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When #IfIDieInASchoolShooting Is Trending, We’ve Failed as a Nation

gun violence, gun control, protest, santa fe, march for our lives

#IfIDieInASchoolShooting was trending yesterday, and that fact says more about the United States, guns, and the state of youth today that almost anything else. The kind of despair and defeat that so many have in the prevalence of school shootings (‘No Way To Prevent This,’ Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens) and government inactions (sorry, “Thoughts & Prayers”), has lead to a kind of hopelessness. In an interview, a 17-year-old girl who survived the Santa Fe High School shooting said, “It’s been happening everywhere. I’ve always kind of felt like eventually it was going to happen here, too.”

And when we keep preparing students for a shooting with drills, assemblies, and clear backpacks, instead of promising them we’ll make things better, why wouldn’t that be the case?

A scroll through #IfIDieInASchoolShooting shows students (including shooting survivors) asking for people to do something, and not let them die in vain. They write about the people they would leave behind, the parents that would grieve, the dreams that will never be fulfilled. These are children, and this is happening at an average of once a week this year.

This is not the first time a political hashtag exposed some of the most awful, tragic, and violent aspects of our country. Much of the rhetoric and foundation for speaking against school shootings came from the movement against police brutality and the gun violence faced by the black community. #IfIDieInASchoolShooting follows the path of similar hashtags, such as #IfTheyGunnedMeDown, which was started following the death of Michael Brown. New outlets, as they often do in these cases, chose a photo of Brown specifically aimed to demonize the victim. In response Twitter users posted different photos of themselves with the hashtag to show how these decisions in media reporting matter, and contain damaging biases.

After the death of Sandra Bland, who was found dead in her Houston jail cell under suspicious circumstances (she was jailed after a simple traffic stop) and Anthony Ware, who died after police officers chased him into the woods and pepper sprayed him, the hashtag #IfIDieInPoliceCustody emerged. Using the hashtag, users called for individuals to question these stories and fight against the cover-ups and silencing.

“If I die in a school shooting” shouldn’t be something that children have to think about. They should be learning, spending time with their friends, and planning their futures—not their funerals.

(image: Jim Young/Getty Images)

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