I was what one might describe an activist before having children, but since I’ve become a mother my dedication to activism has skyrocketed. I routinely bring my three young children to protests and demonstrations (understandingly only one component of activism) because exposing them to human struggle, expression, diversity, and solidarity will profoundly impact the way they understand themselves, the world, and their relation to it.
Dr. Erin Hambrick, Professor of Psychology at UMKC, adds, “early life activism may promote openness, which may, in turn, increase the likelihood that our children are prepared to think critically, seek novel experiences, and make informed and timely decisions as members of our rapidly changing world.”
We sure could use some people making informed decisions in our world right now.
But if I’m honest, one of the main reasons I involve my children in activism is because their involvement makes me a better person.
We attended the National School Walk Out Rally in Prospect Park on March 14th and talked about the dangers of guns, how they are used to hurt people (disproportionately black and brown people), and how they contribute to cycles of violence in low-income communities. When I asked one of my 3-year-olds what he would like to write on a sign to people that make decisions about guns, he thought for several moments then said, "but why do you have that gun?"
Listening to children’s thoughts and questions, as we talk through justice issues either at home or in the streets, gives us the uniquely necessary perspective of taking the helicopter view. Children aren’t concerned with bump stocks, partisan politics, or background checks. They are full of substantive questions and observations that society as a whole would be good to realise critique our shared values and priorities.
Why do we live in a world where there are guns? Is it to feed perverted senses of toxic masculinity? Is it to kill Stephon Clark over and over again? Is it to create illusions of safety around ourselves and those who look like and socialise with us? Is it to feed a corrupt prison industry? Or is it so we can go into a nightclub, place of worship, or school to kill innocent people?
Why do you have that gun?
You are right, son, it does not make sense that we have a mammoth gun problem in our country. In fact, it’s appalling. It is not right that gun violence includes not only mass shootings but police brutality that disproportionately affects people of colour. It is incomprehensible that it is easier for someone to buy a weapon than Sudafed. But without your refreshing perspective, I may have gotten lost in the nauseating gun reform debate.
By placing young people in situations where they naturally will imagine a different way, in this instance a world without guns, we simultaneously elevate our collective dreams for a more just and peaceful society. If we keep those observations in the confines of our own homes, we lose the potential to raise collective conscious.
So I’ll be marching again for comprehensive gun reform on Saturday at the March for our Lives, and I hope the youngest among us will too. I’ve still got a lot to learn.
Amanda Hambrick Ashcraft is an activist, writer, content strategist, and founder of @RaisingImagination: Empowering Activism through Imagination. She’s presented nationwide on topics including systemic injustice, religion, and involving young children in advocacy. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband, twin boys, and girl.