Series: White People Homework (29) Elijah McClain

This penultimate post for the month of June is about harm, police brutality, and death.

I don’t care who you are, what you believe, what mental gymnastics you perform in your brain, if you think this is somehow justified, the rest of us will use our power, our voices, our votes, and our resources to stop you. Get your head and your heart straight.

From Susan DuFresne’s page:

About eight to ten years ago, we had a student at the middle school where I worked, a young Black girl, and I am ashamed I don’t remember her name. I am not sure what happened, what she did, or what was done to her (because no matter what she did, in no way was what happened justified). I left the building one day, and she was sitting on the curb in handcuffs, surrounded by police. No other teacher or administrator was out there with her, from what I recall. I do remember being worried, so I stayed to see if she was going to be okay. But she wasn’t okay. And if I could go back to that moment, I would sit next to her, call her mother, and put my body in between her and the police. I did stay, but did not interfere. I witnessed, but did not speak up. I did ask admin later what happened, and was dismissed, all the blame placed on the girl and her actions.

By the time I left that building, I had six principals and countless assistant principals, deans, SROs, etc. The last principal tried to make changes, but it’s my opinion she was still early in her process of her journey. She brought in a white woman from poverty to discuss equity. She brought in the Challenge Day couple, which traumatized the staff and students, especially the ELL students whose various cultures did not understand “open it up and get below the level” analogies. She brought in a white consultant who was married to a Hispanic man, and told us how her son was bored in school. But she’s not unique or alone. There are many of us who are on the journey in different places, and her intent was good. The impact–we white teachers are finding our way to impact. And “impact” is a smack-your-face word. It’s physical, and it’s urgent. And we must, must, put impact over intent. (DiAngelo).

A Black middle school girl sitting on the school’s curb in handcuffs is the same trauma and violence as the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Tayler, Elijah McClain and countless others throughout our violent, racist history. The ‘what if’s’ are not unknown: we know what happens during these police encounters, and now they’re just forming militarized vigilante groups. We are in danger.

Elijah McClain’s death is an unspeakable outrage

In the course of the encounter, which spun out of control in seconds, Mr. McClain sobbed and pleaded with the officers — “I’m just different,” he said. They weren’t interested; they didn’t listen.

And the nightmarish aftermath: police sprayed pepper spray on musicians honoring Elijah.

“Elijah” is a holy name. I am not equipped to confront some of the hypocrisy I witness with my religious friends and family. But I am now equipped to share and witness that children must not be harmed. I will strive to find my own courage to speak up.

How do we mitigate this danger, and continue the path toward peace? I need a day to think about this, even though time is not on my side.