Race and Police Accountability
Toyia Taylor– Founder of we.app
Pastor Braxton– New Beginnings Christian Fellowship Pastor
Drego Little -Learning Support Specialist/Literature-Writing Teacher
Yoli Chisholm– Marketing lead, Founder of We Learn Live
Race and Police Accountability
May 11, 2015- 6th graders at Mount View Elementary spent the day participating in an open forum about race and police accountability. The conversation was held by a panel of three people and facilitated by Toyia Taylor to address current events in Baltimore and other instances claiming racial bias in the US police force. Students were given a chance to listen to the panelist’s experience with the police and their advice for young people of color- particularly African American students. This forum informs students about perspectives on race that may be present in their communities and across the nation.
Scholars agree that racism is written into America’s history-it is a mixture of privilege and power used institutionally to keep people of color down (Johnson, 2006).With the considered success of the Civil Rights movement and end of segregation, it has been portrayed that racism is a “thing of the past.” Since the death of Trayvon Martin, there has been heightened awareness around police brutality and anti-blackness. This school year, we’ve seen multiple movements (Black Lives Matter, Ferguson) to directly call out racial bias in police officers and holding these forces accountable.. The recent uprising in Baltimore for the justice of Freddie Gray posed more questions and concerns for people watching, including our students. For example: “What message does the media send about African Americans?” The panel asked students.
“What I see on the news is that they are always saying stuff that African American people do bad. They never put anything a white person does on the news unless it’s good.” – Mt. View 6th grade student
During the forum, when asked if they had experienced or witnessed racism, most students reported that they had. One student recalls trying to visit a store with a friend: “I was told I couldn’t go because of my skin color…they told me my skin was ugly.” All of the panelists challenged the students with a variety of questions around what they could do to understand their rights as citizens, and for some students, their role as an ally. The entire panel was in consensus: Education is the number one tool that students can use against injustice. Developing a good mind will get you what you want.
“Having education, connections, and access can help you work the system to control the outcome of the situation. I was stopped because I was black but let go because of my resources.” -Pastor Braxton.
After the 90 minute discussion, students broke out into 4 groups and summarized talking points that were important to them in regards to racial disparity and the history of police brutality. However, after hearing the student’s presentations it seemed like they were left with bigger questions:
“Why wasn’t Freddie Gray taken to the hospital?”
“When will racism end and how?”
“Will body cameras help?
“How do we hold officers accountable?”
“How can we enforce current officer procedures?”
but with questions came some beautiful solutions:
”Prisons should not be a business which motivates people to put people in jail.”
“There should be better trained cops”
“People should be allowed to protest in a way that they will be heard and not hurt”
“Police officers should be policing in their own neighborhoods. That way if they sense trouble, they can be compassionate because they are neighbors.”
“We should focus on the achievements of African Americans”
“I think we should hide body cameras so that the police don’t know they are being watched and then they will be caught if they break the rules.”
Toyia Taylor wrapped up the discussion by asking panelists to provide 5 steps that students can use when confronted by police officers:
1. Ask if you’re being detained. If they ask you more than five questions you need to ask them why and before leaving, ask “Am I free to go?”.
2. Keep your hands out of your pockets. Do not make sudden movements that would cause them to believe you’re endangering them.
3. Make good decisions. Don’t snap at them or be rude to them.
4. Go to school and stay in school. If you have resources, you can fight back. Use intellectual power to fight the system and get a different outcome.
5. Learn the law and learn your legal rights. The more you know the law, the more you know when you’re being mistreated- especially as a high crime.
We are not anti-police. We all depend on the police for safety
People of color have only asked for equal protection and equal treatment of the law.
STEM literacy enables students to apply 21st century skills such as collaboration, knowledge construction, self-regulation, problem solving, innovation, information technology and communication to improve the social, economic, and environmental conditions of their local and global community.
Johnson, Allan G. Privilege, Power, and Difference. Second ed. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2006. Web. 10 Mar. 2015.