This Black Life Matters: An open letter to Shakara

Posted on November 1, 2015

0


Hello Shakara,

I’m glad to finally know your first name. I realize due to your age, your identity had to be protected. I hope as time goes on you’ll be able to process what happened and move forward, not letting this terrible assault define who you are, and who you will be as you become an adult.  Let me first express my sincere condolences over your mother’s death.

I got your name from this LA Times article:

Girl thrown from desk didn’t obey because punishment was unfair, attorney says

And please know that as someone who grew up during the transition from Segregation and Jim Crow laws to the signing of the Civil Rights Law, where scenes like the ones below were common:

Scenes from the 1960s, police and African American woman protester

Scenes from the 1960s, police and African American woman protester

Police and black women during the 1960s

Police and black women during the 1960s

Female protestor being removed

Female protester being removed during peaceful march in the 1960s

Child waving American flag has it brutally yanked away

Child waving American flag has it brutally yanked away

Scene two of Child waving American Flag and his confrontation with police

Scene two of Child waving American Flag and his confrontation with police

How it began for the young boy holding the American flag. I wonder where he is today?

How it began for the young boy holding the American flag. I wonder where he is today?

Just like I wondered, and still wonder what happened to that child (now a grown man) in the photos above, I wonder how you will fare after all that you’ve gone through:

Scene from an assault in a south Carolina School

Scene from an assault in a South Carolina School. Officer Fields uses a head lock and things go from bad to worse.

What you experienced was an assault, pure and simple. I’m sure others will continue to try to justify it, even adult educators, grown folks who SHOULD KNOW BETTER. I’ve gone to and also taught in public schools. As a child I was pegged as a troublemaker, simply because of the sibling who came before me. However, I was my own person, and in time those same educators who singled me out (publicly, mind you) with the expectation that I would disrupt their class by telling the whole class that I would, found out it didn’t happen. 

It’s also important that I state, during my time as a student in America’s public school system, corporal punishment was allowed. Some principals had wooden paddles for just such an occasion. I’ve seen my share of male teachers manhandling both male and female students. Back when I was in school, it was allowed. But that didn’t make it right. I can also recall a substitute teacher warning the entire class that if we went home and told our parents it would be his word against ours. So we were threatened in order to remain silent. Even when that same teacher was assigned to my girl’s gym class, and he continued to place his hands on students. This time his hands went on female students, just because. For far too long the word of an adult has trumped a young person’s, even when that adult is dead wrong.

And that’s what this all boils down to. What happened to you wasn’t right. 

It wasn’t condoned in the 1960s, and now as we look back on those old photos, many people both white and black will agree that violent treatment by police has nothing to do with “protect and serve.” Now, possibly because of your case, school resource officers will no longer be routinely used as bouncers for some schools, because that’s not what they are there for.

Please also know Shakara, that your case brought back memories I had of my own trauma while in school and also the times I grew up in. You see, it wasn’t always police who committed violence on black women. Sometimes it was another American:

Hosed to stop a peaceful demonstration

Hosed to stop a peaceful demonstration by a fireman.

Photo by Charles Moore. Two African American women being attacked. Note the bat in the man's hand while another man pummels a woman with his fists.

Photo by Charles Moore. Two African American women being attacked. Note the bat in the man’s hand while another man in the background pummels a woman with his fists.

Maybe the administrators of your school have forgotten the type of violence that our forefathers and mothers had perpetrated on them. Otherwise, how could those who spoke out in support of what Officer Fields did, condone the same kind of brutality in a place of learning? 

I agree that the punishment did not fit the crime, and for that, I apologize. I apologize because there are educators out there who would not have allowed you to be physically extracted from your chair and thrown across the room for simply saying no. I also noticed that during the assault, you were silent. I kept hoping that after the assault the two other adults in the room would inquire if you were alright, that they’d wonder if you were hurt. I cannot fathom how the three men in the room (Officer Fields included) could not inquire if you’d been hurt, especially since your fall involved a metal chair and a hard floor.

In this pet loving society, I agree with your lawyer’s statement in the LA Times article. If this had been a dog extracted and thrown about, more people would be up in arms. So if we wouldn’t allow this type of force for an animal, why would it be okay to subject a young adult to this level of violence?

Many people may not realize that for some of us, we live in whole ‘nother America. An America where a cop can switch from being professional to “Mister Slam” in a heartbeat, even when the situation doesn’t warrant it.

I must return again to the other adults who were in your classroom, the two gentlemen who stood by and let the officer manhandle you. I’m pretty sure if they had it to do over again, they’d choose a different means. At least that’s what I hope.

And I also hope that the charges are dismissed against you and also the brave teen named Niya Kenny, who spoke up on your behalf and also filmed (and encouraged others in the class to film) your attack:

Niya Kenny spoke up and was arrested for it.

Niya Kenny spoke up and was arrested for it.

“I had never seen nothing like that in my life, a man use that much force on a little girl,” Kenny said. “A big man, like 300 pounds of full muscle. I was like ‘no way, no way.’ You can’t do nothing like that to a little girl. I’m talking about she’s like 5’6″.”

Kenny filmed part of the altercation on her phone. The six-second clip shows Fields dragging the student out of a chair and forcing her to the ground.

“I was screaming ‘What the f, what the f is this really happening?’ I was praying out loud for the girl,” says Kenny. “I just couldn’t believe this was happening I was just crying and he said, since you have so much to say you are coming too. I just put my hands behind my back.”

Quotes and Excerpt from JET.com article by BY SHANTELL E. JAMISON

Link: Student Who Filmed Cop Assault Speaks Out

I’m going to step away from the computer now, because this whole thing is painful for me, as a black woman. It’s painful to see the excuses being used to justify what happened, and how a young person like yourself is being used as a scapegoat for a failed school policy. It’s painful to read the reasons some people are using to justify the violence you experienced, by claiming its prevalent in the black culture, and that we somehow deserve to have violence used upon us.

So all I’ll say for now is, this blog post will be continued . . .

Posted in: Blog