A thematically important question in a Liberation Theology course I took was in the form of a phrase: “for whom?” It possesses meaningful and directive implications.
That being said, I’d like to attach it to the end of an issue, one that has, especially in recent years, been a hot topic for the United States: gun control.
Students from the school and across the country have stepped up and into their activism shoes to join in the fight for gun control. Both a school walkout and a march were planned and executed by these young change-seekers.
And throngs of folks across the country stood in solidarity and support of the cause. While disheartened by the unspeakable robbing of life and in attendance of the March for Our Lives, I could not get the question out of my head: gun control for whom?
Amid questions about whether gun control is plausible and how, I can’t help but wonder who exactly are gun control activists looking to protect.
While no two circumstances are the same, it’s hard for me to look at the public outcry supporting Parkland students and wonder why that same show of unity doesn’t exist for victims of gun violence at, say, the hands of police or in poverty-induced inner cities.
Too often race plays a critical role in how victims of violence are perceived and treated.
It speaks volumes that the white Parkland high school students who have embraced their roles as activists have along the way also admitted their privilege by extension of their race. And through the sphere of protest and activism, they have attempted to use their privilege as a platform to not only raise awareness to that specific issue, but also build bridges with those marginalized.
Gun violence is something that disproportionately affects black people in this country. However, when the topic of gun control and violence is forced upon in society, a greater response both quantitatively and qualitatively is afforded to white victims.
I unequivocally believe the students from MSD High deserve the gun control they’ve been fighting for. But so did Trayvon Martin. Alton Sterling. Tamir Rice. Rekia Boyd.
So do other victims of police brutality as well as folks who have suffered from inadequate policy or action like Florida’s Marissa Alexander and St. John’s University’s own Arshell (Trey) Dennis III, who was murdered while visiting his family before the start of the school year on the front porch of his Chicago home. Attaching the phrase “for whom?” to a statement strikes up investigation into the context surrounding a certain thing.
For example, freedom has always been a revered ideal in America. Who could take issue with freedom? Nobody. But what if you add “for whom?” Think about that, and think about history. Freedom is at the core of our country’s ideals yet it wasn’t all that long ago that everyone here enjoyed freedom as a right.
Hopefully, more white folks across the country, in the patriotic practice of fighting for better, will come to do so taking into account all the brown and black victims of gun violence.
Editor’s note: this story has been edited June 27, 2020 to revise incorrect information regarding the death of Arshell (Trey) Dennis III.