The black students at the Florida high school where 17 people were gunned down in February have not appeared on cable news or the cover of magazines as much as some of their classmates, but their recent entry into the conversation is a reminder of why diverse voices are needed.
At a news conference black Parkland students called on Wednesday, NPR's Nadege Green reported that they questioned whether the same people who showed up for the anti-gun-violence March for Our Lives would also stand up for black men killed by police such as Stephon Clark and Alton Sterling.
In the weeks since the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, it has been noted how Americans have reacted differently to the student activists of Parkland vs. the youth of urban communities who deal with the issue of gun violence on a more regular basis and have been vocal about the topic for years.
The absence of black student voices is something that even their white peers have acknowledged.
David Hogg, one of the most visible student activists from Parkland, was asked where the news media “tripped up” in its coverage of the tragic shooting. “Not giving black students a voice,” he told Axios. “My school is about 25 percent black, but the way we’re covered doesn’t reflect that.”
One criticism of the conversation about school shootings is that it is operating in a silo and is not factoring in other incidents of gun violence and how they are often interconnected for people from minority communities. While some see police shootings of unarmed black men as a separate issue from other recent gun violence, some students of color have noted how one issue could potentially lead to the other.
Kai Koerber, 17, expressed concerns about being racially profiled as more armed guards are potentially added in schools.
“It’s bad enough we have to return with clear backpacks,” he told the Miami Herald. “Should we also return with our hands up?”
To some black students and activists, school shootings, other mass shootings and police violence are connected and deserve comparable amounts of attention, Brittany Packnett, activist and educator, said in a Mic op-ed.
“The key to this issue is solidarity. We have to show up for one another and one another's issues. Don't only show up when it affects you. Recognize that gun violence affected Alton Sterling and Stephon Clark just like it did the young people in Parkland and Sandy Hook,” Packnett wrote.
Gun policy is currently dominating political conversations, but for many voters, particularly those from communities of color, the gun-violence solution needs to be a comprehensive one. These voters headed into the midterm election may be looking to lawmakers who care as much about unarmed black men as they do mass shootings in white communities.