Monday Reading List: Teachers Respond to the Dreadful Idea That They Ought to be Armed

Philissa Cramer of Chalkbeat took stock of the #ArmMeWIth trend on twitter, in which teachers pushed back against the asinine idea that they ought to be armed in the classroom:

Some lawmakers and advocates — including President Donald Trump — have responded to the shooting by arguing that teachers should be armed. That idea has drawn scorn from educators who argue that more guns in schools would make students less safe and do little to address the underlying issues that contribute to violence in schools. Now thousands of those educators are offering an alternative, using a template that two teachers shared on Instagram on Tuesday. Olivia Bertels and Brittany Wheaton already had substantial social media followings when they asked others to join them in starting a movement. “My friend @thesuperheroteacher and I think that we should find more practical solutions than giving teachers guns,” Bertels wrote on her post with the template, where she asked to be armed with school supplies. “I hope you’ll take the same stance.”

The appropriate response to the idea of arming teachers is a healthy blend of scorn and ridicule. I'm glad to see teachers on social media embracing both.

Danielle Slaughter of Mamademics has an even more specific reason to be skeptical of more guns in schools:

My firstborn is now a kindergartner. My husband now teaches at the middle school on the upper campus with an adjoining high school. Two different buildings. Two different places for me to worry about if a shooting takes place. I’ve watched students and parents beg for solutions and gun control. I’ve watched as our lawmakers refuse to take a stand instead saying that we should arm teachers. I want them to be safe but there is absolutely NOTHING safe about giving white teachers of black and brown children guns. We already know that Black and Brown children are disproportionately punished in schools. We know that young white female teachers are often afraid of Black boys as young as eight years old. We know that Black girls are punished more severely than their counterparts.

I was glad to see this article, as it elevates an important point about how Americans react to gun violence. In particular, there are significant racial and socioeconomic factors at play. Alia Wong of The Atlantic explains, using the political organizing of the Parkland, Florida students as a case in point:

Why is there suddenly so much traction? Has the country just finally had enough with these mass shootings? Political scientists and scholars of student activism agree that the affluence of many families in Parkland plays a substantial role. ... Much of the discrepancy in political clout may come down to a bias against poor people, who are more likely to be a racial minority than they are to be white. Black children and teens are, according to a 2013 report, nearly five times as likely as white youth of the same age to die from guns. A 2016 analysis by Everytown for Gun Safety and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense found that 39 percent of the non-shooter victims of gun violence on school campuses since 2013 were black; just 16 percent of public-school students, meanwhile, are African American. Communities affected by this pervasive gun violence—what ProPublica has described as “a relentless drumbeat of deaths of black men”—are acutely aware of the problem.
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The fact that gun violence affects Americans across such a broad swath of our demographics should make it easier to organize against. That said, the racial disparities in gun violence, coupled with how the media reacts to those differences, plays a role in keeping the potential coalition divided.

Sarah Ruiz-Grossman of HuffPost expands on that point:

For some black activists who have long been mobilizing around gun violence, the current wave of public attention and outrage over the issue is welcome. But it also invites the question of why there’s been comparatively little attention and outrage focused on the even more common reality of routine gun homicides in the country, which disproportionately affect communities of color, and specifically black Americans.  Prominent black organizers and public figures have also noted the largely positive public response to the student activists from Parkland ― most of whom are not black and who attended school in a largely white, relatively affluent Florida suburb ― compared to the frequent vilification of young black activists protesting gun violence, particularly police shootings.

Having spoken with activists in both the the anti-racism and gun violence prevention worlds, I would say that the current tension needs to be discussed openly and often. The gun violence prevention coalition will not be effective if it does not incorporate the concerns that have been discussed by both the movement for Black lives and other national efforts towards hastening racial justice. Every time a child is shot - whether by an armed peer or a police officer - we should be angry.

Have a thoughtful week ...