Children of color die every day. Whether in their schools or “driving while Black,” they have lost lives due to gun violence by their peers or police. We lose them to violence on the streets, inadequate law enforcement, school systems that don’t invest enough time in their children…just to name a few. The irony is that our country remained silent – until now.
But why? What was particularly different about the Parkland shooting that encouraged the country to get together and create the March for our Lives movement? Black lives were crying out “enough is enough” long before the March for Our Lives campaign, but their plea fell on deaf ears.
Don’t get me wrong. Children taking the lead on a march around the nation to demand gun reform is very powerful and necessary. I sincerely believe that our youth are getting bolder and more equipped to changing this country around – but I have to ask, why weren’t we this outraged for Treyvon Martin? Why weren’t we this outraged every time we turned on the news to see another shooting where lives of POC were lost in Chicago, Los Angeles, or New York?
You’ll probably say that is why the Black Lives Matter movement exists, but something tells me that this country still doesn’t understand the value of a Black child’s life. We are outraged when a suburban school district is gunned down, but we do not turn out for our Black brothers and sisters in the same numbers demanding that our schools invest more into each child. I don’t see you protesting that police officers stop profiling people based on their race. Where are you protesting that our cities stop gentrifying and start investing in inner city neighborhoods as much as suburbs invest in their own schools and streets? Yes. I’m calling you out.
In case you didn’t know, we lose thousands of children to the school to prison pipeline. Children of color are given less of an opportunity to thrive – yet, we still do not march to ensure that those children can live a life of, at minimum, equity so that they are afforded the same opportunities as their White brothers and sisters.
I am Arab American and I pass for White. And while I can’t speak out of personal experience to the issues that children of color face, I continue to see the emotional distress that has encompassed their lives (long before the national march took place this week.) Our young Black brothers and sisters are the ones who marched back during Brown v. Board of Education, who marched down with MLK from Selma to Montgomery, and they are the ones who faced the police when law enforcement killed and took innocent Black lives from us – from Treyvon to Philando.
This country has not yet asked itself, “Why now?” Why now when it was needed before? Why didn’t they march and create hashtags and do school walk-outs before?
We cannot allow our young children of color believe that a movement is not legitimized until it happens in a predominantly White or suburban district. We must ensure that we stand for all children seeking an education – or seeking to live a life without the fear of gun violence. We must ensure that every child, no matter what race or socio-economic status has equal footing in schools and safety.
We need to make sure that we are talking about all children when we are talking about access to mental health services. In a recent study released by JAMA Network, the suicide rate among Black children has nearly doubled since the 1990’s, but has declined among White children. We still don’t understand the hard truth about differences in access to services for Black and White children. Health services, emotional and social support in schools, a proper educational system, economic opportunity and more are not equally available – and this is killing their future.
Lastly, we need to acknowledge our own privileges and use this energy to sustain and create an inclusive movement that works towards the protection of all children. March for our Lives is amazing and inspiring. A movement led by powerful voices of young people across the nation has finally opened the eyes of this country, reminding them that violence can happen at any time to any of our kids. And while I wish we would have done this sooner, it’s not too late to use this platform to change our policies so that every child can feel safe in their schools and their streets. Just, while you’re marching, keep in mind you are marching for all races, for every person – not just for your own community.