I know that we have the Second Amendment in this country, and that there are many people who would shoot me for their freedom to carry guns. I don't know the statistics to argue for gun control or tougher background checks. I don't know why the US has such a high percentage of homicides by firearms compared to other developed nations. I just know that I hate them.
With all this talk about the shooting at Virginia Tech, it's been interesting - and disheartening - to hear what the kids have to say. None of them seem shocked. Instead of shock, their reaction seemed to be a deep empathy and sadness. In fact, one little girl told me in the same sentence that she had seen the VT shooting on the news and that her neighbors (other kids at the school) almost got caught in a shooting that injured another student's cousin. (The cousin, who is about 15 years old, was shot in the stomach but is recovering). The girl telling me about it had a resigned look that showed that she was used to these kinds of things.
Now, I'm not in any way trying to minimize the Virginia Tech tragedy. I hate that this kid passed whatever kind of background check there is for gun buying. I hate that school shootings are becoming so common and that no one knows what to do about it. I hate everything about it.
However, I feel like we should also be outraged and shocked about what these kids see every day. Almost every single one of my students has seen someone shot - a neighbor or a relative. This last shooting was described to me by a student as "someone trying to shoot a guy but he jumped out the way and they shot "Joy's" (a fourth grader) cousin instead and they almost got "Juana" (a first grader). And I was scared and I wish bad things didn't happen where I live."
Another student saw her cousin fatally shot - in the face - while she was in my class several years back. It was a gang killing and the killers were never caught. The little girl stayed up all night while everyone around her freaked out; when she came to school the next day, she couldn't stop shaking. There were no resources to help her - that, at least has gotten marginally better. She just kept shaking in the classroom.
There are many more examples - one little girl's dad was shot and killed while she was in my class. Another boy's dad was stabbed to death - again, they came to school the next day. There was just nothing else to do. I've gotten notes that say, "Teacher I'm sorry she didn't do her homework, the gangs was shooting last night and we was hiding in the closet." Or the bathtub - they put the kids in the bathtub or the closet so that bullets have more barriers to get through.
That's not even including all the lockdowns I've been in during my eight years at my school. Have I listed those yet? I can't remember. But no one worries about these kids or these shootings. Why? Because they're poor? Because they're black and Latino? People still argue with me about if Oakland is dangerous or not. I've had people - who live in the hills, where it's nice, white, and affluent - tell me that there aren't bad parts of Oakland, that that's just made up to make the city look bad.
I think we should count what these kids have to see and experience in the same way we'd count it if rich white students coming from educated families had to go through it. I think my kids should count as having the same worth as the others. I don't know why I seem to be in the minority with this view.
Two years ago: Literal vs. Figurative
Four years ago: Guns
Five years ago: Strike is Off!