Parkland shooting survivor Emma González, who co-founded March for Our Lives and is an activist for gun violence prevention, wants entertainment industry influencers to fight harder for important causes in the 2020 election. Here are excerpts of an email exchange with González, who is attending New College of Florida.
What is your call to action for Hollywood this election season?
Do better. Your words and actions have weight, and they can inspire change when used correctly. Recognize the power you have to move the needle on issues that matter.
How important is it for influential people in the entertainment business to be politically active in this election year? Do you think that could have a significant impact on the outcome?
I think that people in our society tend to deify celebrities and famous people, and stop seeing them as people once their names become recognized on the larger scale. Celebrities and famous people are at the end of the day human beings, and we are all capable of being better people, of asking the difficult questions, and of demanding more from our government. Everyone in this country, no matter who they are, should be politically active. Many people in this country are still being denied the right to vote, so if you still have your voting ability, you should make good use of it.
You were very instrumental in helping get out the young vote in the midterm elections last November. What are you doing in the run-up to the November election? Are you going to be out there again registering folks to vote?
March for Our Lives has big plans to ensure young people get involved and registered this year. We worked our asses off before the 2018 midterms to get as many people as possible registered to vote and saw an incredible increase in voter turnout. We are bringing that same drive to this election cycle, and of course since this election will decide the next president, more people are paying attention and are likely to vote, so I personally have high hopes for a high voter turnout, no matter the outcome.
In this current day and age, with all of the world’s technology right at our fingertips and a constant barrage of information being spit at us by the never-ending news cycle, it is very easy to feel disenfranchised, and that our votes don’t matter. We need to be more conscientious about our every movement, individually and as a society, so research who you vote for and stay steadfast in your convictions, even if the current political state of this country makes you want to hide your head in the sand. You’ve been given a voice, so use it.
Tragically, since Parkland there have been a number of mass shootings at schools and elsewhere. And this president and his administration have done nothing to curb it, is that correct?
The sad truth is, mass shootings are not the only instances of gun violence that exist in this country. Black and brown people are getting killed every day by gun violence, and their deaths have just as big an impact on their community as mass shootings, so we also need to talk about racism and police brutality and poverty and the school-to-prison pipeline when we talk about gun reform. Second, suicides comprise two-thirds of gun violence in this country, so when we talk about gun reform in this country we need to talk about health care and the stigma around mental illness, in addition to the classism/racism/sexism that exists in those conversations. We also can’t ignore who makes money by selling guns when violence occurs, then scared people buy guns for protection, and the cycle continues.
All of this begs the question, why would a Republican-led government, much less a Republican president, do anything to slow the influx of cash that the gun-manufacturing industry receives? It is up to us, in this election cycle and during midterm election cycles, to push the vital, time-sensitive and interrelated issues of gun reform, mental health, poverty and racism into the election process. These problems aren’t going to solve themselves.
Do you think our government is still in bed with the NRA and the organization is as powerful as it once was?
I don’t think we as constituents should ever be fully trusting of our government or our elected leaders; it’s up to us to be informed and hold them accountable. There are many websites you can visit that tell you the public donations that elected officials accept from the NRA and how much. As for the NRA, that’s just one of the many problems in this country, and as much as I let my days go by without thinking about the NRA or Oliver North or Wayne LaPierre and their various financial and imperialist scandals, and Marion Hammer’s possibly irreparable damage done to this country and my home state of Florida, it is vital to keep an eye on the threats to sanity, health and protection of the general and at-risk population in this country. When you stop taking a threat seriously, it becomes all the more threatening.