opinion   |   column

Support young black activists

The youth’s capacity to bring about political change has been an important news topic after the shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. There are politicians and celebrities praising and supporting the activism of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students.

The importance of this situation is not young people are politically involved and protesting — this has always occurred. The difference is now, everyone is paying attention. 

However, young black activists deserve to be supported and protected by the general public in the same way as the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students.

First and foremost, this argument is not to discount the amazing activism of these students working to  have legislation enacting stricter gun regulations. These students have survived an unthinkable tragedy and have come together stronger than ever.

The media is covering many facets of this movement, which is undoubtedly a good thing. It allows the public to get involved while holding responsible politicians accountable. 

However, while the media has been covering gun violence, the media has not paid the same attention to movements led by black youth. Although they have had ample opportunity throughout the past. A good example lies in Ferguson, Missouri. 

In 2014, Michael Brown, a black teenager in Ferguson, was shot by a white police officer, Darren Wilson. This led to immediate mass protest against the murder and the unjust racial profiling and violence enacted by police officers. Protests were still occurring months after the the incident.

The youth activism did not only consist of protests. Students and young leaders have attended the National Youth Summit sponsored by the National 4-H Council, met with business leaders, and spoke to younger students at nearby schools.

Despite all of this work, these efforts went largely unnoticed by the media. In this case, this media silence is deafening.

Author Roxanne Gay tweeted “It is interesting to note the difference in support for the kids in FL versus the kids in Black Lives Matter. I say that with full admiration for the kids in FL, to survive such a trauma and fight for everyone to be safer. But that’s also what was happening in Ferguson and beyond”.

An immediate reply to the tweet, from writer Kendriana Washington, states: “To support BLM you have to acknowledge state violence against marginalized people and the fact that it is systemic . Neo-Liberals don’t want to do that.” 

This touches on the heart of the matter.

Ferguson is not the only place to look for powerful demonstrations by black youth. It is happening everywhere, and it has been forever, from the Civil Rights Movement to Black Lives Matter.

Oprah tweeted, “George and Amal, I couldn’t agree with you more. I am joining forces with you and will match your $500,000 donation to ‘March For Our Lives.’ These inspiring young people remind me of the Freedom Riders of the 60s who also said we’ve had ENOUGH and our voices will be heard.”

It is upsetting young black activists are not the ones being compared to the Freedom Riders by important media figures like Oprah, who has previously received backlash for her critiques of Black Lives Matter

We need to be fighting for gun control and keep supporting the young activists leading the way, but this is not enough. We need to support young black activists just as much. It is the best way to enact real change.

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