Police Abuse in School is Further Evidence of the Absence of Value for Black and Female Life
Dayvon Love of Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle discusses the context and methods of responding to the abuse of a Black female teenager by police in a South Carolina school.
JARED BALL, PRODUCER, TRNN: Welcome, everyone, back to the Real News Network. I’m Jared Ball here in Baltimore.
We’re here today at Goucher College to talk with the director of public policy for Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle, Dayvon Love, about the recent video circulating around the internet of Ben Fields, an officer in a Columbia, South Carolina high school, aggressively and violently throwing to the ground a black female student. And we wanted to have a conversation about what this all means for both the black community in the context of a burgeoning Black Lives Matter struggle, and a broader black liberation struggle that Dayvon Love and his comrades are all involved in.
So here we are at Goucher College. Again, this is the Real News. I’m Jared Ball. Let’s check it out.
DAYVON LOVE: Well I mean, there’s a fundamental lack of regard for the humanity of black people. And I think sometimes–I think people forget. You know, and it takes incidents like that, people to see the video, for people to remember that the world and society we actually live in–. It’s unfortunate that that’s what happens. But unfortunately that’s, that’s really what it means. We talk about the images and representations of black people, particularly black youth. Often you see images that are highly criminalized, right. Images that render young people as just problems to be dealt with. And so that probably is what triggers a response on the policy side, to think you need police officers in schools.
As a person who is a graduate of a Baltimore City public school I remember encountering, you know, some of the school police officers. The best of them you couldn’t even really tell they were police officers, right. They were just people who were there to keep the peace. The worst of those were folks who, you know, carried their weapons on them, that made it very clear they were police. And that didn’t really have a positive effect on the environment. But when you talk about the sophistication of white supremacy, the way that black people internalize white supremacy, project that onto our own people, and then operate in institutions where you have the situation that happened, where the institution of policing was marshaled by a black person to come and deal with a black youth using that same logic.
And I mean, one thing I want to mention, to me that’s really important, that’s something that’s really pervasive. So even if we look, like, here in Baltimore. There was an effort last year on the part of our school board to try to pass a law that would allow for police officers, school police, to carry their firearms in the school building, on school grounds, during the school day. And there was a big push for that. And so there were folks in the community had to go down to Annapolis, our state’s capital, to fight it. To make sure it didn’t pass. And luckily it didn’t. But I just think that’s just an example of how this notion of criminalization and over-policing is something that affects black folks all across the United States.
One, it’s important for us in our own communities to build our own institutions, build our own programs so we have the capacity to address issues in our communities without needing the police. Because I think this myth that’s been propagated about needing police officers to keep the peace, and again like I said in my own high school experience, those who were most useful to that end were folks that you couldn’t tell were police officers. So I think that, that’s important.
But the other piece is being vigilant on the policy front, right. Because there are policies that are in place that allow those kinds of things to happen. I remember talking to a former police officer that used to work in Washington, DC. One of the things that he said to me, he looked at LBS’s website, about our stuff around police brutality. And one of the things he said was, he said that the idea of addressing the policy is the best way to go. Because the institution follows the policy, right. So if the policy’s structured in such a way that takes away the loopholes that police officers have in terms of brutalizing folks then they’ll follow that. They’ll make sure that they live up to what it is that will keep them from being penalized.
And so a part of the work we did–so that bill that I mentioned before, you know, it was the work of us and other organizations to go down and stop them from passing this bill, which they were quietly passing. You know, they didn’t really tell the community that this bill was something they were going to put in the General Assembly. But luckily someone saw it, and we went down to fight it. And so I imagine, you know, South Carolina, there are a myriad of policies like it that folks just need to pay attention to in order to create protection mechanisms against something like that from happening.
You have to have a profound love for the people that you’re teaching. And I think there are moments when you might encounter a student–and thing about young folks is that you got to have a really strong sense of yourself. Got to have thick skin, have your ego in check when you deal with students. Because students are very honest people, very blunt folks. And there are moments when you just gotta–you know, students are going to do things that are disruptive, that you might find problematic. But if you’re building relationships with students over the course of the time that you encounter them, they grow to develop that level of respect, where they won’t behave certain ways towards you because you develop that rapport with them. And unfortunately, given the circumstances in our society, you’re going to encounter those things.
And so the question you’ve got to ask yourself is, you know, is your pride or ego in the moment that that situation’s happening more important than your general commitment to the livelihood and quality of life of black people, black children. And if you answer that question that, to the former being more important, then you shouldn’t be in the profession.
JARED BALL: Thanks again for joining us here at the Real News. For all involved, again, I’m Jared Ball here in Baltimore saying, as always, as Fred Hampton used to say, to you we say peace if you’re willing to fight for it. So peace, everybody, and we’ll catch you in the whirlwind.
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