Statistics are everywhere showing that we are disproportionately criminalizing black, brown and disabled kids, excluding them from school via suspensions and expulsions, engaging police, and sentencing them to juvenile justice facilities.
In fact, such dismaying statistics have been consistent for decades. Our practices and acts of violence against black, brown and disabled kids and adults have become so common, that we sometimes fail to become activated by events that are consistent with & are the basis of the disheartening and reprehensible statistics.
Sometimes, however, the ugly head of racism roars louder, such as when something so terrible and unfathomable happens in society that it draws everyone's attention and they demand action through protests and other overt actions, such as the recent incidents of police brutality and murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor in the Spring of 2020 during the COVID-19 Pandemic.
This also happened in San Mateo County in 2018 when Chinedu Okobi, a black man with a mental health diagnosis, was murdered in Millbrae by San Mateo Sheriff's Deputies using tasers when he caught their attention by jay walking. In this instance, the public roar was more localized. There were no charges brought, and justice remains to be served.
Speaking up for justice is absolutely imperative, and this has been (and is currently being) done. Calls for police oversight and divestment have been made. Resolutions are circulating, funding is being cut in some cities, charges have been brought and heightened for the officers involved in Mr. Floyd's murder.
What can we do to make deep-seated and lasting systemic change?
I think that we can do a great many things.
The public's "will for change" hopefully translates into "political will for change."
I believe, as with most issues, we must start by looking at how we are treating our KIDS, what we are allowing - and if we're unaware of what's happening in our schools on these matters, why is that so? How are we perpetuating longstanding and systemic racism and marginalization?
"U.S. Department of Education data shows that in most states black, Latino and special-needs (disabled) students get referred to police and courts disproportionately. The volume of referrals from schools is fueling arguments that zero tolerance policies and school policing are creating a “school-to-prison pipeline” by criminalizing behavior better dealt with outside courts. The Center for Public Integrity ranked states by their rate of referral for every 1,000 students." See below and https://publicintegrity.org/education/virginia-tops-nation-in-sending-students-to-cops-courts-where-does-your-state-rank/
One of my priorities in running for the San Mateo County Board of Education is to "disrupt the school to prison pipeline and the policies underlying this trend." It is not acceptable to me that 100% of the Court School students are socioeconomically disadvantaged, a majority are black and brown students, and approximately 75% or more are students with disabilities.
I believe that it is not until we look closely at our practices and policies for kids and pay attention to clear biases (not just implicit biases, but explicit biases and racism) and consider that we are perpetuating longstanding systemic racism and marginalization through such practices and policies, that we will be able to work toward justice.
We also need to make sure that our students are having these discussions and are prepared to continue holding up accountability for equality and justice into the future. Promoting student discussion of these issues by infusing civics education and a broader base of history in our schools' curriculums is essential.
As with all things, we have to address imperative issues in the present moment (for kids, adolescents & adults) as best we can, but the more we can work toward addressing the root causes and alleviating them whenever possible, the better our outcomes are likely to be going forward.
We can make strides toward justice and equality if we remain activated and if we continue taking steps toward real and lasting change.
We can and must do this.