We have reached a pivotal point in America when a white police officer has done what many police officers have done before him, but he didn’t get away with it. The verdict was swift. Guilty on all charges. The verdict convicting the man who murdered George Floyd was felt and heard throughout the world. So what do we do now?
Demand a real examination of the presence of police in our community.
Last year, Philadelphia Student Union as well as Philly Black Student Alliance organized several campaigns and a march demanding an end to police in the School District of Philadelphia Schools. They asked the School Board to end the contract with Philly Police in light of what happened to George Floyd and the Philadelphia Police Departments’ history of racial profiling and corruption. During our Students and Educators’ March for Black Lives, the Racial Justice Organizing Committee presented 10 Demands for Radical Education Transformation. Here is our second demand: We demand implementation and funding of Restorative Justice and Trauma Responsive practices in schools, which includes increased funding for school counselors, social workers, and mental health counselors, and abolishing school police officers.
Since that time, the school board members organized a successful campaign to keep school police officer, increased the budget of school police for new uniforms, and in my opinion, the ultimate slap in the face is to use the same individuals that students DEMANDED to have removed from schools as MENTORS for those same students. Prior to any individual involved in a career path that aligns themselves with Philadelphia Police begins to mentor children, they should… stop. How can the oppressor mentor the oppressed? I don’t know the individual officers who are in this mentorship program but I do know that their boss was a Philadelphia Deputy Police Commissioner. I know that is who they trained them in how to be a school police officer before they were given a scripted mentorship program. How do you even mentor with a script? The school is filled with many individuals who represent positivity in the lives of students. Teachers, paraprofessionals, principals, building engineers, and many other dedicated staff members are better options for mentoring students.
As we see our nation demand a higher level of accountability for the police in our neighborhoods, we must also demand a higher level of accountability with the police officers in our schools. Normally, when the students ask the district for changes, those changes rarely happen. Normally when the teachers and staff ask the district for changes, those changes rarely happen. Normally, when a Black man gets killed by a white police officer, rarely does anything happen. We are never going back to normal. Normal Was Never Enough.
Radio Raheem was a character but George Perry Floyd, Jr was a real man. George’s death changed the world but while he was alive, he was someone’s father, he was loved. We will not allow his death or the death of Breonna Taylor, Tamir Rice, James Byrd, Jr, Elijah McClain, Emmett Till, Sandra Bland, Walter Lamar Scott, or Korryn Gaines to be in vain.