03/15/2018 08:46 EDT | Updated 03/16/2018 11:31 EDT

Why Do We Celebrate Parkland Students, But Attack Black Activists?

By now, many people have noticed the difference in reaction to the Parkland students and those protesting the loss of black lives.

Following the February 14 tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, a group of tenacious teenagers emerged who are fighting to ensure schools will continue to be places of learning and not killing fields.

From day one, the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High have captured and held the nation's attention, joining with peers across the country to demand a change in current gun laws. Both their displays of protest, coupled with their cutting statements to politicians, have made them a force to contend with.

Cash has been donated toward the students' goals by several well-known celebrities such as Steven Spielberg and George Clooney. When announcing her $500,000 donation to the March for Our Lives, Oprah Winfrey tweeted that "these inspiring young people remind me of the Freedom Riders of the '60s who also said we have had Enough and our voices will be heard."

Joe Skipper / Reuters
SStudents carry signs as they march from Westglades Middle School to a nearby park with students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School as part of a National School Walkout to honour the 17 students and staff members killed at the school in Parkland, Florida, on March 14, 2018.

By now, many people have noticed the difference in reaction to the Parkland students and those protesting the loss of black lives. The support system is so unequal, although there is a general dislike when such a fact is brought to the fore. The crux of the matter does not lie in the fact that the students of Parkland are all white and well off, for this is not so, not even the well-photographed Emma Gonzalez, but that the survivors have been welcomed with both open arms and open wallets, in the centre and also much of the left.

For eons, children in black communities have lived under the threat of the gun — being shot while chasing a ball in front of their homes, riding a bicycle, while walking to the store to buy candy, playing in their living room or simply playing in the park. Although there have been no mass shootings of predominantly black schools or children attending them, the violent deaths of black school age children occur on a regular enough basis to numb the mind of any safety minded citizen.

Say what you may, but the inequity is blatantly noticeable. When children die in the black community, local media will conduct town hall meetings to talk about the violence, but that is about the extent of the actions. National media support is non-existent. The children return to the same halls, homes and the streets where the trauma occurred and continues to occur.

Black people continue to be criminalized for their moments of courage, mourning and grieving

Long-term mental healthcare and help with healing are rarely, if ever, a part of the children's future. If there is outcry about the shooting, after the candlelight vigils, and after county officials throw a few hundred thousand dollars at a study or some after-school programs, it is back to business as usual.

The Parkland students have also fallen prey to public criticism. It has been claimed by conspiracy theorists that the students are being manipulated by liberal groups and by Democratic billionaire George Soros. Later newspaper reports stated that while George Soros support the efforts of the Parkland students, in no way is he bankrolling them.

However it is highly unimaginable in the light of current affairs that students from a predominantly white, middle class Floridian suburb would be classified as "thugs" or "extremists" for their displayed actions. Of note also is the rapidity with which the students have forced a conversation, and the changes that have already been brought about as a result of the conversation.

Marcus Constantino / Reuters
Activists join hands during a Black Lives Matter rally in Charleston, West Virginia, U.S., on Aug. 20, 2017.

Unfortunately, the converse holds true as black people continue to be criminalized for their moments of courage, mourning and grieving. Black people face heavy police repression when they protest, go out in the streets or demand for black lives to matter. Police have met them bedecked in full riot gear.

In stark comparison, the largely white student activists have been invited by CNN to a town hall event with lawmakers. The very actions that black families have been criticized for doing when there is disruption in our communities were embraced and encouraged by the media and politicians

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I remain in full support of the student survivors of Parkland, and the attention being received as they continue their drive toward effecting social change as it pertains to guns. One person shot and killed is one person too many.

Once the gun debate issue is satisfactorily resolved on all fronts and sides, then the issue of activism and the type that the public responds to should be brought to the fore.

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