Congratulations to Evanston Township High School (ETHS) student Anna Grant-Bolton for being selected as one of 21 runners-up in The New York Times' Seventh Annual Student Editorial Contest. She joins 12 winners and 30 honorable mentions as the Times' favorite essays of the 7,318 the paper received this year.
Anna is also a student advocated with Evanston Cradle to Career's Advocates4Action team and a member of The Mayor’s Taskforce.
Anna's topic is one that has been part of DE's mission since its inception.
“Redefining a Life: Changing the Conversation About Gun Violence”
By Anna Grant-Bolton, age 17, Evanston Township High School, Evanston, Ill.
In the second grade, I learned how to barricade my classroom’s door to stop a man with a gun. I would fold myself into the corner of my dark classroom and close my eyes until I heard, “code green” echo on the loudspeaker. The drill ended, and I was safe again.
But 26 miles south of my school, on the South Side of Chicago, that code green never comes. Safety isn’t the norm, violence is. Growing up in a “safe” suburb has taught me that privilege is grocery shopping, walking to school, or going to church without the threat of violence swallowing me whole. Privilege is turning fear off when a drill ends.
If my school got shot up, it would make national news. Millions of Americans would mourn my death, and call for stricter gun laws. Policy and Change, the people would demand. There would be outrage and tears.
But we’ve grown deaf to the cries of the black community. White fear overshadows black trauma, making violence in inner cities invisible. The New York Times reports that the same weekend the El Paso and Dayton shootings consumed America’s attention, “52 [were] wounded by gunfire throughout Chicago.” Violence is an aberration in white communities but the default in the black inner city.
Our fundamental understanding of gun violence is racist. Vox reports that mass shootings account for “fewer than 1 percent of homicide victims.” According to The Washington Post, while the death tolls rose in Chicago due to inaction and indifference, the Parkland shooting catalyzed a national walkout. How many black kids must die before we care enough to make a change?
White America has always found a way to explain away their apathy to black gun violence in race-neutral terms. Mass shootings are especially tragic, they argue, because there are so many lives taken at once. However, USA Today reports that 63 were shot on Chicago’s 4th of July Weekend. By this logic, these black inner-city deaths would have garnered more attention than Sandy Hook’s school shooting. Mass shootings are tragedies and should be treated as such. But when we cease to care when black lives are lost, we become complicit in that violence.
We manufacture colorblind justifications for why we don’t care about black lives, but it’s the color of the victim’s skin that drives our anger and agency about gun violence. We must open our ears to listen to the cries of the black community, our mouths to amplify their voices, and our hearts to empathize. It’s then that the “code green” will ring out again — but this time, for us all.
Click here to read the other essays in the New York Times.