For some communities of color, gun violence is the norm. For many in urban communities throughout the country, the fear of losing their children merely walking to and from school or playing outside is a legitimate fear. For many of those kids, losing a relative or parent to gun violence is also legitimate fear, but this is the reality that they have had to adjust to in order to survive.
Take a moment to think about that. Being a child and a young person should be filled with making great memories and having good experiences. Instead, these kids are faced with pressure seemingly coming from every direction. It shouldn’t be hard to understand why so many of them go down an unfavorable path.
According to a 2017 study in the Journal of Pediatrics that analyzed data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “African American children have the highest rates of firearm mortality overall.” The numbers are extremely alarming. Compared to their white counterparts, the study found that black children are 10 times more likely to be killed by guns.
Yet, African Americans as a whole only make up 14 percent of the population in the United States. The continued gun violence in the black community should be tackled and addressed while the nation and politicians have an appetite for reform. Otherwise, it will be overlooked, which would be a national tragedy.
When analyzing the challenges for African American kids, living in an environment riddled by gun violence significantly decreases their odds of ever escaping violence and poverty. The odds of them falling into a cycle of poverty and crime increases, essentially leaving a revolving door effect on kids who otherwise may have a bright future.
If the nation is going to debate reform, that conversation needs to be holistic and should include all members of our society, particularly those who are most impacted by gun violence. While gun violence may be a relatively new phenomenon in some communities, in many black neighborhoods across America, it’s become such a norm that kids have become numb to it.
According to a 2015 study by the Brookings Institution, “Gun violence can have a series of serious snowball effects in education, health, incarceration, family instability and social capital. To take one example, anxiety levels rise and cognitive functioning worsens among school children following a violent crime within half a mile of their home”
The study continues, “Individuals who witness violence are also at increased risk for a variety of mental health issues, which can manifest as post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, poor academic performance, substance abuse, risky sexual behavior, delinquency, and violent behavior … these costs weigh largely on the shoulders of black Americans.”
The issues of the black community do not exist in a vacuum. Black Americans once tackled drugs as a community, an issue that is now impacting white Americans. Black Americans have faced gun violence for decades, while it is now impacting white Americans at an alarming rate. We’re more connected than some would like to think. As we have this debate on guns to keep our kids safe, let’s have an honest and robust conversation based on the facts. As it stands, that is not happening.
We should all mourn the tragic loss of 17 lives at Stoneman Douglas High School. No child should have his or her life taken away before it ever even starts. But if we’re going to have a debate at this level of urgency, let’s do it honestly by including all communities impacted by gun violence.
Shermichael Singleton is a CNN political commentator and a Republican political strategist who has worked on the presidential campaigns of Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyGOP senator will 'probably' vote for debt limit increase Five questions and answers about the debt ceiling fight Warren, Daines introduce bill honoring 13 killed in Kabul attack MORE and Ben CarsonBen CarsonRepublicans are the 21st-century Know-Nothing Party Sunday shows preview: Delta concerns prompt CDC mask update; bipartisan infrastructure bill to face challenges in Senate Government indoctrination, whether 'critical' or 'patriotic,' is wrong MORE. Follow him on Twitter @Shermichael_.