At first, I thought that comparing the experiences of the slain children in Newtown to the slain black and brown children across this country was insensitive. I thought that it just wasn’t the time to point out the inconsistent treatment of dead children due to gun violence. I thought that no matter the color of the child, the pain to that parent is the same. And I still think all these things.
But as I’ve taken in the media coverage in the past 4 days, I’ve started to get a little annoyed. Angry even. And ultimately unbearably sad. And perhaps that’s my fault for watching the news, and their macabre fascination with death and tragedy. It seems that CNN simply cannot get enough footage to capitalize on the pain and sadness of others. Their camping out in front of churches where children are being buried despite the families’ requests for privacy? I almost want to throw my shoe at the TV. But instead, I just change the channel.
But not before I saw the comfort dogs.
The beautiful golden retrievers dispatched to Newtown to bring some joy to the children of the community. The dogs trained to be gentle with even the most aggressive child. The dogs putting their nose to a 4-year-old’s nose. A shiny golden coat gentle rubbed beside a rosy cheek.
And while my heart broke with the memory of the pain, it also broke at the injustice of the disparity. At the fact that it seems that some kids’ deaths mean more than other children’s deaths.
For where were the comfort dogs to heal the children living in the Florida community of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, children likely traumatized that they could be shot down under the Stand Your Ground laws?
Where were the comfort dogs to heal the children living in Chicago when 7-year-old Heaven Sutton was shot in the back after running from her mother’s candy stand when she heard gunshots?
Where were the comfort dogs to heal the children living in Camden, NJ when a 6-year-old first grader was murdered trying to protect his 12-year-old sister from rape?
Where are the comfort dogs for the millions of children in Philly, Detroit, Chicago and other urban areas who are suffering from PTSD from the DAILY threat of gun violence and death?
I want the children of Newtown to receive all the good things this world has to offer. I want all the well-wishers to send teddy bears, cards, and care packages. I want the knitters to send their handmade monsters to every single child at Sandy Hook Elementary School so that they know we love them.
But I also want the Camden first-graders to get comfort dogs. I also want Heaven’s classmates to get handknit monsters. I want a CNN special for every child who has ever died due to gun violence. I want their names and faces plastered on TV with words about their favorite book and how their smile brought their families joy. I want news vans to stay on the scene for days talking about the senselessness of every child’s death.
Not just for the children who go to school in a “bucolic” New England town.
Not just for the children who go to school in a place that had not seen more than one homicide in the last ten years.
Not just for the children who go to school where the vast majority of them are white.
Please understand me – when I see the face of each and every 6 and 7 year-old who died in Newtown, I see my own almost-7-year-old first grader. I hold nothing against those children or their parents or their community. I just want equity. I just want EVERY child to be remembered. I just want the same outpouring of grief for EVERY child who dies of gun violence. They may not have died en masse, in one classroom, in one community, but they are dying nevertheless. Their parents are hurting nevertheless. Their classmates are traumatized nevertheless.
I want the sports teams and day time TV hosts and churches all over the country to observe moments of silence EACH time ANY child dies from a gun’s bullets. I just want to feel some sense that if my cousin’s children, who still live in Philadelphia, are murdered by gun violence that the nation will mourn for them. I want some sense that if the children who play at the Boys and Girl’s Club in East Palo Alto were gunned down that the nation will mourn for them. I want some sense that black and brown little children matter too.
But I won’t hold my breath.