I’ve worked inside of schools for almost the past decade. I work with historically underserved students and their families to help ensure they are getting the education and the school experience that so many of us take for granted. I have watched teachers, school staff and community partners go above and beyond to help these students feel safe and to feel heard. I have also seen what happens when students of color are disproportionately punished and reprimanded for their behaviors in comparison to their white counterparts. This is a national problem. The institutions meant to educate and lift students up ends up coming down harder on their Black, Latino, Native, Pacific Islander and immigrant populations. Check the data…I’ll wait.
What I’m writing isn’t new or breaking information. It’s also information that is not hard to find. Welcome back by the way. I believe that part of the reason these students are treated so glaringly differently than their white counterparts is the same reason white people receive reduced sentences from the judicial system in this country when compared to people of color who are accused of equivalent crimes. It’s the same reason that so many angry, violent white people were able to scale walls, break windows, push past police unharmed and enter into the nation’s capitol, not to mention those that were simply let in with no effort at all. The reason is that this country has a very hard time taking threats from white people seriously and in many cases it has a hard time seeing threats from white people at all. And yet I can name incident after incident after incident of the police acting swiftly and with deadly force against people of color, in particular Black people, who not only had no weapon on their person but were actively trying to demonstrate that they were not a threat. The list is long and the names are too painful to recite. Lives are being taken due to fear, incompetence, racism and training. I’ll write that again because it’s important; lives are being taken due to fear, incompetence, racism and training.
Warnings are not taken seriously, information is not disseminated with haste, barriers are not erected and the battle gear stays inside of the lockers because white skin does not trigger the training. White skin does not trigger the conditioning. White skin is not taken seriously in times of threat by institutions of power and authority in this country. White skin gives people the stealth to fly under the radar…but not all of us use the same radar. Some of us see them coming from miles and miles away but when we sound the alarm we are met with malice, invalidation, denial and silence. Black skin isn’t taken seriously when we seek justice and accountability.
So when I watched the confederate flag gliding proudly and enthusiastically through the easily conquered capitol building I am not surprised and I do not wonder how this happened? I do not think for one second that this isn’t us, that this isn’t who we are because I know that this is exactly who we are and who we have been for a lot longer than four years and one sad, power hungry, rich white man who wasn’t taken seriously when he decided to run for President.
I’ve seen little Black boys in classrooms get labeled as aggressive and dangerous because they didn’t have the words to express all of the hurt and pain they were experiencing inside of their bodies. They would act out physically sometimes. I’m not excusing the behavior but I am explaining the behavior. To be so young and to know somewhere deep inside that you are being treated differently because your skin does not match the skin of your teacher or so many of your classmates is a traumatic experience. I’ve also seen little white boys in classrooms pick up chairs and throw them at their teachers and classmates. I’ve heard them threaten violence and I’ve watched an entire classroom have to be cleared until a boy tired himself out. I’m not saying there was no pain or hurt inside of him but I can tell you the response he received was very different.
Angry little Black boys are taken very seriously inside of this country’s public schools. They are met with swift responses and long periods of removal. Angry Black people are met with swift action in the form of violence and murder. Calm Black people are met with violence and murder. And sometimes, sometimes sleeping Black people are met with violence and murder. Angry little white boys are asked to count to ten. And don’t’ forget to breathe! Angry white people holding guns are told that they are patriots and have the barriers in front of them removed. In this country angry white mobs are not taken seriously until it’s too late.