[Image from USA Today]
By Olivia Bokesch
Today marks the one-year anniversary of the Parkland, Florida school shooting where 17 teenagers were murdered by a peer. This shooting led many students from Parkland to become activists and speak out against gun violence and for gun reforms. The voices of those Parkland students like Emma Gonzalez and David Hogg, sparked March for Our Lives, a movement that hundreds of thousands of teens around the US joined to march and protest for gun reforms. However, school shootings are only a portion of the problem when it comes to gun violence.
96 Americans per day are killed in gun violence, more than any other developed country. Almost half of that number is women and the majority of those are women of color. 1 in 3 women experience domestic abuse that can then lead to homicide where 52% of female victims are killed by guns. Black women have higher rates of gun homicide than any other group of women. 30% of Hispanic female homicides by men were carried out with a firearm. Transgender women are four times more likely to experience gun violence than cisgender women, and about 85% of trans victims are women of color. 2017 was one of the deadliest years on record for trans women of color with 28 victims and over half were killed with a gun.
Although the Parkland students admirably brought gun violence and reforms to the forefront of mainstream media, black communities and activists have been fighting for those exact gun reforms for years. The difference? Instead of being given the support and energy others have dedicated to the Parkland students, the black teens fighting for better gun laws have been demonized, dismissed, and ignored.
A young black activist named Naomi Wadler spoke about this exact issue in her speech at last year’s Washington D.C. March for Our Lives. She touched on how African-Americans, and more specifically women of color, are disproportionately affected by gun violence, yet still go overlooked in the fight for gun reforms. Black women are three times more likely to be killed with a gun than white women, and America’s broken criminal justice system leads people of color to systemic gun violence at the hands of law enforcement.
Black Lives Matter was founded by three black women: Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi and within the movement there is still a fight for focus to include the women affected by law enforcement gun violence alongside the men. Initiatives like Say Her Name, a social movement created to bring awareness to the women like Rekia Boyd, Sandra Bland, and Yvette Smith who have been assaulted and/or killed by law enforcement. Along with this violence, women can be targeted by law enforcement in gendered ways like sexual assault and harassment.
Another minority group that is frequently overlooked when it comes to gun violence is Hispanic-Americans and Latinx. 3,200 Hispanic-Americans die by gun violence every year with 90% of the 49 people shot in the 2016 Pulse nightclub shooting being Latino. Border patrol shot and killed four Latina women last year in the span of two weeks, all four women were unarmed. Lately, there has been a greater outcry for the issue of Latinx life and death to no longer be sidelined, but recognized and helped towards solution.
HOW DO WE FIGHT FOR GUN VIOLENCE AND THE COMMUNITIES OF COLOR AFFECTED BY IT?
There are dozens of organizations across America that focus on finding solutions for ending gun violence, especially in communities of color.Many are listed at the bottom of this post.It is important to remember that solutions to end gun violence must take into account the effects of racism, law enforcement, and the mass incarceration of people of color.Also, many services set up to aid victims and survivors of gun violence are inaccessible to women of color.Without recognizing and upholding the intersectionality of the movement, whole communities and groups of people can be overlooked and nothing will improve for them.If you are white, taking a step back and listening to the communities of color about their needs to end gun violence, is the first step you should take before going into the fight yourself.Always continue educating yourself with the resources below to stay aware and current.
GUN VIOLENCE ORGANIZATIONS
- Black Lives Matter
- Everytown for Gun Safety
- March for Our Lives
- Million Hoodies
- Wear Orange
- Coalition to Stop Gun Violence
- Newark Anti-Violence Coalition
- Community Justice Reform Coalition