White privilege present even in advocacy movements


Photo credit: Jaime Munoz

Advocates for stricter gun regulations have been around for years. However, it is not until recently when a group of high school students decided to take matters into their own hands, that the “March For Our Lives” was planned in over 800 cities across the nation. Survivors of the Florida shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School were able to schedule singers, celebrities and legislators at these marches.

This new wave of advocacy for gun regulations has gotten a lot of momentum but what is so different about these marches that has turned these students into national celebrities? Is it the fact that they are teenagers, is it their passion to not let this tragedy be forgotten or is our nation finally fed up with the numerous mass shootings we have throughout the year?

In my opinion, it is because of all these things and one very important thing: their skin color. Believe me, this is not just another article of ranting against white privilege. Instead, I believe we can look at white privilege and use it constructively as these students are now.

For one we have to remind ourselves that these are just high school students, who maybe did not necessarily want to be brought into this political discussion but when part of something so life threatening like this occurs and takes away your friends you are almost forced into the political discussion of which values will be passed on.

In this case, those values are stricter gun regulations as a form of ending mass shootings. However, when we look at other advocacy groups like Black Lives Matter we have seen a completely different reaction from the public and media.

Articles have continuously condemned this movement as illegitimate because no one is going to listen to a “bunch of angry people making demands.” There was even a petition to categorize Black Lives Matter as a terrorist group and like we usually see with many advocacy movements a movement was started in opposition to them, known as “All Lives Matter.”

It is true that organizations like the National Rifle Association and legislators who are against stricter gun laws have also attacked the Parkland students, however, their movement has not been labeled as just a bunch of angry, destructive high school students.

Instead, these students were able to get celebrities at their recent March for Our Lives protest and were even able to meet with them. So why the different reaction for groups who are both advocating for change against the gun violence in America?

As much as we would like to think and say white privilege is not real, it is very real in America today. It is the reason why most white shooters like, Nicholas Cruz, are not immediately shot down by police but black suspects carrying merely a phone are shot eight times leading to their death, as was the case for Stephon Clark.

This is very disappointing as this is more than likely why the Parkland students are seen as inspiring young activists but Black Lives Matter activists are seen as individuals who can’t get past their anger.

But this is our reality, and instead of trying to condemn one movement over the other, we need to get on board with whatever is working. If that means that it is a movement that is run by mostly white students then we have to do our best to collaborate with them. I agree that it is absurd for a movement to get more positive coverage or more celebrities on board because of this privilege and in no way do I agree with this.

However, as an individual who also seeks change, I can and already have accepted that this privilege exists in America today, and I will continue to fight against it but also realize that this is how things are right now and we must take this one fight at a time.

Nicte Hernandez can be reached at [email protected] or @nicteh7 on Twitter.