July 16, 2019 | 67° F

HINRICHS: Young Americans are taking massive strides

Opinions Column: Unveiling the Truth


In a local New Brunswick elementary school, a young girl’s tiny hands meticulously built the divisions she had seen outside her window. She resurrected the very same walls of hate she has seen permeate her world. It was Valentine's Day and all the second graders were rifling through their bags for their gifted sweets. Her sugary focus at the moment was on those lovely messages — “Be Mine,” “Miss you,” “Soul Mate” — which for her, had been smothered by a darker reality. I watched as she had taken out her small container of sweetheart candies and began separating the white hearts from the colored hearts. The white hearts had to be separated, she claimed. She said the white hearts did not like the colored candies, that they hated them. They did not care if the colored candies lived or died. They hated being around them without even taking the time to listen to what they had to say — “I love you,” “Me & You,” “Friend me.” 

In the second grade, she recognized social grouping and the "othering" of America. In her youth, she understood the existence of the hate that is perpetuated through the refusal to listen and learn. Young America does not have its head in the sand. It watches from a unique position above the generations who have abdicated responsibility because of the ingrained status quo suppression of the belief that change can be made. Young America, from this heightened position of hope, will hoist up the torch of liberty to shed light on the injustices and misguided actions of the path, on which we currently lay in rigor mortis, so that we can move forward righteously as non progredi est regredi.  

On March 24, the organized efforts under the leadership of young activists culminated in not the apogee of a movement, but in a significant step toward decisive change: the March for Our Lives. Demonstrators in support of the student-driven movement flooded streets across the nation and across the globe, calling for governmental action against senseless gun violence. 

Over the course of the march and rally, the Parkland survivors stood up and spoke out against the senseless gun violence that plagues America. 

The Parkland students time and again recognized their privilege in relation to the amplification of their voices and the success of the movement and, in doing so, they couple their acknowledgement with a stage for the marginalized and silenced. The movement is strengthened in unification with the communities whose stories of gun violence too often have been ignored.

Among the speakers who had survived mass shootings were those from these communities with pervasive gun violence.

Mya Middleton, a teen from Chicago, recounted her experiences growing up and facing down the barrel of a gun.

Edna Chavez from Los Angeles said she learned to “duck from bullets before learning how to read.” 

The shooting like the one in Parkland, which affected affluent white youths, occur relatively rarely, while children of color fall victim to gun violence approximately every hour of their lives. 

On average, Black children are four times more likely to be killed by gunfire than white children and Black men are 13 times more likely, according to the group Everytown for Gun Safety

One of the most visible survivors of the Parkland shooting, David Hogg, unequivocally answered when asked how the media has faltered in its coverage of the tragedy.

“Not giving Black students a voice,” Hogg responded, according to Axios

The discussion cannot and importantly has not been based solely on the devastating school shootings. School shootings represent only a tiny fraction of the gun violence epidemic.

A child is left bleeding or dead in the streets every hour on average. Not in a war-torn undeveloped country, but in the United States, the right to life has been relinquished to profiteering and interest group influence. 

In an interview with The Atlantic, Meira Levinson, a Harvard Graduate School of Education professor, cited research showing that “the concerns of middle-class and affluent students, particularly those who are white, are ‘more likely to be interpreted as universal’ whereas the concerns of their lower-income peers of color are more likely to be regarded as relevant to and true of a small percentage of kids.” 

While factors resulting from education inequality, income and race have played a role, the Parkland survivors have quickly turned gun-violence activism into an inclusive national movement. 

The survivors of the tragic Parkland mass shooting have translated their trauma and the horrific facts of gun violence into a campaign that has lifted up the hammer of democracy in one hand and the voice of the people in the other. In a swinging and continued motion, they have come to turn the cemented progression of post-gun violence events, which anticlimactically end with forgotten lives, unanswered democratic calls and no change, into a memorial of rubble. 

Through pain, grief, frustration and hope, the youth of America refuses to be content with an inactive role in the present and future, refuses to “know their place.” The future is in the young, and the future is now. 

Luke Hinrichs is a School of Arts and Sciences first-year majoring in political science and economics. His column, “Unveiling the Truth,“ runs on alternate Wednesdays.


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Luke Hinrichs

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