In the past two weeks, we have seen and heard countless reminders that guns are a direct threat to Black lives, Asian lives, and Latine/Latinx lives, both in the hands of professionals and civilians. We’ve seen these reminders in Atlanta, Oakland, Buffalo, Irvine, San Bernardino, Uvalde. We hear the echo of voices from two years ago this week when communities rose up to mourn the police murder of George Floyd, and to call out the name of Breonna Taylor, taken by police gun violence. Within the past two weeks, we’ve lost too many lives of Black grocery shoppers, innocent Latine/Latinx children and teachers, and Taiwanese churchgoers. All crimes of hate. All crimes committed with legally purchased weapons.
The problem we face is guns, but also the meaning and purpose of guns in this country’s politics and culture. The fantasy of the “good guy with a gun” who will protect our children, our elders and our communities proves again and again to be a dismally ineffective response to gun violence—and all too often a devastatingly effective alibi for the continued targeting of BIPOC communities by armed professionals who pose a direct threat to community life and safety. Our children will continue to live with lockdown drills and pervasive fear after all the lives taken in Uvalde, and for the BIPOC children in those classrooms especially, the armed state agent whom we are told will safeguard them will only intensify the threat to their safety and that of their families.
Meanwhile, the image of the armed private citizen which U.S. culture continues to present as the figure of (white, cis male) freedom has its roots and its present reality in white supremacy and systemic racism. The “well-regulated militias” of the Second Amendment were more often than not charged primarily with crushing Black liberation: hunting individual enslaved Africans who dared to attempt escape, and standing ready to suppress collective uprisings against the slave system by armed force. The lineage of racial terror from those militias to the Buffalo shooter is direct. And the ideology that drives this violence continues to drive the ongoing growth of a hugely profitable gun industry as it expands the overproduction and overdistribution of firearms into every corner of this country’s life.
We can look for ways to find solace and meaning in times like this. We must find energy to fight the systems that perpetuate the disposability of BIPOC folks, of children, of queer folks, and disabled folks. We must continue to uplift and support all the future activists we have budding in our school systems. We must hope that our communities come together to fight our real enemies: white supremacy and capitalism. We must hope that our youth will rise and speak out in ways that their previous generation hasn’t. We must hope. We must not be silent. We must fight. We must heal, together.
If you are looking for resources to help process everything that is going on, please consider the following:
Resources for Educators, Families to Discuss Mass Shootings in the Community — San Diego County Office of Education
School Shooting Resources —The National Child Traumatic Stress Network
Mass Shootings – Coping Resources — Washington State Psychological Association
Mental Health Support Resources — National Alliance on Mental Illness
24-Hour Crisis Support — Crisis Support Services of Alameda County
Talking to Children About Violence: Tips for Parents and Teachers – National Association of School Psychologists
How to Talk To Kids About School Shootings – Common Sense Media
Parent Guidelines for helping youth after a shooting – National Child Traumatic Stress Network
Responding to School Violence – Tips for Administrators – National Association of School Psychologists
Anxiety Over School Shootings – Child Mind Institute
Helping Students Cope With A Violent World – Edutopia
[This statement created with input from Mynesha Whyte, Maighna Jain, and Taylor Brady, with additional resource links provided by Genevieve Richardson].