Every talk that white parents have had to give to their children regarding a school shooting has been given to kids of color five or ten years earlier- about police.
Put aside the fact that Black Lives Matter protesters never received nationally sanctioned events, or that the Brown Berets were infiltrated by the CIA rather than celebrated by congressional representatives. The history of youth activism and police presence at high schools in the United States is blatantly racist and destructive to citizens of color.
What perhaps most students who took part in the March 14th walkouts forgot was the historical foundations of the walkout movement- the mistreatment and criminalization of young Latinos and Chicanos within their own schools. The results of the March 14th walkout appear eerily similar to the causes of the 1968 East Los Angeles/ Sal Castro walkouts, not due to the student activism, but due to the increasing sense of incarceration on a school campus. Students taking part in the 1968 walkouts left their classes in the true belief that they would be dying for their cause, not the worry that they’d be marked absent from class. This fear didn’t come from the idea that fellow students would hurt them, or that outsiders from neighboring communities would protest against them (though they would). Chicanos and Latinos taking part in the East Los Angeles walkouts were in fear of their lives at the hands of white police officers sent to patrol their neighborhoods during these organizations, and in the days that would follow almost twenty students were arrested and a still uncounted number were beaten by officers on the front steps of their schools.
White children across the country are currently fighting for their right to a safe education… but don’t students of color deserve that as well?
For students of color, sheriff’s deputies and police forces patrolling campus are just as dangerous as armed teachers- perhaps worse. For myself and other students of color attending predominantly white high schools, the increasing police presence is exactly what we’ve strived to escape. My background in high school education is derived from a father who attended school with fellow migrant farmworker children and a mother attending Pomona’s Garey High School, in which less than a third of the student body is able to complete CSU/UC requirements due to the focus upon funding for police officers rather than guidance counselors, better materials, and access to updated curriculum. Needless to say, the effect that increased police presence has had on predominantly black and brown communities and schools in particular is heartbreaking.
If police officers are still ill-trained to respond to citizens of color for the crime of existing, how can we trust in their ability to remain calm in the threatening situation of black and brown students receiving a high school education and being accepted to prestigious universities? Now, rather than fear another white “lone wolf”, I fear that perhaps my 100 pound 5’1 self is threatening enough to kill, or that by some miracle my phone is mistaken for something much worse.
In the almost twenty years that predominantly white schools have considered and imposed greater police presence willingly (juxtaposed to the ‘mandatory’ presence at majority African American and Latino high schools since their creation), not one school shooting has been prevented by an officer. Rather, over one million students have been arrested for primarily non-violent offenses, those numbers disproportionately representing students of color and students with disabilities.
Safety on campus should not be restricted to or valued more so due to a student’s color of skin, but now even predominantly white schools are headed down a dark path towards the school-to-prison pipeline and will sacrifice hard working non-white students as it does so. The actions of white school districts and the complicity of parents is a direct attack on the rights of children of color to receive a safe education alongside white children.
Imposing greater campus ‘security’ - be it armed guards, undercover police officers, or guns in the hands of every faculty member- simply reaffirms the idea of people of color feeling retributions for the actions of whites, and any advocate for true equality when it comes to the gun control debate should recognize so.
We simply do not need more cops than counselors.
For more information regarding historical police brutality and the rights of youth in the United States as it relates to police encounters, visit www.aclu.org