March On

Welcome to March, BlackLight readers! Though fighters need moments of rest, the fight never ends. So, we go one more day to discuss a bit more of what resistance and protest look like, how the context is complex, and how we need to pay attention to that complexity.

As we enter into this new month, let’s take its name to heart and talk about what it means to march. When we say “March On”, we don’t necessarily mean it literally—yes, marching has a long history as a tool in the activist’s kit, but as we’ve been talking about all month, there are many ways to drive change.

But protest is yet again in the news, this time centering on how the February 14th mass shooting in Parkland has galvanized youth activism. In the wake of student protests, colleges and universities have been releasing statements saying that any ramifications from students’ participation in these protests (including upcoming student walkouts planned for March 14) will not affect their chances of college admission. Let’s take a moment to consider these actions– and their reception– in a broader context:

Take a moment to consider the video above: children are learning to treat gunshot wounds. Children are learning to treat trauma, out of necessity for survival of themselves, their friends, their family, and their communities. Children are learning how to stop someone dying of a gunshot wound, by themselves, in a country that has not had a war on its home soil for 150 years. Children are also learning to stand up to their government, to corporations, and terrorizing lobbying groups with non-violent activism; they appear to be leading a different of movement against these organizations — at least different in that it’s forcing more sustained national public discourse on gun control than we’ve had in a long time.

Gun violence, wherever it appears, is certainly something to protest– but even as we applaud the efforts of the Parkland students, we must remember that no similar assurances of college admission went out for youth participating in Black Lives Matter protests. We must also remember that many Black youth live with the reality of gun violence daily, like these students in Baltimore, who have lost 7 of their fellow students to guns in the past two years. As Kelly Hayes writes in the conclusion of @prisonculture’s zine (which we discussed yesterday)

“It’s not that white people are unwilling to live in a country where murdered children are the norm. They have long made peace with such conditions. It’s nightmarish attacks on white children that have spurred a sudden tolerance, and even great support for (some) youth-led, disruptive protest.

It is not a rejection of American gun violence that has brought popular support for the Parkland students, but a rejection of gun violence that unexpectedly impacts white students. That is not to say that the Parkland students are not righteous in their motives, or clever in their work, but the absence of any racial analysis, in the rhetoric and imagery that has propelled their campaign thus far, allows them a level of support that is not enjoyed by those whose organizing seeks to undermine American notions of who is human and worthy of protection and who is not. This is not a condemnation of these students, but it is an invitation to them, and their supporters, to complicate the conversation.”

Does this sound familiar? What if we replaced ‘gun’ with ‘opioid’?

So readers, we ask this of you: as you march on, consider the ways in which you, too, can complicate the conversation. Ask always: whose voices and experiences are included? Whose are silent, or even silenced? As you observe media and popular attention to March as Women’s History Month, ask yourself: how does this attention define who is a woman, and how did historical movements for “women’s” rights include or exclude Black women, and other women of color?

Also, look at who marched yesteryear. Who taught us how to do it? While methods and tools evolve, We must learn and appreciate from those who came before. They paved a way, as we pave again.

Be thoughtful, be vigilant, be active.

March on.

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