I'm Sorry It Took Me This Long To Get This Angry

by Allison Hietbrink
Jonathan Stout / EyeEm / Getty

In light of the most recent school shooting (and who knows which one that is by the time you are reading this), I was outraged. There was a constant fury inside of me that I haven’t ever felt before — a mix of disgust, fear, helplessness, and straight up anger.

Trying my best to channel this anger into something positive, I took action and encouraged my peers to do the same in regards to wherever they fell on the gun-vs-mental-health argument. My pleas mostly went unheeded and this only made me more angry. I found myself growing bitter and pivoting the focus of my anger from elected officials to the many apathetic citizens of this country. “Why doesn’t anybody care enough to do anything?!” I’d ask, bewildered.

I found myself wondering how everyone else seems to be carrying on with their lives and going through the motions as if none of this violence had ever happened before, and as if they honestly believed it wouldn’t happen again. Suddenly, inexplicably, it had all become very personal to me and for every person I saw or heard defending guns or even bowing out of current discussions, I felt they were telling me that my children’s lives don’t matter.

I took a hard look at every person in my life and was really curious as to why, specifically, more of my black peers weren’t as outwardly outraged as I was. After all, black Americans know this plight better than I do, considering black children are 10 times more likely to die from gun violence than white children. As quickly as I critically examined my own question, I had my answer and I felt a little embarrassed by the fact that I was only so angry now. My black friends are angry about gun violence, but they’ve been angry about gun violence.

Until now, their pleas for help didn’t hit me where it really hurt: my own children. As much as I hate to admit it, when I hear of black youths being murdered by guns, I realize that I must secretly store it in some sort of “sad, but …” file in my brain:

“Sad, but I don’t know all the facts and therefore can’t take an educated stand.”

“Sad, but they were involved in gang-activity.”

“Sad, but thankfully my children are inadvertently removed from that risk pool.”

This hurts me to realize and to admit, but I’m putting this out there because I think it’s something to contribute to our current gun discussion in America. I hate to think that I have inadvertently been burying my head in the sand when it comes to gun violence among any other group of children but my own. My current outrage regarding gun violence is through rose-colored glasses, white-washed and soaked in white privilege.

I’ve never worried about my kids being targeted by gun violence because of the color of their skin. Only now, when guns have made their way into the very same type of schools that my children attend, am I outraged.

I don’t have all the answers to our current gun violence problem and it seems with every solution presented, there are more issues and questions raised. This post isn’t to sway you in one way or the other. It’s not even a plea for change. I’m not trying to make a martyr of myself or to guilt trip anyone. I just felt a strong need to publicly address my white privilege in regards to gun violence, especially considering how vocal I am currently about America’s firearm-death epidemic. This is a personal platform to give a lengthy apology to my black peers as I’ve easily kept quiet and shrugged my shoulders as you all have begged for mercy from gun-violence.

I am sorry it took me this long to get this angry.