Today I stood huddled in darkness with my students in the corner of my classroom. Unsure of what was happening I begged my students to be silent as they nervously texted their parents. The school was on a lockdown because armed gunmen were in the surrounding neighborhood. The school entered a precautionary lock down because of the threat. I was shaken, and quite frankly I still am. When the lockdown finished students and teachers roamed the hallways scurrying to gather their belongings. Smiles were on faces, yet I could not smile… and I am not smiling now.
When the lock down was called some students in my class did not see any urgency in moving towards the corner. In fact, one student said “if they are going to get us, let them come in.” I don’t think the student who said this really meant it, but making a joke did not seem to be a big deal to her or the students around her. I think it was rather easy for her to make this joke because unfortunately my kids live in fear due to the gun violence in their neighborhoods. I can’t direct my anger towards my student for demonstrating her immaturity; however I can be angry at our society, patriarchy and the systemic issues that plague our country.
After leaving school I drove home dealing with several emotions. Was I anxious? Was I scared? Was I mad? As NPR discussed gun laws, the effects of gun laws, the victims of Newton, and the political state of our country, my emotion turned into anger. I am angry. I am angry that we are not addressing the real problem. People are discussing mental health and guns instead of the cause for it all… gender. Every shooting that has happened within Obama’s administration (and lets be real — most of all public shootings) and the violence that occurs on my kids’ streets day in and day out is carried out by men. Not just men but YOUNG men. It is accepted that these men carry out these horrific crimes because they are either “mentally ill” or of color. Everyone needs to stop pointing to the surface-level causes and realize that these boys are growing up in a culture that binds them to an identity that prevents them from showing emotion and seeking help. Boys are taught to demonstrate their masculinity through violence. Boys are taught that if you are not strong both physically and emotionally you are less than a man… you are a woman (i.e. gay). I am enraged by the absence of conversations regarding gender and violence. Sure, we can ban assault rifles, but the reality of it is that people are going to get guns if they want to get them. Furthermore, we can discuss mental health, but the reality of it is that until we begin to accept that boys can suffer from mental health issues and we create a space for boys that is accepting and acknowledges them as people (and not “others”) we are going to continue to see these heinous acts of violence.
We need to start having conversations about how to raise boys in a society that accepts them, all of them. We need to educate men and women to create spaces that facilitate growth rather than stifle emotion. We must come together as a country and address all children, not just white children, and provide stability through emotional support. If we don’t change the conversation, we will continue to have the same conversation over and over.