A few weeks ago I had the pleasure to be able to attend the Latino youth festival for the Capital District YMCA at Schenectady County Community College. They are was able to participate and mediate a discussion for middle schoolers. It was a wonderful experience just being a part of the entire festival, and part of me wished I was able to participate in this in years past. There were a number of events that opened my eyes and allow me to be free to have conversations that were challenging. However, one conversation really challenged my thought process.
This was during the time I mediated the Middle School conversation which was kind of surprising. We started off with some ice breakers, two truths, and a lie, attempting to get to know everybody and get everyone comfortable with each other.
The middle schoolers started off shy and uncomfortable with each other. But eventually, they warmed up to each other when the fun inquiries started up. Then we got into questions about higher education and the youth’s futures.
Suddenly the conversation transferred into something dark yet necessary. It was when a few kids from my program at Troy had shown up with one of the program directors Tafari Harper and his spouse Jamie. At this point, a lot of students had been answering questions about higher education and a question came up of what is it that you’re afraid of when it comes to higher education? And some students started mentioning school shootings as something they are afraid of.
Let us backtrack for a second, these are African-American, African, and Latino origin originated students. There were a couple of Asian students as well. Nevertheless, they were mostly students of color, these are students in the inner-city who are around poverty, drugs, and drug paraphernalia all their lives. And these children were afraid to enter the next level of education because of the threat of school shooters, or active Shooters. Things that you don’t necessarily see in our neighborhoods, or in our areas.
Let this be a disclaimer, a school shooting can happen anywhere and it is a tragic and traumatic event. however, I was shocked to hear that these students were terrified of these types of atrocities. Especially in our realities, the fact that most of us are surrounded by gun violence and poverty in drugs and things of that nature. For these students to have a fear of school shootings is something alarming, yet not surprising.
I had a conversation with Tafari and Jamie the Wednesday after the event. We were doing a routine video promoting our Wednesday program at Troy Boys and Girls Club. And after we had a discussion about the conversation that previous Saturday. Tafari and Jamie enlightened me on the fact that for a lot of these students, gun violence is the norm.
We’re constantly seeing black on black crime,(not truly existent even though it is prevalent and frequent in our communities however that’s another conversation for another day.) We’re used to seeing gun violence in all travesties that occurred within that. So for the students not to be afraid of that type of violence, is a shock and not a shock in itself. This is the reality for most of us, how many of us know someone that’s been unfortunately gunned down and their Community due to gun violence and things are (black on black crime)? Speaking for myself that happens far too often. But it’s our norm, we grow up knowing that some of us won’t make it past 18. And we live with those realities. We live with them so easily that they become afterthoughts, and we end up putting someone on the T-shirt put in Flowers by the gravestone, put in candles by the site in which they were, unfortunately, gunned down. Then we go about our lives.
It’s like a staple like ritual and every Hood. You see this every day and you don’t fear it. Disclaimer everyone fears death, how much of us actually fear going outside and dying about gunshots and stuff of that nature. We go about it as if it was a regular Tuesday or Thursday most of the time.
This is a numbing concept that distorts the identity of black and brown people. It also reveals how resilient and determined we are as a people. I was confused and hurt in this conversation. but I wasn’t surprised. For students to be afraid of school shootings, especially middle schoolers. students should be afraid of getting bad grades in middle school, not school shootings. They should be afraid of failing classes and not coming to school with the best gear sometimes. Not someone walking in their schools and shooting up their classmates in front of them. However, this is also part of our reality nowadays. With mass shootings becoming more and more prevalent in the news and inciting more fear. It seems that more and more students are growing fearful of the idea, which can have its own political gains. It’s the cycle of gun violence and fear that continues to trickle down and now it’s reached our students.
When will this end? I don’t have a definitive answer for that one. I’m just reporting on a recollection of a conversation I had with people who I think are the future. And there’s no way that this should be their reality.
thank you for reading