I wanted to focus on Black History Month for all 4 of my posts this month, but I feel like this is important to talk through. In the midst of watching the world grow up around me, my goals and hopes rearranged with every step I take. I’ve got some big plans for my future, I know I have said that before.
But weeks like this make me wonder “what if I never get there?”
I used to follow every news story, whether it came out in class or late at night, I would go through each memorial and headline and tribute video down to the end. Call it an need to know, I’m not sure why I did that, but it felt important. I guess in some sense, I was trying to understand how we even got to where we were and where we are now, how it all happened. Each child, each sibling, each mother, each friend… To me, their losses felt personal.
Because they are.
When I look at the news, I have to acknowledge the fact that those could be my friends, my parents, my brothers, my classmates. I know it’s not just me; I’ve gotten a few extra calls from my parents this week, not because midterms have made these weeks so busy or for Valentines day ,but because they miss us. And I think they need a reminder that we’re still here.
That we’re okay. I’m sure my parents aren’t the only ones.
I’ve only been out of high school for almost two years now and it is astou
nding to me how much I see changing. I remember the lock down drills we used to do– good for preparation but I don’t think we truly took them seriously enough in the weight of what we were possibly preparing for. Even as the last six years hold the 4/5 deadliest mass shootings in the US modern history, schools often being targeted, I know I was ignorant in my own security. Maybe I has the privilege of feeling that way, of not quite acknowledging the reality around me.
I can’t say students now have that luxury.
There’s a video circulating Twitter that’s been up for past two days; a Florida student is filming in a classroom as police come in to help a girl with a gunshot wound to the leg, before ushering others out through the halls. The officers keep telling them to stick close to the walls while they cry and run, passing unmoving friends and peers on the floor along the way out.
I wasn’t going to watch it, I didn’t want to. Yet I clicked play anyway, the need to understand more compelling than the need to be complacently ignorant. But in watching that video, nothing makes any more sense than how devastating it is to go through something like that. To accept the reality as it is for students and citizens trying to figure out where to go from here.
People are scared and I could not imagine being in middle school or even elementary school right now. Maybe comprehension at those ages isn’t as deep as it is for me now, but I think everyone knows something is wrong.
As a young black woman, I can be proud of the opportunities I have and the platforms I can reach in this day and age– fifty years ago, things were very different for people like me. Sometimes I get excited, thinking of the capability and creativity and intelligence I see in the presence of my generation. It can be humbling to acknowledge just how much I think we can do,
with so much technology and capability at our fingertips.
But I also worry, about the lives we are coming into and the safety of our current state, the questions that come with it. I worry about the fear that now seems to haunt my generation and those coming after us. Because this uncertainty doesn’t discriminate by skin or gender or color or even political party. Every single one of us is living in this reality of yet another mass shooting just this year.
Shouldn’t just one be enough?
Something needs to change. There have been too many “prayers go out to…” or “my heart is with…” You can fill in whatever place you want there; it’s probably still on the ever growing list of places tragedy has struck. Yet nothing changes, people pray and lives are lost and it happens all over again. Now I’m not saying gun control is the solution, nor am I saying the opposite.
What I am saying is this: memorials and prayers and testimonies and thoughts are not enough. Though thoughts are great and we all have our own need for faith, neither is doing anything to change the future. We need to do something more than just watch more people lose their lives. Sure, I talk a lot about mental health because it’s important– these news headlines talk about mental health because it’s an excuse. This is just a factor. There’s more to these situations than that, than being “orphaned at 19” or having an “undiagnosed mental illness“.
We need to go deeper and find a way to fix the problem, whatever and how large this problem may be. Because it’s not going away.
Students shouldn’t have to be afraid to go to school. I wish I didn’t have all these plans in my life only to lie awake and night and wonder “what if I never get to finish that book?” or “when was the last time I told my parents I love them?”
I don’t want to keep following these stories, the friends or the families or the lives, taking each loss personally when they aren’t and they are at the same time.
I just want to see things change– I don’t know how or when or what, but we can’t keep waiting. We can’t keep watching it all fall apart. I don’t want to live in a world where I look at the news and think “Oh, another one?”
And I know too many people feel this way too.