No doubt about it, the (trigger warning) video of Officer Benjamin Fields dragging that Black girl from her desk and flipping her on the floor at Spring Valley High School in South Carolina is brutal to watch. The horror of the video is made worse by the fact that nearly every other person in the classroom remains utterly calm (shocked?) and sedate as they watch this torture take place in real time.
It is almost incomprehensible until you remember that that power dynamics that exist between that White officer and that Black girl were created during slavery, nursed during Jim Crow and maintained in the modern era.
Your Children Will Soon be Forgotten
In the movie 12 Years a Slave there is a scene where Samuel Northrup, played by Chiwetel Ejiofor and a female slave who was just sold away from her kids, are brought to a new plantation. The enslaved mother weeps uncontrollably as she grapples with the fact that she will never see her children again.
Simply because her babies were considered an asset that the master could sell in order to meet his financial goals.
When the two newly purchased slaves arrive at their new plantation, they are greeted by the mistress (aka the White woman who now owns them along with her husband). The mistress, asks why the slave woman is crying. The overseer tells her, that she was just sold away from her children.
The mistress approaches the nearly hysterical Black mother. She is flanked on either side by her own White children who stare curiously at the newly arrived slaves.
For a brief moment you almost think that the mistress, herself a mom, is going to help this Black woman. Even if you know how slavery worked, you still want to believe that this White lady will do the right thing and help free this Black woman so she can find her children.
But you would be wrong.
The White woman simply states confidently:
“Oh dear…Something to eat. Get some rest. Your children will soon forgotten.”
Then she turns and walks away with her own unforgettable White children behind her.
Black Pain Doesn’t Matter
The ease with which that White slave owning woman removed the suffering of her Black slaves from her mind is frightening. As a parent, it aches to think of being forcibly separated from my children. It conjures up a hurt so deep and so wrong that it is particularly cruel to see that pain so easily dismissed on screen.
Yet the very real threat of that pain keeps Black parents lying awake at night in fear: Black children, and the way that they are daily hunted down like animals by systemic white supremacy, are soon forgotten.
Because White privilege deems them forgettable.
This is the same belief that allows White officers to attack 14-year-old black girls in swimsuits.
This is the same belief that allows thousands of people to see the video of that little girl tossed around by a White cop who can bench press 600 pounds and immediately begin whitesplaining how the Black girl must have done something, anything to deserve what happened.
Even though these same people admit that there are absolutely no circumstances under which a Black cop would ever be able to do the exact same thing to a White student.
What We Got in Exchange for Integration
This is part of the reason the Black children are suspended more often and more harshly than their White counterparts. This is why Black girls and Black boys are the primary passengers on the trains driving up and down the school to prison pipeline. This is why those disparities start as early as preschool.
When I think about the Black children who were part of the first wave and integration, like the Little Rock Nine, I often think about what we gave up in exchange for the right to sit next to White children in school. (And yes, that is what integration was about because no White parent then was fighting to have their child sit next to Black kids as a pathway to success.)
I often think about the angry mob of racist White people those children had to walk past in order to get to the school doors. It hurts me to remember that Black kids had to be protected by armed guards because of the powerful, dangerous rage that fueled that White mob. I know that the only reason that White mob didn’t become a lynch mob is because of those armed guards.
But then I think about the teachers and the school administrators inside the building; the adults with whom those Black children would spend the most salient hours of their day.
Is there anything that would make us believe that the teachers inside who would be teaching our kids felt any differently about them than the adults on the outside who threw rocks and racial slurs as they started the school day? Is there any reason for us to believe that those teachers could see them as anything but the niggers they had been socialized to see whenever they looked at Black people?
What is it about our beliefs about ourselves that made us think that was progress?
Think about your well-meaning White colleagues today and all of the micro aggressions you experience in their presence. Daily. Even on their best day – do you believe those colleagues can successfully undo the inherent racism that powers their White privilege enough to educate your kids daily and not see them in some way as inferior?
Do you honestly think that no part of them sees you the same way?
Based on the fact that ever since integration Black children have fallen further behind academically, the answer should be no.
What we forget is this:
The gross racial power disparity we see here was created in slavery. Power between White authority & enslaved Black people was supposed to look like this. Extreme physical violence (torture) for mild infractions during slavery was necessary for White people (slave owners or not) to maintain the social order of Black slave submission to White power.
That’s part of the privilege that came with White power.
This video is a modern day example of what it means to be beaten into submission. We have to remember that Blacks could be punished like this (and far, far worse – just read some slave narratives…) for making White people (any White people, not just the authorities) uncomfortable. For talking back. For staring a White person in the eye. For running and looking suspicious. For getting “caught” walking without documents from your master that informed whichever White person stopped you (b/c any White person who saw you could stop you and ask you where you where going, what were you doing, who gave you permission to go there…) that you had the right to walk where you were walking.
What we see here is a modern day version of plantation politics. Including the Black overseer.
But the sad reality is this: until Black people realize the evils of White supremacy, we will never be able to protect our children the way that they deserve. Our Jewish brothers and sisters would never allow people who believed what the Nazis believed about them to educate their children. Yet Black kids are sent to schools where teachers wear shirts supporting the New York Police Department mere days after NYPD officers murdered Eric Garner for the crime of being Black on camera.
But… I guess it doesn’t really matter. Because, as soon as the next video shows another innocent Black child being assaulted by an officer, the girl in this video will be a thing of the past.
Because she too will soon be forgotten.
Looking for more thoughts from an Afro State of Mind? Check out my book Afro State of Mind: Memories of a Nappy Headed Black Girl now available on Amazon.com in paper back or available here for e-book download! And if you want to stay connected follow me on Twitter, or Instagram “like” Afro State of Mind on Facebook or catch up on my latest Youtube videos!