Making space for multiple truths: hope and critique following today’s gun control rally

Today, I joined hundreds of people at the Georgia State Capitol to support Moms Demand Action’s Georgia Advocacy Day. I went with my friend and our two toddlers in tow not fully knowing what to expect from our children nor the event, but wanting to show up and lend our voices to the sea of others demanding common sense gun legislation in our State and the Country.

I’ve long heard rumblings that Moms Demand Action struggles with intersectionality. I must admit, the lead up to today’s event was disappointing with a lot of restrictions around what types of sign participants could bring. I understand the desire to keep the language non-partisan, although it’s no secret the GOP is the political party nestled in the NRA’s pocket. But I could not get behind the demand our signs and behavior remain “respectful” with the specific request to refrain from using curse words. Tone policing of any kind is a red flag for me; prioritizing propriety and “niceness” is a hallmark of white feminism.

As I got myself and my 3-year-old ready this morning, I felt similar to how I did before participating in the Women’s March in DC. Despite knowing Mother’s Demand Action is perhaps flawed and despite being turned off by the requests made by those organizing the event, it still felt really important to attend and support advocacy for common sense gun laws.

The crowd, unsurprisingly, was very, very white. As an organization, I hope leaders of Mom’s Demand Action grapple with and reflect on what about their platform is not resonating with people of color. It’s our job as white folks to pay attention to who is and who is not in the room and question why that is. We can then push our work towards inclusivity¬†and intersectionality.
Noticing the crowd’s whiteness and naming the critiques I’ve heard about Mom’s Demand Action is not meant to be a condemnation; it’s meant to be a call to action. For any of you who are passionate about gun control and/or are more intimately involved in Mom’s Demand Action, I hope you too will be curious about who attends the events you do. Who leads your chapter? Whose voices are lifted up? I truly believe we are stronger advocates for change as individuals and as organizations when we are more inclusive to diverse perspectives and realities and center the most marginalized voices amongst us.
I urge the amazing student advocates who are organizing for common sense gun legislation to also challenge themselves to be intersectional. I’ve been overwhelmed with gratitude and filled with hope watching the kids from Parkland turn their unspeakable tragedy into action. But I wonder, how will they coalition build with other schools, particularly those in underserved communities with majority student of color populations? As my friend and educator Hillary pointed out, many schools that serve low-income communities with black and brown students have long looked like prisons. Another friend pondered, how will kids who depend on free and reduced breakfast and lunch at school make a walk out work? We as a society should not only listen to students and their needs when they are affluent and white.
To be sure, gun violence affects every American. The problem is all of ours to solve, together. I am thankful to the groups who have long made passing common sense gun legislation their mission and I’m thankful to the leadership of these young people from Parkland. May we all make space for multiple truths and support this catalyst for necessary and critical change with regards to gun control in our country while we also analyze whose voices are being centered and heard and why.
Roxane Gay
I was proud for my voice and that of my 3-year-old to join those demanding our Georgia legislators prioritize people, especially children, over guns. I’ll see y’all at the next action, with the hope that by intentionally seeking out marginalized voices and centering the ways gun violence affects those in communities of color we will build an even stronger movement in support of passing common sense gun laws.

2 thoughts on “Making space for multiple truths: hope and critique following today’s gun control rally

  1. Brendan Birth says:

    Hmmm…I wonder what sort of factor timing plays in all of this. As in time of day.

    A rally in the middle of the day in the middle of a workweek is likely to attract people with generous leave benefits, people with flexible work schedules, and people from households where one parent can afford to stay at home. People who fall into these groups, and therefore people who fall into the groups most likely to attend something like this, are overwhelmingly white. That’s my theory. I could be wrong though.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. strivingshannon says:

    Time of day is certainly a factor, I’d imagine. I had a friend lift up the fact that a school walk out would be really burdensome on students who rely on free and reduced breakfast and lunch. Again, multiple truths. I want the students of parkland to keep going, for Moms Demand to keep going, but we can support this movement while also asking it to be more intentional and more inclusive. It is clear people of color do not resonant with this organization. They should be asking themselves why?


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