there were, they were, undoubtedly, a population of less than five. All the non-black representatives gave speeches regarding how gun violence is evil and it must be stopped; but none of them have experienced it. Obviously, these white and Asian students and parents can be empathetic, but they will never know what it feels like to live in these communities and be plagued by gun violence not just once but on a regular basis. Therefore, the question clearly brings itself up: Why won’t white people let our own stories be told? Why must they share our statistics and our anecdotes when there’s a perfectly willing group of us lined up to do so ourselves? Simply put answer: they don’t want to hear our stories. They’re not living in our communities, so they only want to affect change in schools. They lightly touch upon our stories and statistics, not out of respect but simply out of ignorance. I’m not grouping ALL white people into this category, just the ones who have the power to highlight us but choose not to. So many people have the power but don’t use their privilege to showcase others. Some, including myself, may argue that it’s because often times these students in power are taking a stand in the conversation simply for recognition and a good college resume. Others, also including myself, would argue that they don’t see the importance of our voices. And the others simply don’t understand the historical meaning behind marching (especially against gun violence) and basic black history. One, if you are doing this for college aps, you should excuse yourself right now. Figure yourself out as you are taking the opportunity away from someone else who actually has a connection, story, and passion. Secondly, our voices are extremely important. I’ve seen firsthand people dismiss my fears and anecdotes of being a black woman in a society that ridicules, objectifies, rapes, and eventually guns us down. These are legitimate fears, and they are ones that deserve to be heard, considering black women’s high gun-related homicide rates. And the importance of letting us share our own stories lies in the black community’s tight-knit connection. When I see a black woman on a stage speaking with pride and eloquence, it strikes me differently than when I see anyone else do it. I see how dynamic, intelligent, beautiful, and proud I can be one day; and it inclines me to want to get involved in whatever it is being said by this woman. Therefore, I am giving you the opportunity to think selfishly right now; use us as pawns. Use us to drive in those black activists seeking to take action. Because even if you don’t get it or feel anything, chances are that some black child in the audience will hear it, be inspired, and grow up to be the next Angela Davis or Oprah Winfrey or Martin Luther King, Jr. or Kamala Harris; or Jesse Williams. Finally, black people have been marching for DECADES now but were always met with hate. We cannot have a peaceful march because no matter how peaceful it is, it will always be labeled as a riot or angry. Allow us to join in with you to honor our ancestors and prove that their hard work was not for nothing. It has inspired people of all races across the country to stand up just as they did. Now, if you still can’t see the significance of having US share our OWN stories and you think this desire is “disgusting” (I’ve literally read these exact words over text message before), then I suggest you step away from this movement. This movement not only supports sensible gun laws, but it also supports equality amongst all as we all continue to fight for the same ideals that my ancestors have been fighting for for decades. I pray that this article strikes a nerve with someone, specifically in the Los Angeles area, to reach out to their black peers and extend an invitation into this movement to unify us rather than divide us.