The aftermath of a mass shooting in the United States can feel like an all-too-familiar play.
Act I: Some combination of grief and shock and terror ripples across the nation, accompanied by a deluge of news coverage.
Act II: Gun-control advocates leverage the moment to call for stricter laws; those who oppose such restrictions offer their thoughts and prayers to victims but argue that gun control won’t help.
Act III: the inevitable deadlock. America moves on; America forgets. Nothing changes, except for those for whom everything has changed. Public opinion on gun control remains as divided as ever.
That play is following a different script this time around. The curtain has stayed up on Act II, as survivors of what is now the deadliest high-school shooting in modern U.S. history have prevented the play from proceeding along its typical trajectory. “We call B.S.!” chanted Emma González—a Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School senior whose face has since become a symbol for this exploding youth-led political campaign—at a rally last Saturday. Since then, the Parkland, Florida, teens’ tweets, essays, and television appearances—equal parts fierce determination and fervent agony—have been the public-facing cry of what they have dubbed the “Never Again” movement.
Countless factors could explain why their activism on gun control has so quickly evolved into a national movement. And one could be Parkland’s demographics. People in Parkland tend to be well-off. The median household income in the city is just over $128,000, according to census data, compared with less than $53,000 for the (massive) surrounding Broward County. Marjory Stoneman Douglas High, or MSD, reflects this relative wealth: Fewer than 23 percent of its students during the 2015-16 school year received free or reduced-price lunch, compared with close to 64 percent of students across Broward County Public Schools.
That comparable affluence could be key to understanding why Never Again’s youth leaders seem to be building so much political clout in a debate that until now seemed impossibly stuck. (And, realistically, may still be.) It could also be key to understanding why similar efforts led by disadvantaged youth in recent years have gained little, if any, meaningful traction.
“It’s mind-blowing that while [the Parkland students] are still in the first days of dealing with trauma, anger, grief, they’re putting it toward really careful and thoughtful political and civic action—it’s just amazing,” said Meira Levinson, a Harvard Graduate School of Education professor whose research focuses on civic education and youth empowerment. “At the same time, it’s also important to recognize that other young people have done this [activism] also within days—they’re experiencing the same grief—and haven’t gotten the attention that these [Parkland] students have.” Read more via the Atlantic