I’d like to debut this article by thanking Art 180 for giving a platform to share my story with racism and online harassment through this painting. My painting is about both my experience within the March For Our Lives movement and the fact that Black youth have been rallying against gun violence for generations. This piece has allowed me to express my frustration for being a marginalized voice in this movement.
When Black women and girls speak out about issues that disproportionately affect us, such as gun violence, we are often viewed as disrespectful, even though we are the most disrespected, unprotected and neglected people in America. We’re often expected to show up for people who marginalize our voices. We’re placed at the back of movements for gun reform, and when we bring up how misogynoir plays a factor in this injustice, we’re accused of being angry, we’re accused of “clashing” with and “attacking other people and “not exchanging our opinions peacefully,” and when I say that, I speak from personal experience.
After speaking at a March for Our Lives demonstration, I was invited organize with a group of white high school students, who had a very funny way of showing their support for Black voices. My Black experience was devalued when I was told that there’s less racism nowadays, that it only exists in the South and that the racism I experienced in my early childhood is no longer valid because “It was in the past”. When I asked them how they uplift Black voices through their actions, and I was accused of “questioning their activism”. When I said that racism, police brutality and gun violence against Black youth should be addressed by this movement, I faced harassment by the white organizers. One white man harassed me from multiple Instagram accounts and told me that I was being disrespectful, rude, inconsiderate and close-minded for addressing the racial disparities, that “this is about all lives, American lives and not Black lives,” that I should leave this country if I don’t like it, that I shouldn’t be working with them if I’m “going to be attacking and fighting with other people” which left me inconsolable.
The fact the organizers held me accountable by omitting my intentions of addressing the racial disparity at the Virginia National School Walkout protest, instead of this white male who is older than I am, is a good example of how a 19-year-old white man gets to be “just a kid,” and how Black girls are depicted as less innocent than our white counterparts and are never viewed as children. One day, I hope to live in a where Black girls aren’t harassed on the internet and robbed of their innocence at an alarmingly young age when we speak out about these issues.
Written by Stephanie Younger, a 16-year-old student activist, organizer and writer who advocates for Womanism, diversity in S.T.E.A.M, the abolition of youth prisons and gun violence prevention