I’m having a huge problem with the current news cycle at the moment. There seems to be a complete disconnect between those on the top of our hierarchy and the people who are in the middle and at the bottom. For some reason, I’ve got a President who doesn’t really want to include women or people of color in his cabinet, I’ve got the NRA trying to convince us that nothing is going to happen with Congress because they basically own it, and I’ve got a country trying its best to start a real and meaningful discussion about gun control without enough significant voices at the table.
Like so many others, the Sandy Hook tragedy was devastating to me. I’m a former teacher, I’m the mother of two young sons. I cried for hours while watching the news trickle in. As everything crystallized and the numbness fell away, I participated, with relish, in the conversation among friends about what we should do. I wrote a letter to my President and I look forward to writing to my senators (as soon as I figure out who is actually going to be my senator!) in the future. So many people have wanted to blame something: Lack of gun control, lack of help for the mentally ill, a violent culture, violent video games. I feel like I’ve seen all of these aspects: My uncle was gunned down in an ally when I was 5. My Father is a former army soldier who had multiple weapons in the house (not locked up, either). My husband is a card-carrying NRA member who took me to the shooting range at NRA headquarters as one of our first dates. My brother and sister-in-law are gun owners who store their guns in old Mac Book Pro boxes and leave the boxes on the floor for their kid to crawl on. I’m a mother who is also a core gamer: Just last night I played Mass Effect 3, a violent shooter. I admit to enjoying the occasional shoot-em-up movie (I still, very much, want to see Django). Furthermore, I live in a metropolitan area that is violent and has a history of violence, especially urban violence. And that is the thing that gets to me most, because as I see the key voices of this Post-Newtown gun-control discussion begin to emerge, I’m noticing that few of them are women and none of them (with exception of the President) are of color. Sandy Hook and gun violence in general absolutely transcend race, but Mothers of Color (and white mothers of children of color) should be part of the conversation.
I really applaud the President for creating a comprehensive and swift working task force on gun violence in this country. I am looking forward to hearing about and reading the recommendations that the panel has given to the President, and I’m even more looking forward to seeing what the President decides to do with the data. I know that the task force brought a lot of people to the table: the NRA, the various political parties, families of the victims, super retailers who choose to carry guns in the same corner as diapers in their stores , and other such groups. That’s all well and good, but here is who wasn’t at the table: The NAACP, the National Urban League, or any other major organization that specifically works people of color living in urban areas. Gun violence in major urban centers involving young people of color is disproportionately reported in the news around this country, though we know that gun violence can and does happen in White communities too. Why wouldn’t people of color, who are also bombarded with the threat of gun violence in their communities, be invited to take part in such high level talks and brainstorming? Why is it that the mothers of color, who grieve for their children in this country are not given the opportunity to organize and speak with those who would do great and powerful things to prevent great tragedy from happening again? And even after all of those people came in and out of Joe Biden’s conference room, the NRA still decided to posture instead of take meaningful position on this important issue. So, too, it would seem, has everyone else. Posture without position is useless. And that’s what we got a lot of this weekend.
There is a grassroots thing happening right now, too, as always happens after something big. Demand a Plan has come out with a very interesting campaign that has been pointed out to be a bit disingenuous. There are some that have popped up solely out of reaction to Sandy Hook, like the 1 Million Moms for gun control campaign. Even today, the Sandy Hook Promise foundation was launched. All of these organizations are good for the moment, being able to harness the feelings of helplessness that we are feeling, channel the anger and the “I want to do something” feeling that a lot of us still have. But these organizations, as we well know, get shut out over time. These groups are no match for the larger, louder, fiercer, richer organizations that are out there to counter them. The Brady Center, for example, is working for what I’d like to see done. Or my favorite in this regard, the Children’s Defense Fund, is looking specifically at the intersection between children and gun violence. The problem with these organizations is that they can be just as marginalized as the NRA can be. We know that groups like this end up taking positions that are not always considered to be moderate or mainstream. Everything ends up muddled in the conversation while people backtrack and otherwise qualify everything that they say. Upon doing some very basic searches around the NAACP and National Urban League’s websites, I saw absolutely nothing addressing gun control or gun issues, even though we know gun violence is one of the leading causes of death for our youth. And of all of the organizations that I listed, again, where are the Mothers of Color? Why are there no faces of color in the conversation about what direction we as a nation should take in the direction of mounting gun violence? I understand that in the face of unspeakable tragedy, it’s uncomfortable to talk about race. The discomfort is palpable. I’m not trying to make this a Black and White issue, I’m trying to say that it is important that we at least have a voice in the conversation, especially because the violence that riddles the Black community is so prominently and disproportionately reported in the everyday news cycle. If we’re going to allow that, if we as a nation are going to accept that, we need to own it and be players in the conversation that’s happening around it.
I’m bringing race into this conversation not because I want to be decisive but because I want to have a chance to be heard. Because I am the mother of two little brown sons who can be shot by a vigilante in my neighborhood, by a madman in a movie theater, by a madman at their school, by a disaffected youth on a city street, by a police officer with an itchy finger, by a frighteningly long list of people. Guns are pointed at my sons. And not just assault rifles with clips with more than 10 bullets. The guns that are most likely to kill my children are handguns obtained legally or illegally. The guns most likely to harm my sons are the ones bought for “recreation” by the person who never goes hunting or for “home protection” so it’s never locked up. The guns that are most likely to maim my sons are the ones passed from youth to youth in a gang or stolen out of houses in robberies, or the perfectly legal gun in a man’s truck or on his hip who is in a bad mood, in the wrong place, at the wrong time. I’m bringing race into this because I know that an assault rifle ban will do absolutely nothing for the kids in Chicago and DC and Baltimore and Boston who are in the street, right now, pointing guns at their neighbors. I’m bringing race into this because the NRA and absolutely backward states like Arizona, want to arm literal posses to go roaming around schools with guns, which is dangerous and unacceptable. We know that gun violence transcends race, we know that a bullet does not discriminate, but it seems to me that we need to start looking for solutions that also transcend race.
I’ve got a small blog with a handful of followers, and I’ll probably lose a few over this post, and that’s fine. I started this blog because I’m a mother of color who feels voiceless in this country. Mothers of Color (and mothers of children of color) are being shut out of conversations that are absolutely, unequivocally vital to the safety and development of our children. I’m writing because I’m desperate to find women who can open up the world for my children. I’m writing because I’m desperate for the political capital given to our White counterparts from the inception of this republic.
Who, of these men, is looking out for our children? Knows them well enough that you know, in your mother’s heart, that they care and know what their doing?