On Feb. 14, 17 students were murdered in a mass shooting at a Florida high school. On March 14, one month later, tens of thousands of students across the country walked out of school at for 17 minutes to honor the victims’ lives. On March 24, nearly one million people nationwide marched in protest of gun violence demanding policy reform from the U.S. government.
In just the matter of a month, the youth of America have managed to instigate a movement against the spilling innocent blood and hatred of the ignorant through the movement quite unironically titled “March for Our Lives”. Generation Z has earned its rightful place in the political atmosphere and it is time this country recognizes that. Nonetheless, every movement needs fuel, and changing your twitter avatars into a colored ribbon, captioning #ENOUGHISENOUGH and carrying a couple cardboard signs will not cut it.
The fight for gun control is the fight for student lives, and that means all student lives. Acknowledging the issue of gun violence is not complete without acknowledging the issue of violence and brutality towards people of color. We cannot ignore the brown lives that don’t get nationwide media coverage or press infested vigils. As we remember the name Scott Beigel we must also remind ourselves with the names that aren’t as repeated on the news like Hadiya Pendleton and Courtin Arrington and Taiyania Thompson. Our generation has redrawn lines of acceptance and erased those of stigma, therefore this movement must be one of intersectionality. And while the lives lost in Parkland will always matter, many overlook the atrocities that befall PoC and have befallen PoC for decades. Students across the nation should harness the momentum building from Parkland, with the goal of creating positive in all areas infiltrated with violence, in and out of the classroom. This means developing a safe classroom while simultaneously fighting for a solid framework of safety for inner and outer city neighborhoods.
When looking at the history of America’s activist movements, we must take into account their paths in order to learn from them. The Women’s March paralleled the March For Our Lives in its numbers and momentum. What paved the way for the #METOO campaign was not just the pink pussy hats and promises of patriarchal defeat, it was human beings all coming together with a common goal, and then dedicating their lives to it. The Women’s March was followed by policy proposals, Hollywood’s Times Up calling for an end to sexual harassment and inequality in the workplace, registered voting ballots followed by votes contributing to the movement, talk shows, magazines, books, congressional discussions, town halls and so much more. The compilation of this commitment contributed to beginning the construction of a safe and egalitarian society for women.
Bandwagoning approaches come along with most movements, most notably because it is simply simpler. There is no denying that carpooling downtown for a rally is easier than researching and contact your representatives, flooding their inboxes and constantly calling their offices, but the easy way out never saved lives. Voting is a privilege but it is also a weapon. If our representatives cannot support their constituents, then we must vote them out or become the leaders we hope to see. Start local organizations, talk to your schools, advocate through social media, keep yourself in tune with the world around you, open up your ears for people that share a different opinion than you, start discussions, research bills, support bills, support candidates that support those bills, hold town hall meetings, canvas, phone-bank. None of those options include silence. Walking out on March 14 was a promise we made to this country. We do not get to complain about the threatened status of safety we currently face if we seldom educated about how it got there and the processes of working with the system to change it.
Complaining doesn’t start revolutions, but ballots do. Giving yourself a pat on the back and expecting change is not enough. Sometimes, enough isn’t enough.