Justice Without Us Is Not Justice For Us

Chanice Lee, teen activist

“Non-Black activists are not listening to Black voices and it is killing us.” — Jamila Mitchell, Black Youth Project

Long before Parkland students decided they’d “had enough” and descended on Washington, D.C. to “March For Our Lives,” young people of color flooded the streets, protesting an even more pervasive school violence problem — Jim Crow. The headlines back then, however, bore a marked difference to today’s media coverage:

Youth activism did not begin at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, but the overwhelming support for youth activists did. And the current sympathy sits in sharp contrast to historic hostility toward the mobilization efforts of Black and Brown teens. Women and youth of color have spent decades protesting gun violence and fighting for gun reform. Native communities have organized resistance against state-sanctioned violence for centuries. More recently, in 2013, teen activists took over the state capitol to protest Florida’s “stand your ground” law that allowed Trayvon Martin’s killer to go free. That march, along with the protests in Ferguson, catalyzed the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement. Yet the positive media attention given to Parkland’s student activists differs vastly from the often negative response to BLM.

Activists of color get nowhere near the same level of support, resources, or recognition as the predominantly white student leaders of the #NeverAgain movement. We’re more likely to be criminalized than to receive celebrity donations. Our pleas to “stop killing us” are ignored or invite further police brutality. When we protest gun violence, the national media barely covers us. All too often, we are silenced preemptively; just days before the mass shooting in Parkland, school officials shut down Black student organizers as they attempted to speak out against a student-penned letter titled “All Lives Matter.”

There’s nothing covert or incidental about this double standard. It exists because it’s supposed to. In a white supremacist system that feeds off the subjugation of people of color, white lives will always matter more than Black ones.

Youth of color activism lacks Parkland-levels of support or visibility because being “safe” in our schools and communities is less about gun control and more about targeting institutional racism. Our safety does not mean increasing “zero tolerance” policies or armed police officers in schools. Those very policies put our youth in greater peril, as one of the main perpetrators of gun violence against Black, Brown, and Native bodies is the police. For us, gun reform and school safety is inextricably linked to racial justice and confronting state-sponsored violence against people of color.

Gun violence disproportionately impacts our communities and has claimed more Native and youth of color lives than white ones for years, long before the deaths of white children brought the issue into mainstream media’s (white) spotlight. Accordingly, the conversation and local movement-building behind gun reform must be intersectional and center youth of color. And yet, student protests following the Parkland shooting have made it glaringly obvious that race is being largely ignored in the debate over gun control. Meanwhile, Black, Brown, and Native children continue to face a Parkland crisis every day, more so at the hands of police brutality than accidental gun death or school shootings.

When will you march for us, too?

ACTIONS AND DONATIONS

“I wasn’t born a leader; I was agitated into choosing leadership by growing up on the South Side of Chicago. I didn’t wake up at 18 understanding what white supremacy, patriarchy, anti-blackness, and capitalism meant. Self-study, comrades, elders, and people I met in the streets taught me how to understand the world and gave me the room to imagine a radically different future.”

— Charlene Caruthers, Black Youth Project

Naomi Wadler, #MarchForOurLives speech

Black, Brown, and Native children have been gunned down for centuries while white America looked away. State-sanctioned violence is just another facet of the institutionalized oppression and disenfranchisement we experience daily. The current “March for our lives” movement, while giving a platform to some POC voices, was not created by or for us. For communities of color, the systemic, ever-present racism of state sanctioned violence batters us daily and limits our future options. We need restorative, community-driven solutions. And we need them now.

1. Learn from youth of color activists and build solidarity.

2. Help create safe communities that protect youth of color from state sanctioned violence. Use these resources as templates to model local actions.

3. Protect students of color from zero tolerance policies, racially disproportionate disciplinary actions, and increased police presence.

  • Use this step-by-step guide to the Department of Education’s latest data on racial disparities and school disciplinary practices and policies.
  • Demand divestment from school police officers and other “school-to-prison pipeline” practices listed in the #NoCopsNoGuns: Student Walkout Toolkit from the Advancement Project.
  • Sign this Color of Change petition to keep guns out of the hands of teachers. Use the following link to send a tweet to state officials (Tell Your Governor: #NoCopsNoGuns).
  • Follow these strategies to protect youth of color from the state-sanctioned violence policies in our schools: Read the full report on Law and Order in School and Society: How Discipline and Policing Policies Harm Students of Color, and What We Can Do About It here.
  • Parents: use this checklist to determine the role of police in schools and to help advocate for your children and end zero tolerance policies.

4. Youth activists of color: Remember self-care is integral and fundamental to your activism.

5. Financially Support Local, Youth-Led Organizations and Initiatives

“We came from all across the entire country to be here for this specific moment, because I want my people to feel empowered. And I want them to go back out into the field and to know, when they get back into the local organizing: That’s where it matters.” — Tiffany Dena Loftin

In the wake of BLM and Trayvon Martin’s killing, several campaigns and initiatives formed by youth organizers are leading the fight against anti-black racism, the criminalization of people of color, gun violence, and other forms of state sanctioned violence. Lives depend on your financial support of these organizations:

This is Action Call #25 in a series. Read past calls to action from Threads of Solidarity here. You can financially support our work at https://www.buymeacoffee.com/solidaritywoc.

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A collective voice for women of color solidarity and liberation. Warding against the sunken place. Not here for delusional Becky or Chad the Explainer.

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Threads of Solidarity: WOC Against Racism

Threads of Solidarity: WOC Against Racism

A collective voice for women of color solidarity and liberation. Warding against the sunken place. Not here for delusional Becky or Chad the Explainer.

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