Inciting youth across the United States to take to the streets and say their piece on gun violence, the March for Our Lives movement powerfully invoked public discourse on gun control and called for actual change. Yet, the success and popularity of the nationwide protest couldn’t have been possible without the support of the media.
Organized in a matter of weeks, the March for Our Lives movement greatly benefitted from the national news spotlight. Yet, it’s not the amount of the movement’s publicity that deserves our attention, but rather the fact that this overwhelming support from the media and celebrities is often not extended to movements like Black Lives Matter. In particular, we need to take a look at the disparities in media attention and assistance between the March for Our Lives movement and other similar protests.
Indeed, the March for Our Lives protest took place to demonstrate the youth’s support for tighter gun control and its mission was effectively publicized by a myriad of big-name news outlets. But, not all voices were provided a national platform and the lack of inclusivity inside of the movement was apparent.
Black and brown students were largely left out of the discussions taking place and were continuously robbed of a voice during the planning of the march. This is particularly problematic because many of them have specific concerns regarding the policing of schools and use of guns by the police given the history of police brutality against people of color in the US.
Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., for instance, faced endless and incessant media attention following its school shooting. While a group of student activists did rise to the national news stage, the black students attending the same school were ignored by the media. Their thoughts and opinions on the gun control debate were never heard, despite making up 25 percent of the school’s student body. Sadly, it’s because of this lack of news coverage that the perspectives of students of color involved in any movement are rarely ever validated.
The absence of inclusion in social movements isn’t a recent development. Similar to how the involvement of black youth inside the March for Our Lives Movement was scarce, the Women’s March also failed to headline powerful women of color in the organizing their event. While failing to properly address intersectionality, the Women’s March took little notice of the societal issues facing minority women. It goes without saying, this isn’t the first time black and brown people have felt disenfranchised and it likely won’t be the last.
Moreover, the movements relating specifically to the issues that plague minority communities or predominantly affect people of color rarely make the front page of any newspaper. Indeed, on March 18, Sacramento resident, Stephon Clark, was brutally shot and killed by two police officers. Inexplicably shot while trying to reach for his cellphone, Clark was yet another victim of the undeniable police abuse and systematic racism in the U.S. The protests that followed his death, such as one in Sacramento that shut down Interstate 5 and blocked entry to the Sacramento Kings basketball game, received little to no attention.
The little media feedback that the Sacramento protest received exceptionally portrayed the whole event as a nuisance and inconvenience to local citizens. The media instantly undermined the goal of the protest and reduced it to a slew of Kings ticket-holder complaints while simultaneously completing ignoring the significant history behind Clark’s unfortunate death.
Needless to say, the stories of these protesters were both disproportionately left out of the headlines and misrepresented in meaning.On the contrary, in the days following Clark’s death, news channels and newspaper publications were littered with attendance estimations and weather forecasts for March for Our Lives.
Additionally, when protests are primarily led by black activists, the media coverage isn’t always positive. For example, the Black Lives Matter movement, a movement set to combat systematic prejudice against black people in America, is victim to notorious bad press. Instead of espousing the movement, the media frequently dubs their protests as “violent” or “chaotic.”
For example, following the death of Mike Brown and the subsequent protests, which gave rise to the Black Lives Matter movement, the media made various mistakes in covering the events that occurred in Ferguson. Instead of reporting how a weaponless Black man could be shot multiple times by police officers, the media televised repeating scenes of convenience store break-ins and lootings.
The media completely missed the mark and villainized the protesters in Ferguson, and news outlets are renowned for doing this. A Huffington Post article written by Nick Wing further supports this idea and said, “Media treatment of black victims is often harsher than it is of whites.”
On the other hand, media attention for March for Our Lives was anything but critical. They were provided with a platform that other protest organizers could only ever dream of. That said, the March for Our Lives protest was effective and far-reaching, and it did bring forth serious discussion. But, the differences in coverage and media scrutiny are undeniable, and it’s our responsibility to recognize it and fight it next time around.