Here's where I am after all of the shit that went down this week ...
Black people aren’t safe and will never have peace under this current system of “law enforcement” (I’ll tell y’all why I put that in quotes later). It’s evil, still carries the tradition and brutality of its origin as slave patrols in the Confederate south and needs to—at minimum—be reimagined or abolished altogether.
And Justice wasn’t served in convicting Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd. It was simply one example in which a trash-ass police officer was finally held accountable for killing a Black man. But that doesn’t make up for the hundreds of thousands killed over the course of 402 years. We want justice that honors their legacy of sacrifice in the form of policies and practices that protect us now and in the future.
I started with these points because I was picking up one too many undertones of, “They found him guilty, y’all … now we can relax” on social media. I don’t want people to take this narrative, run to their couches and get comfortable again as if the fight for Black lives is over. Because immediately after the verdict was read, a police officer in Columbus, Ohio shot and killed 16-year-old Ma’Khia Bryant.
This ain’t justice, nor is it peace.
And, I don’t want the system gatekeepers to think they’re slick in making Chauvin this sacrificial lamb for every other murderous police officer, fooling us into thinking the days of police terrorism are over and America is finally “delivered”—as they say in the Black baptist church.
But I’ll tell y’all where true justice can get its start—with our young people and in reimagining safety in their schools and communities. Because not only are they killing Black bodies, they’re murdering the spirits of those of us left to endure the fear and trauma of their terror—especially our kids—and it’s past due time for restoration.
Parents, activists, allies and advocates, we’re up again.
Grab That Bag for Child Justice
School districts are about to get their stimmys through the America Rescue Plan, which presents an opportunity for us to tell them what to do with those coins. Here in Chicago, we’re already on the ball.
In this conversation, and in our push for child justice, we have to first define what it is and how it manifests itself in our schools. To me, child justice is rectifying and dismantling systemic harm and biases committed against our most vulnerable children through meaningful investments in areas that contribute to their social determinants of health. Most importantly, it’s treating them like human beings capable of achieving and succeeding at the highest levels.
So when I think about how that looks in public education, the first thing that comes to mind is ensuring every student has access to adequate mental health services.
A report done by the U.S. Congressional Black Caucus called “Ring the Alarm: The Crisis of Black Youth Suicide in America,” stated that from 1991 to 2017, suicide attempts rose 73% among Black youth. With the isolation, higher death rates in our community from the virus and more exposure to violence committed against people who look like them, I’m legit scared of what those numbers are now. But it definitely makes the case for why more mental health supports are needed, especially in our schools.
This also looks like authentic and thorough community engagement and the creation of community schools.
I want y’all to trust and believe that the poverty pimps are already salivating over and submitting proposals for this money. These are the usual nonprofits, teachers unions, bootleg and microwaved consultants, people handpicked through nepotism, etc. that haven’t and won’t do a damn thing for our kids. So we have to stand up for and demand collaboration with community-based organizations and people on the ground who have developed an authentic rapport with students and families in these schools and who have a track record of impact in their service.
Police and Child Justice Don’t Mix
Police and SROs have to be booted from schools. No ifs, ands or buts.
Going back to why I put “law enforcement” in quotes and mentioned the original slave patrols—the system of policing is here to enforce racism and oppression, dassit. Laws have always disproportionately targeted and disadvantaged Black people the same way unfair discipline practices target Black kids in schools. And this notion of protecting public safety is false if their presence provokes fear, perpetuates prison culture in schools and causes trauma to our kids. None of that sounds or feels safe to me.
So if child justice looks like investing in and cultivating safe environments conducive to learning and nurturing the whole child, police don’t fit into that picture.
Providing stable housing for homeless students, nutritious meals and proper safety materials and protocols during COVID, access to healthcare with at least one nurse in every school, tutoring, diversity in classrooms are worth mentioning here. These things and so much more fit into the realm of child justice. Everything that we deserve—everything that we have been demanding but haven’t gotten or that is being slow-walked by these districts and governments. That is what child justice looks like.
Y’all, this isn’t a time to chill on the advocacy. If anything, this is a time to turn up. Because again, while justice hasn’t been served, this hint of movement towards change in historic oppressive systems definitely has the gatekeepers turned up and ready to keep things the same by any means necessary.
So if this country is serious about making strides in race relations and finally wanting to uphold its promise of “with liberty and justice for all,” not only is it the perfect time to get some child justice, but also restorative justice for the entire Black community.
Tanesha Peeples is driven by one question in her work—“If not me, then who?” As the former Deputy Director of Activist Development for brightbeam, Tanesha merges the worlds of communications and grassroots activism to push for change in the public education system. Her passion for community and relentless mission for justice and liberation drive her in uplifting and amplifying the voices and ...