By EMILY WEIKL
The recent mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School was the fuel to get students to speak out for change. The activism of the students of Parkland, Florida have inspired many with their Never Again movement and have organized marches with the support of thousands.
Yet those are the same things the members of the Black Lives Matter movement have been doing.
“Organizing around Black Lives Matter and the larger Movement for Black Lives, another youth-led movement demanding policy change in the wake of trauma, was not and has not been as readily embraced,” according to Vox.
The Black Lives Matter Movement was founded in 2013, after George Zimmerman was acquitted of shooting and killing Trayvon Martin. African Americans have been on guard when it comes to interacting with police officers, and statistics show that their fear is not unfounded.
“Black people, according to an analysis of FBI data,
represent 13% of the population, but one-third of those killed by police,” website Refinery29 said. “As evidenced in many cases, most recently those of Saheed Vassell and Stephon Clark, unarmed black men are at greater risk of being killed by police officers.”
Such shootings are commonplace. Clark’s was on March 18 and Vassell’s on April 4. Their stories will be in the news for a while. But soon enough they will disappear from the headlines. It won’t be certain when, or if, the same will happen to the Parkland student’s movement. It cannot be disputed, though, that they have been viewed in a more favorable light and have had substantially more public funding than the BLM movement.
“Gosh. This is amazing. And I’m not being sarcastic,” Oprah Winfrey said in a Feb.20 tweet. “I have to be honest and say that I’m a bit taken aback (and a bit hurt) that those of us who were in the streets in the past five years for black lives didn’t receive this type of reception or public support.”
A look at the demographics of Parkland reveal that white people are in the majority, and that many Parkland citizens are wealthy.
“The population of Parkland, FL is 68.3% white,” according to DataUsa.io. It also has a “a median household income of $130,107.”
Black Lives Matter Network co-founder Patrisse Cullors believes that being white allows a person a pass in numerous situations.
“White people get to be everything. They get to be victims and they get to be heroes. And black people, unfortunately, continue to be criminalized for our moments of courage, for our moments of mourning and grieving,” Cullors said during a HuffPost Black History Month panel earlier this week.
A major reason why the BLM movement has not been seen the same way as the Parkland movement is that the issue behind the former seems more contentious.
“To join a movement, people must first agree that the cause is justifiable. Mainstream America doesn’t see police shootings that way,” according to The Chicago Tribune. “In the backs of a lot of people’s minds, including some African-Americans, there is always the nagging question of whether people like 12-year-old Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, Philando Castile and Alton Sterling did something to provoke their deaths.”
The individuals involved in the Parkland, Sandy Hook, Pulse, and Las Vegas incidents were doing nothing other than going to school or enjoying themselves. They did not reach into their pocket or hold something that looks like a gun. They are innocent victims of gun violence. To some, the black men and women who have been shot by police are not. It is in this split that there is a reason why the BLM movement has not been given the same treatment of the Never Again movement. But regardless of a person’s belief in someone’s guilt, these two issues should both share the spotlight. It now looks like that is becoming a possibility.
“The Stoneman Douglas survivors recently met with the survivors of the 2016 Pulse nightclub shooting. And groups like the Dream Defenders are also looking to connect,” Vox wrote. “But in a country that still struggles to confront its racial demons, addressing the larger rift in who gets attention and who doesn’t will require much more.”