Please understand: when it comes to our babies, my tolerance for witnessing state-sanctioned violence against Black children’s bodies, much less sitting here listening to people justify the abuse, is low. Mad low. Ever since watching video of 12-year-old Tamir Rice be murdered by police while playing in the park, and another of 15-year-old Dajerria Becton being tackled to the ground by an out-of-control cop waving his gun and cursing at a bunch of bathing suit-clad kids attending a pool party in Texas, my stomach—indeed, my heart—just can’t take it. So I scroll on by, choosing, instead, to read stories about similar incidents—incidents that seem to happen as regularly as the rising of the sun and the tide. But yesterday, for some reason, I looked: a friend on my Facebook timeline posted a video of a North Carolina police officer body slamming a female student. And now, I’m in a perpetual state of rage…
- On behalf of the 15-year-old girl, who police officer Ruben De Los Santos, literally lifted above his head and slammed to the ground, as if she were a rag doll, or a sack of potatoes, or something that was not human…
- Over the fact that De Los Santos was put on paid administrative leave—i.e. vacation—for slamming somebody’s child on the hard floor…
- Knowing that nobody in the administration knew (or at least copped to knowing) that Pam Akpuda’s daughter was slammed on the ground until a fellow classmate, who’d filmed the incident, posted the video on Twitter and called out the officer, the administration and the police department for the madness that unfolded…
- Convinced that it’s time we, as parents, demand schools stop parachuting gun-wielding, ridiculously-aggressive, there-to-funnel-people-into-prison cops in schools with CHILDREN.
That last particular point hits home with me because I actually spend a lot of time in my daughters’ high school as the co-director of the writing center, and I once had a conversation with our school resource officer—a.k.a. an armed member of the Atlanta Police Department charged with patrolling the hallways of my daughters’ school—about what would likely happen if I used his cell phone number in the event of an emergency in the media center, where I spend a lot of afternoons coaching teen writers. He was a nice guy, but he made very clear that if I called him, I better be prepared for him to respond like a cop. Because that’s how he was trained to respond, no matter if he’s in the hallway of a high school, or a crime-riddled street in the middle of the hood.
He didn’t have to elaborate. I was crystal clear how it would all play out.
Sort of exactly like the way it went down when De Los Santos happened upon two teenage girls fighting and, without hesitation, care or apparent concern, grabbed the first body his hands connected with, lifted it high into the air, and slammed it on the ground.
It did not matter that the body belonged to a 100-lb girl.
It did not matter that the girl was not the one fighting (but was instead trying to break it up).
It did not matter that this child could have been killed (luckily, she suffered only a concussion, but come on!).
He was responding exactly how he’s trained to—especially if responding in a room full of Black and brown bodies. (Yes, I know De Los Santos is Hispanic, but he’s a cop and cops gonna cop, no matter the color.)
Listen to me when I tell you these things: Y’all would have to have me restrained in some kind of Mama Pope contraption in an underground metal cell in the desert sands of a most remote location in the Middle East to keep me off this cop’s ass. And even then, I’d chew through my own wrists to get to him.
But why, y’all? Why should any parent have to employ that kind of response to anyone charged with watching her child in a school?
Mom. NY Times bestselling author. Pop culture ninja. Unapologetic lover of shoes, bacon and babies. Nice with the verbs. Founder of the top black parenting website, MyBrownBaby.