KABELO MOTSOENENG ’20
When movements are meant to change the status quo, some perpetuate it. This is true for March for Our Lives. When left-wing media flooded the internet with affirming coverage and images for this march, I was greatly unsettled. It is unsettling to witness the world tokenize trauma for their political mandates. It is unsettling to know that students who have barely defined their politics/modes at which they imagine the world through are made to be faces of gun-reform; they are palatable to dominant structures and groups, this move makes sense. I am unsettled because gun-reform will not make America and the world less dangerous for black and brown people.
The children who took to the streets, in the past few weeks, did an admirable job exercising their civil and political rights in the public arena. We should applaud them for organizing a national movement of this magnitude. But when children, black children, are killed in America, where were their white age mates, left-wing media, and celebrities? This is a story about who has the right to be a child in America. We cannot look at this issue without historicizing it. When movements are organized outside historical imagination, those movements are likely to serve dominant groups. During slavery, when black children were born, they belonged to the master before they were their mothers’ children. When black bodies are brought into this world, there is a price to pay. Black children have never been allowed the right to be children. This movement reinforces the same tropes that deny black children their right to be heard.
Two thematic propositions rose from the manifesto proposed by March for Our Lives and Parkland survivors: gun reform and increased school security. The former does not consider the root cause of these massacres- violent (white) masculinities. Cultural critics, feminists, and sociologists write extensively about the evolution of white masculinities and how they have posed a threat to those whom they consider structurally less than them and the idea that violence is the means to get “justice.” But this cannot be an issue this movement will focus on because it does not fit the large interests of whiteness and its ties to violence across the globe. Of course, teenagers will not have nuanced analysis and approach pertaining the root causes of these massacres. Maybe the question should be: what are American youth taught about violence and their history? Maybe one of the solutions in this matter should be a proposition to reduce content that perpetuates violent male masculinities. Violent masculinities are as American as its imperialism across the world and the wars it causes in the Middle East in the name of “democracy” and world order.
It is naive to believe that increased school security will resolve the issue of gun violence, or what I call the manifestation of violent (white) masculinities that cause wars and massacres in America and across the world. Why have we not warned the protestors that increased school security feeds into the school-to-prison pipeline? Again, do they know who is greatly affected by the school to the school-to-prison pipeline? It seems as though we, they, forgot about the Spring Valley High School incident when a high school girl was arrested in class for being “disruptive” and then man-handled for refusing arrest. This 2015 incident proved that American high schools are already highly surveilled, but the surveillance is on black youth. This forms one of a few factors of the school-to-prison pipeline and the genius of America’s incarceration system. But the Spring Valley incident also shows attitudes towards black girls and black women, they are perpetually exposed to violent masculinities. The girl from Spring Valley is no different Sandra Bland. At least she made it alive, albeit bruised and traumatized.
I am unsettled by this movement because collective pronouns will not change the status quo. Our lives: black, women, working class, queer, have not been marched for. Our lives did not matter after Pulse. Our lives did not matter in Ferguson. Our lives did not matter in Syria. So, whose lives are being marched for? When Obama dropped 20,000 bombs, did those lives matter? When Obama and Clinton attacked Libya, leaving it far worse than it was and creating a slave-trade bay, did those lives matter? Movements born out of ahistorical rage are likely to cause more harm than good. We cannot fault teenagers, but we can fault the culture and systems that determine things meant to form their consciousness.