Elementary school pupil Naomi Wadler spoke with composure and eloquence as she reminded us that black women suffer more than any other group from gun violence
We are living in a dizzying culture of powerful individual moments, as well as wider movements. The most compelling moment at March for Our Lives – the biggest gun-control protest in a generation – was thanks to an 11-year-old girl from Virginia called Naomi Wadler. In just three minutes and 30 seconds, a child born under George W Bush’s presidency managed to galvanise a global movement, and quote Toni Morrison to boot.
“I am here today to represent the African American girls whose stories don’t make the front page of every national newspaper,” she began, addressing hundreds of thousands of protestors in Washington DC with more composure, eloquence and awareness than your average world leader. She mentioned Courtlin Arrington, an African American student shot dead in an Alabama school three weeks after the Parkland shooting, whose killing has been largely ignored. I had never heard of Arrington, who was 17 and had been accepted to college to study nursing. “Everyone should value those girls, too,” Wadler urged.
Beyond the hashtags, memes, celebrity endorsements and requisite calls for Wadler to run for president, it’s in moments such as these that we realise these young people really are marching for their lives. Wadler is one of those girls, too. As she reminded us, black women and girls are disproportionately represented among victims of gun violence in the US. A 2017 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that black and Native American women are more than twice as likely as other women to be killed by another person; black women are also the most likely of all female racial groups to be killed by gunfire. Then comes the final blow: these killings are less likely to receive national media attention. At every turn, black women are valued less.
Girls such as Wadler, Parkland shooting survivor Emma Gonzalez or Saffiyah Khan, the UK protestor who, wearing a Specials T-shirt, stood up to an EDL supporter, represent change, hope and a future in which they are valued for more than a moment. And who knows, maybe it’s coming sooner than we think. “We might still be 11, we might still be in elementary school, but we know that life isn’t equal for everyone,” said Wadler. “We also know that we stand in the shadow of the Capitol, and we know that we have seven short years until we too have the right to vote.”
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