Black children are not safe in a world ruled by white supremacy

OPINION: Black children aren’t safe at school, they aren’t safe from their neighbors, and they aren’t safe from the police. They just aren’t safe anywhere. 

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Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.

George Stinney Jr. was a 14-year-old boy living in Alcolu, S.C. — a segregated mill town deep in the Jim Crow South — when police came and took him from his home, charging him with the murders of two young white girls. 

Stinney’s trial lasted only two hours. A jury convicted him in 10 minutes. He was sentenced to death by electrocution, becoming the youngest person in modern U.S. history to be put to death for his “crimes.”

I say “crimes” because as the Washington Post notes:

Stinney’s initial trial, the evidence — or lack of it — and the speed with which he was convicted seemed to illustrate how a young black boy was railroaded by an all-white justice system. During the one-day trial, the defense called few or no witnesses. There was no written record of a confession. Today, most people who could testify are dead and most evidence is long gone.

George Stinney Jr. was 14 years old, and he was not safe from racist white people in the Jim Crow South. He was not safe in the “justice system.” He was not safe, period. 

Our children are not safe. 

Emmett Till was just 14 years old when he was brutally murdered based on the lie of a white woman. He was not safe. 

Tamir Rice. Trayvon Martin. Jordan Edwards. Jordan Davis. Laquan McDonald. Aiyana Mo’Nay Stanley-Jones. Antwon Rose Jr. Michael Brown

The list gets longer every day. 

Our children are not safe at school.

Autumn Roberson-Manahan is a 17-year-old senior at Slaton High School in Slaton, Texas, a town outside of Lubbock. She is a straight-A student who, according to NBC News, is one of only two dozen Black students at her school. 

For months Autumn endured listening to her non-Black classmates use the n-word without regard. She had appealed both to the faculty and administrators at her school as well the students themselves, to no avail. The n-word continued to be used flagrantly.

One October day in gym class, after Autumn had asked him four days in a row to stop using the n-word, a non-Black classmate used it again. 

Autumn became upset and physically attacked her classmate, punctuating each “openhanded slap to the top of his head” with “You’re gonna learn! … To stop! … That f——! … N—– shit!” NBC reports. 

The incident lasted just 30 seconds and was caught on video by a fellow classmate. Suddenly, the school wanted to intervene. 

Autumn was sentenced to 45 days “in an alternative school for students with severe disciplinary problems,” according to NBC News.

There is no report of the other student being disciplined — this despite the fact the school has a policy that says anyone using racial slurs will be suspended for three days. 

Autumn had been complaining about racial harassment since the second week of school, but the administration only stepped in when she, a Black student, retaliated against the student who was racially harassing her. 

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Funny how that works. The selective offense of it all is astounding but not at all surprising. 

As Black people, we are used to this. Someone harms us repeatedly, and we are fully expected to take it on the chin and not do or say anything to them, but the minute we respond in kind, suddenly we are the scariest villain ever. 

And that doesn’t even begin to explore how this disciplinary action is the precipice upon which Autumn now dangles in the school-to-prison pipeline. 

Initiating this type of disciplinary action against Autumn while doing nothing to the students who repeatedly hurled racial slurs and insults at her for months sends a very direct message — one which indicates where the administration lands when it comes to issues of race, and that is problematic for current and future Black children in that district. 

Our children are not safe at school, even when they do all the right things. That school did not protect Autumn Roberson-Manahan. That school protected whiteness and the implicit bias that whiteness allows — a bias that makes a Black person responding to racism a more punishable offense than the actual racism itself. 

Our children know they are not safe with the police.

Kylah Spring, a freshman at the University of Kentucky who works as a desk clerk in one of the college’s dormitories was the subject of a viral video last month that depicted a drunk white student by the name of Sophia Rosing, who is 22, hurling racial slurs at Spring and attempting to assault her. Throughout the entire attack, Kylah is calm and repeatedly asks Rosing to stop. 

Rosing was later arrested and charged with “​​public intoxication, assault, assault on a police officer and disorderly conduct,” according to CBS News

In a recent appearance on “CBS Mornings,” Spring said she kept her head about her because she knew there would be trouble if she didn’t. 

“I wanted to make sure I acted appropriately so that I could keep my job because the script could have been flipped at any time if I had retaliated,” she said. 

Imagine having a person physically assault you as they hurl racial slurs at you. Imagine the amount of restraint it takes to hold back on giving them what they are asking for because you know the punitive consequences will be harder on you than they are on them. 

Imagine knowing the police would immediately turn you into the aggressor as opposed to the person actually attacking you because you responded to them in kind. 

As Black people, we know how this goes, and we know Kylah was not wrong in her assessment of the situation. 

And while Rosing was immediately suspended from the university and is reportedly banned from enrolling there again, it does not go without notice the lengths to which the school went in order not to label the incident “racist” or “racism.” 

White people always get the benefit of the doubt, no matter their age. 

Our children get adultified

Black children aren’t safe to explore science and nature.

Bobbi Wilson is a 9-year-old fourth grader who lives in Caldwell, New Jersey. Bobbi learned about lanternflies last summer, and when she spotted them in her neighborhood, she knew they would do damage to the trees by feeding on the sap. 

Bobbi went online to TikTok, found out how to make a homemade and natural solution that would get rid of the insects and went about spraying the mixture on trees in the neighborhood.

According to CNN, a neighbor named Gordon Lawshe called the police and told the dispatcher “There’s a little Black woman walking, spraying stuff on the sidewalks and trees on Elizabeth and Florence. I don’t know what the hell she’s doing. Scares me, though.” When asked for a description of the “woman,” Lawshe described her as “real tiny” and wearing “a hood.”

Pay attention to the language used in Lawshe’s call, particularly that he says he is scared, that it’s a Black woman, and that she is wearing a hood. All of this is coded language he knows will get the attention of the dispatchers and the police, which it did. 

Officers stopped Bobbi and questioned her about what she was doing. 

According to Bobbi’s mother, Monique Joseph, Lawshe knows their family. Specifically, he knows Bobbi. When questioned about why he didn’t just ask Bobbi what was going on himself instead of calling the police, he said through his attorney that he didn’t want to be involved in a confrontation and did not believe he would be putting anyone in danger by calling the police. 

To that I say, “Sure, Jan.”

If nothing else, white people have learned how to weaponize the police against Black people. We have seen enough viral videos to know this to be true. Lawshe certainly could not be that ill-informed as to not know what would happen when he called police on a 9-year-old. 

Simply put, he endangered that child, and for what? 

Black children aren’t even safe when they try to explore nature and science. 

Hold on to your babies and hug them tight. The same people who will yell about saving children will call the police on yours. The same people yelling about protecting children will not do their jobs and protect yours. 

Our children aren’t safe.

Now, what are we going to do about it? 


Monique Judge is a storyteller, content creator and writer living in Los Angeles. She is a word nerd who is a fan of the Oxford comma, spends way too much time on Twitter, and has more graphic t-shirts than you. Follow her on Twitter @thejournalista or check her out at moniquejudge.com.

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