Teachers and Students: Demand Change
By Lori Peek, Department of sociology professor
__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________One of the most powerful things I observed while living in New York a few years ago was an End Gun Violence rally. Hundreds of people – mostly from communities of color – had come together to demand change. As I sit here just days after yet more school shootings, I can’t figure out why we, as a nation, aren’t rising up in the same way. Why aren’t we all holding signs, pushing for a solution to end mass shootings and other gun-related deaths that occur regularly in the U.S.?
Perhaps it’s because, as our President said after the Oregon shooting, “Somehow this has become routine… We have become numb to it.” Possibly it’s that the numerous responsible gun owners in this country are tired of feeling targeted. Perhaps so many of us feel so much heartbreak, we are frozen by grief. Maybe we’re exhausted by the same old politics.
Whatever it is, while we argue and wait, innocent people are dying.
Recently President Obama said: “This is a political choice that we make, to allow this to happen every few months in America. We collectively are answerable to those families who lose their loved ones.”
Those words have been haunting me since.
You see, I am a professor here at Colorado State University. I love being in the classroom more than almost any other place on earth. I view the university as a sacred space where seeds for success are planted and where minds change and grow. I feel a profound responsibility for my students. I cannot bear the thought of any of them being hurt as a result of gun violence. I also cannot stand to think that my silence or inaction on this issue could make me culpable in some way for the next shooting.
Teachers and students are rightfully scared. We live in a nation where school shootings occur at an alarming rate and where more preschoolers than police officers die from gunshot wounds. But that fear cannot paralyze us. Instead, let the change begin with us. There are plenty of evidence-based proposals on the table to reduce gun-related deaths. I hope every educator and every student will write their elected representatives and demand action in whatever way they see fit. Political leaders are elected to represent the will of the public, but first we must make our will known. Let’s work together to ensure our classrooms and communities are the safe places that they should be.