Youth Radio: "When did violence become so normal?"

Aug 8, 2012

Since the Aurora, Colorado shooting, I keep asking myself: when did violence became so normal? It pops up everywhere in American culture. We feel excited it by it when we see it on a screen. We feel proud of it when we see it in uniform, and angered by it when we see it near our children.

I stood in line for 45 minutes waiting to see "The Dark Knight Rises," the same night as the Colorado shooting. I sat in the theatre with many other young people and basked in the violent glory. After, I went home to rave about it on Twitter. Now I’m wondering why I’m surprised that gunfire erupted in a similar setting.

I live in Oakland, where violence is not only normal, it’s routine. The only thing consistent about the news is gun violence. When I see “Teenage Boy Killed in Drive-by Shooting,” I may be saddened and angry, but I’m seldom surprised. The faces, ages, and the locations of the victims change, but the outcome is almost always the same.

And it’s not just Oakland, it’s the country. A 4-year-old at a Bronx playground was killed the same day as the shooting in Aurora. It's been one of the most violent summers in Chicago, with constant news of shootings. And yet the common reactions are a candlelight vigil, letters to the families of the victims, and messages promoting the courage to move on. But we need more.

In response to the shooting in Colorado, President Barack Obama said, “Out of this darkness, a brighter day is going to come,” but who’s campaigning for that brighter day? It’s time for a call to action for all Americans – lawmakers and citizens. Not only is it time for better gun control laws, but for us to ask what made us so comfortable with violence in the first place.

It’s easy to say guns protect our freedom, but when you have to live in fear of death at a movie theatre, or the grocery store, or your school, exactly how free are you? Maybe we lost our way somewhere between Call of Duty, and "Dark Knight," and the monotonous homicide stories of modern media, but one thing is for sure: if we don’t hold ourselves accountable for the desensitizing of death and murder, we’re only excusing it.

On the tenth anniversary of Columbine, I started to really think about gun laws, and after the Tuscon shooting I started thinking even harder.

As a young person, it feels unfair to see so much death. It totally changes our outlook. A lot of the young people I know don't expect to live that long. The source of that feeling? Guns. It's not drugs, it's not car accidents. It's that fear that every second could be your last. No one should have to live with that feeling.

Bianca Brooks is a commentator with Youth Radio in Oakland.