Multilingual and ethnic media join the discussion surrounding March For Our Lives
When 17 children were killed at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida on February 14, the usual, rehearsed national mechanisms were triggered. News coverage, outrage, grief, public acknowledgement of pure tragedy of losing young lives, and plenty of #thoughtsandprayers.
But this time, something was different. A perfect storm perhaps, where students and teachers had been engaging in meaningful conversation about gun control, even on the day that 17 of their classmates would be killed by an AR-15. It could be the fact that the US saw their largest mass shootings in decades in 2017, helped by the fact that the average income for parents living in the district was around $130,000 a year--meaning these kids were educated and felt empowered.
Regardless, the Parkland students have started a national movement, acknowledging their privilege and working hard to include youth from minority communities who face gun violence every day. They made a call for action, and their actions rose to a force this past weekend across the country and around the world, as millions of youth and adults joined student leaders in over 70 “March For Our Lives” events.
After the shooting in Parkland, ethnic media across the country took part in the conversation, which has only grown in volume and weight since then.
As students painted their posters and packed their bags in anticipation for the March—happening not just in Washington, but cities from coast to coast—ethnic and multilingual media were publishing editorial, opinion and feature stories.
Hoy Los Angeles spoke with Edna Chávez, one of 15 students from LA to attend the march in Washington. Her “goal” she said, was to “draw attention to a wider type of violence, one that permeates her community almost every day.” This point of view was expressed often in ethnic media from Spanish or African American communities.
Reports from all languages across the country covered the events of the day. The figures stating the number of attendees wasn’t always consistent, but the message these students set out to share was being heard: Better gun control, now. Italian La Voce di New York said you’d have to go back to the Vietnam war to see protests on this scale. Voice of America Urdu called the marches “some of the biggest US youth demonstrations for decades.” And described the the whole day, including the moment when Pro-Trump counter protesters arrived at the end of the rally in New York, as “what democracy looks like.”
There was coverage of celebrity appearances and shutouts, from Obama and Hilary Clinton’s tweet of support, to mentions of Amy Schumer. But the majority of coverage was focused on the students and their messaging.
The Epoch Times reported on the White House applauding the students and activists saying “keeping our children safe is a top priority of the President” and cited a poll saying that 53% of Americans said protecting people from guns is more important than protecting their right to own arms. However, in Hoy Los Angeles, authors Michael Livingston, David Savage, David Montero criticized the governments’ lack of support for the students saying “Neither President Trump nor the Republican-controlled Congress support the students' proposals to ban assault weapons and high-capacity devices,” adding that “Trump was not at the Capitol to hear the roar of the march and the students' speeches, as he spent Saturday at his golf club in West Palm Beach, Florida.”
New York’s The World Journal, a Chinese source, was among the outlets reminding readers of the “serious differences” among Americans around opinions on gun control. Sing Tao Daily in San Francisco quoted David Farmer from Maine who had lead gun control efforts back in 2016, warning that the argument was lost “at the kitchen table, the bar and the bowling alley." Adding that "The gun enthusiasts eventually persuaded people to their side in one-on-one encounters with their friends and relatives and neighbors.” A commentary in La Voce di New York by Vito De Simone predicts all the effort will be “for nothing.” Saying that “the problem is the government has fallen into the hands of powerful interests.” Absent from the coverage, however, were any strong pro-gun sentiments in editorial and opinion pieces, as well in news reports.
Reflecting upon the impact of the marches Voice of America Ukrainian reported “Among the issues facing the organizers and participants of the march will be how to translate a one-day event, regardless of the number of participants, into meaningful legislative changes. Similarly, an editorial from Miami’s El Nuevo Herald heeds the same warning. Saying that “a difficult and uphill path follows.” It continues to say that “the NRA has a lot of money” and guns are going to stay on the streets, whether they are legal or illegal. “Life is going to go on,” the editorial says “which creates the possibility that the revolution will lose momentum.”
Sing Tao USA out of New York reported on a more hopeful effect of the March, saying that normally the NRA controls the discussion on gun control, but now that political discussions have started, voters can take “the details of the gun bill into further considerations, and the situation changes.”
As students returned to their homes and classrooms this week, it is possible that the adults doing the reporting were unable to feel and communicate just exactly all they were feeling. After speaking in Washington on Saturday, Edna Chávez added to her comments that in her community in South Los Angeles gun violence has become “normal.” She said that she and her classmates have committed to putting an end not only to the mass shootings, but also to the violence that families suffer from day to day.”
As this issue remains in the forefront of Americans’ minds, there is great value in listening to these communities, especially Hispanic and African American, for whom the issue of gun violence is a “normal” part of their daily lives.
Edna Chávez from South Los Angeles' speech. She talked about gun violence being 'normal' in racialized communities like hers.