As Dave Cullen reports at Vanity Fair, since Valentine’s Day, the Parkland survivors have been speaking at high schools and colleges to educate students about and win their support for ending gun violence. Mandatory at every event? A table at which attendees can either register to vote or pre-register to vote if they are currently underage. The establishment needs to sit up and take notice: not only are the kids alright, they’ve got the vote — if only they choose to use it.
“Young voters have long been a sleeping giant of American politics, because most of them stay home. If they ever turned out in percentages to match their older counterparts, they could swing many elections.”
The Columbine generation has been practicing lockdown drills since kindergarten, watching one suburban school after another attacked, wondering if they were about to lose the lottery. Year after year brought a fresh crop of devastated kids—most of them affluent, telegenic, and white. Meanwhile, students in inner cities were far more likely to die from gunfire than their suburban counterparts. In the month of the Parkland shooting, according to the Gun Violence Archive, there were 84 teen deaths in America, 5 in Chicago alone. And through mid-August of this year, 1,846 have been killed or injured, many in the inner cities. Their stories rarely made the evening news.
It bothered the Parkland kids that a far larger cohort of kids, facing far worse odds, were being ignored. So they decided to join forces with them.
Chicago is ground zero in the urban gun wars. In early March, a small group of student activists flew from Chicago to meet the MFOL kids at Emma González’s house. “When I first got there, it was a gated community and I thought it was a hotel resort or something,” Alex King said. “And then I saw the house. There was like this big glass window that was also a door, and I was like, ‘Wow, O.K.’ When I actually got in there, Emma came around the corner running, hugging everyone—it was just like happy faces all around the room.”
As the groups got to know each other, they learned that their fears were different. Suburban kids tend to fear gunmen bursting into their schools; urban kids fear gunfire en route. Swapping gun stories got pretty intense, and during a break Emma chatted with D’Angelo McDade about turning suffering into action. That reminded him of something. D’Angelo and Alex were representing the Peace Warriors, an “interrupter” group that seeks to resolve neighborhood conflicts before they turn violent. D’Angelo reached into his pocket and drew out six colored dog tags. The red one said PRINCIPLE #4, with a peace sign—that was it. Martin Luther King Jr. preached six principles of nonviolence, D’Angelo explained. The Parkland kids were embarking on No. 4: SUFFERING CAN EDUCATE AND TRANSFORM. And King singled out a particular kind of suffering: “Unearned suffering is redemptive and has tremendous educational and transforming possibilities.” Sound familiar?
“Oh, wow, can we do this all together?” Emma asked.
The full group reconvened. “We taught them the principles, and they taught us about policy,” D’Angelo said.