While They Were Learning

“This happened while the children were learning?”

My son posed this question to my husband and me as he ate his breakfast, the morning after the mass murder of children and educators in Uvalde, Texas.

Rather than begin his morning talking about his upcoming day, or sharing tidbits about the shows he watches, he was absorbing the news of another horrific and inhumane act of gun violence.

Today is also the two year anniversary of George Floyd’s public lynching.

Last night, as my husband and I absorbed the devastating and terrifying news, we turned to each other, pale and ashen-faced, agreeing that we had to tell our son in the morning, before it would be discussed at school.

Our son is 11, about to finish his first year of middle school, and in just over a month, there have been four mass shootings.

Sunset Park, Brooklyn (just a few miles from us, where his school had to shelter in place), Buffalo, New York, Laguna Woods, California and now, Uvalde, Texas.

It is unacceptable.

And avoidable.

“While the children were learning.”

My son’s question made me ponder:

What is it that our children are learning in this country?

They are learning that gun violence is inevitable.

They are learning that the unborn are more sacred than living, breathing souls.

They are learning that books (and knowledge) are more dangerous than assault weapons.

They are learning that no matter how many lives are senselessly taken by guns, the laws do not change.

They are learning that white supremacy, anti-blackness, misogyny, LGBTQI+ phobia and cruelty are this country’s truest traditions.

They are learning to live in a perpetual state of fear and anxiety.

Parents and caregivers across this nation last night and this morning had to explain to their pale, ashen-faced children that yet more lives, this time the lives of children and educators, were brutally ended.

At school.

As they were living.

As they were learning.

After decades of mass shootings.

This happened while the children were learning.

And it has to stop.



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Naomi Raquel

Naomi Raquel


Bilingual. New Yorker. Multiethnic. Change Agent. Author of “Strength of Soul” (2Leaf Press; University of Chicago Press, April 2019)