As a Nation did we fail?
Ultimately some of these questions will be answered by investigators. Other questions—the deeper, more disturbing ones that ask about equality and intolerance—must be answered within our classrooms and our courtrooms. These dark (deeper) questions have grown from our living rooms and our televisions. Their very existence attests that we, as a nation, have failed our Trayvon Martins, and are failing our Mike Browns.
Before his death at the hands of a white police officer, Michael Brown had graduated from Normandy High School – a school whose academic standards and finances were so poor that it had been declared “unaccredited” by Missouri state education authorities.
During the 2011-2012 school year, 829 young black men and women were meted out one out-of-school suspension by Ferguson-Florissant. That’s 8.1 percent of the 10,197 black children attending the district’s schools, according to data submitted to the U.S. Department of Education.
- A recent study by the Office for Civil Rights shows that the percentage of young black men suspended from school (as Martin was) is far greater than that of their peers. However, Chief Charles Hurley of the Miami-Dade School Police Department (MDSPD) in 2010 had implemented a policy that reduced the number of criminal reports, manipulating statistics to create the appearance of a reduction in crime within the school system. Less than two weeks before Martin’s death, the school system commended Chief Hurley for “decreasing school-related juvenile delinquency by an impressive 60 percent for the last six months of 2011.”
- Another study, by The Sentencing Project, examines vastly disproportionate rates of incarceration for African-American Men. We should be asking ourselves why these disparities exist?
Deep rooted Victim Complex
Trayvon Martin and Mike Brown both were not victims of their seemingly racist killers alone. They both were victims of the lopsided school systems that failed them. They where victims of a police force that overwhelmingly assumes first that most young black men are criminals followed by fear of them. They are a victims of bad legislation, like the Florida’s Stand Your Ground law, that gives anyone the unfettered right to kill if they feel threatened in any way.
They are victims of a certain Moral blindness– Which means every single black person in the eyes of a racist is the sign of a terrible crime from their ugly past, a reminder that their life is a fraud, that they need to simply own up to their past and make it right. Instead of denying, shifting blame, or to lie, twisting the facts and make black people into these creatures that they look down on, laugh at and yet, oddly, fear. It is a failed attempt to be at “peace,” with themselves.
They are victims of us because we need more love in our communities! We need to love and accept our children unconditionally. Regardless of our child’s age, we have to instill feelings of acceptance and self-worth. Teach our children, by how you treat them, that they are valuable and worthy of love. It doesn’t matter if you don’t agree with every choice or interest of your child.
Tomorrow, look around your community (your home). Do you have any Trayvon Martins? As an educator, you have the power to stave off the emptiness of young Brown’s death. Talk to your children about racism. Question legislation that endorses vigilantism. Speak up against police inaction. Tell your child that he is protected, first by “God,” and then you. We all must champion our children’s rights.
Nothing will fully fill the void created in the lives of Trayvon’s and Mike’s family, friends and teachers. But Trayvon’s empty desk must become a symbol of awareness and change—a sign to our society that the current state of affairs is not acceptable, and we won’t let you or anyone else destroy us and our future without a fight!