On Friday, news broke that a gunman had killed several high school students and injured many others at a high school in Santa Fe, Texas.
In the aftermath, a video of a student survivor of the attack went viral. In it, Paige Curry, visibly shaken, tells a reporter about what it was like inside the school during the shooting. When the reporter asks the girl if she ever expected a shooting to happen at her school, Curry responds with a yes.
“It’s been happening everywhere. I’ve always felt it would eventually happen here too,” she says.
It’s a difficult moment to watch, one that highlights how frequent these kinds of tragedies have become. It’s also, unfortunately, a feeling that’s likely shared by many children of color across the US, who face the risk of gun violence both at school and in their daily lives.
In the months since the Parkland shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida — a event which dominated media coverage for months, and inspired a wave of student activism — I’ve written about the fact that what gets lost in all of this coverage of school shootings is that it’s part of a larger phenomenon.
Gun violence isn’t just about school shootings, although these are horrific, and often get the majority of news coverage. It’s happening all around us. And it particularly affects people of color, though they are less likely to get our attention.
Youth of color are more likely than their white peers to face gun violence
Though mainstream media coverage tends to focus on young white victims of school shootings, according to an analysis of fatal and nonfatal childhood firearm injuries compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2017, black children are 10 times more likely than white children to be fatally shot by a gun.
As I’ve written before, America responds very differently to victims of school shootings than they do to victims of color who suffer from gun violence — a category that also includes police violence — on a regular basis. The latter is often met with indifference or even hostility, which opens up a complicated discussion about who gets empathy in America and what issues are deemed important in the public sphere.
To be fair, it isn’t completely surprising that school shootings are where we focus our attention — they’re shocking, horrific, an unexpected burst of violence in a surprising place. But seeing school shootings as something unique and separate from other forms of gun violence is a mistake because it can cause us to ignore the more everyday forms of violence that so many students face. It also creates a distorted image of gun violence victims that leaves out the people of color who are most likely to be affected by it every day.
It’s also something that students themselves are aware of. Los Angeles high schooler Edna Chavez pointed to this during a speech she gave at the March for Our Lives in Washington, DC, earlier this year, saying that for her, gun violence “is normal — normal to the point that I’ve learned to duck from bullets before I learned how to read.”
As we deal with yet another of these horrific incidents, it’s time that we look for solutions to promote both school safety and community safety.
For many students of color facing gun violence daily, both are needed.