I’m going to start this with something I said yesterday.
What will be painful: they’ve got CNN on in this damn waiting room, and they keep going back to that poor kid getting her ass beat by that cop in South Carolina the other day. Having to watch/hear the footage is rage-inducing enough; I swear to God if I have to listen to some fucking Hoosier conversation about it I’m gonna go to jail today, and it’s good that we’re already at the hospital.
I have a new policy, and I’m sticking to this motherfucker: if I am ever in public where a 24-hour news station is audibly playing over a television set, and I’m in a situation, like a waiting room, where I literally cannot get away from the TV, I’m unplugging the goddamned thing, and to hell with the consequences.
I had to spend several hours in a waiting room yesterday because my mother was having her hip replaced (as of last speaking to her, around 6:30 PM last night, she’s doing astonishingly well; I’ll see her again this afternoon after I get my son from school.) CNN was on on the television in the waiting room. It was on multiple TVs, so there was nowhere in the room I could have gone to get away from it, and I’d neglected to bring earphones with me– not that I really could have used them, since my aunt and my dad were both with me and that would have been kind of rude.
CNN kept lying, or putting people on the TV who were lying for them– like, for example, the police chief, who insisted that there were no complaints against “Officer Slam” despite the fact that he’s the subject of a lawsuit right now. And the chief kept blaming the kid for starting the altercation, and the fact that she’d hit the police officer kept coming up.
Note that, at that time, I had not seen the “third video” that showed her hitting him, so I was just going on faith that it had happened and that it was more or less as those describing it said. CNN wasn’t showing it.
I was managing to keep it together. I’ll be fine, I remember thinking to myself, so long as no one around me starts a conversation about this bullshit that I can hear. And here’s the thing: shit woulda been the same even if the people talking had completely agreed with everything I think. I cannot tolerate this kind of evil any longer, and my blood pressure meds and mood-altering drugs are not enough to overcome the rage. I don’t know that anything is.
So naturally the old white lady sitting across from me had to start yammering about how Kids These Days and how everything was the girl’s fault.
It… did not go well. Now, on my end: I am actually trained in crisis intervention, and I’ve been in dozens of situations over the years (read Searching for Malumba— I talk about a bunch of them!) where keeping an absolute lock on 1) my emotions; 2) my language; 3) my tone of voice, and 4) my physical stance and presence were absolutely critical to keeping things from going very south.
I referred to her solely as “ma’am” during the entire conversation. I did not raise my voice, I did not so much as lean forward, and I kept my laptop in my lap and my hands on the keyboard during the entire conversation.
It began with me pointing out that I have been involved in urban education for fifteen years, and during that time I have had literally dozens of situations where it was necessary to remove a student from my classroom, and at not one time during all those years was violence, much less that level of violence, necessary to remove the student from my classroom.
“That man should be in jail,” I said. “He has committed assault against a child, and he should be in jail.”
She tried to tell me– I swear to God this is true– that I didn’t understand what kids were like “these days.”
That didn’t go too well either.
Yammering about how she’d hit the cop.
“So what? That’s a sixteen-year-old girl sitting in a chair. He’s a grown-ass man in body armor who can bench press 600 pounds. Who cares if she hit him? What difference does it make?”
She asked me what I would have done “if that ever happened to you,” apparently not having heard anything I’d said.
I pointed out again that it had happened, repeatedly, as well as any number of other situations far more dangerous than a moody child sitting in a desk, and that I had resolved those situations without resorting to violence.
“Well, I suppose you’re just an expert, then, aren’t you?” she sneered.
“Yes. I am.”
She wasn’t expecting that response, I think.
At that point she started babbling about relatives who used to be teachers and a friend who used to be a cop and blah blah blah I cut her off. Pointed at the TV. “That’s your child,” I said. “Right there. That’s your little girl being dragged across the floor by a grown man who can bench press six hundred pounds. If you can seriously look at that and place any of the blame on the child, ma’am, you very badly need to examine your soul.”
At that point, my dad leaned forward a bit, holding a hand out toward me; I think he thought I might be about to get up. Nah. I got this.
At some point she shut up. Interestingly, the guy she was with– he didn’t vibe husband or boyfriend, but they were definitely together– only spoke about three times during the conversation, and only did so to agree with me.
A few minutes later, once the press conference was on, CNN had some sort of ed person– maybe a principal, maybe a Ph.D researcher, I dunno– on, and the anchor asked him what the proper reaction to that situation should have been. The man went on to more or less exactly repeat what I had said, which was gratifying.
I didn’t speak. I did, however, point at the TV.
It is good for everyone that I had not seen this video prior to that conversation. This is the magical “third video,” the one that shows the girl “hitting” the police officer. Basically the whole thing is repeating the first few seconds in slow-motion over and over again, so once you’ve watched the first fifteen seconds or so you’re probably good.
Trigger warning. This fucked me up for most of last evening. I suggest you not watch the video, and just trust me that I’m describing it accurately. If you’re human, this will enrage you.
That’s “hitting” to these people, and if you click through to YouTube you will see that the headline appears to have been written by someone who may be wrapped in human skin but almost certainly lacks any actual humanity.
“Officer Slam” has grabbed this child around her neck with one hand, and with the other he is reaching underneath her legs. She flails backwards at him with both hands.
There is literally no way for this to be any more clearly self-defense than it is. Furthermore, given the angles of the two, and the fact that he’s got her by the neck, the risk to the “police officer” is minimal at best. And let’s not forget, either, that he initiated the contact.
I had thought, from the media reports, that she had punched him before he went after her. No. Not even close.
If you can watch that, and you still think that the actions of the child are in any way relevant to what went on, there is something terribly, terribly wrong with you.
Furthermore: watch carefully the reaction of the other teenagers in the room. Think carefully about that. There is just about nothing kids like watching more than somebody else getting their ass beat. In damn near any classroom in the country a scene like that would have produced pandemonium. Half the kids would be doing their best Chris Tucker impressions and a handful of them would be screaming at the cop. They’d be out of their seats and running around. A couple of them would be standing on desks to watch.
Not one of those fucking kids moves.
Because they are terrified.
That kind of fear has no place in a school, ever. This man should not only be fired (granted, he has) he should be jailed, and it is abundantly clear that he should never have been allowed inside the walls of a school to begin with. Any of the bullshit charges filed against the two students who were arrested should be dropped immediately, and the young woman hurled to the floor should at the very least have her college tuition paid for by the police department.
I’ve said this before, and I have to remind myself of it every day: I have liked every police officer I have ever personally known, and in particular the three SROs I’ve worked with over the years have all been professionals who were good at their jobs and worked to build rapport with their students instead of ruling by fear and intimidation.
But that reminder is mattering less and less the longer this goes on.
America’s police officers need to patrol their ranks, they need to eliminate the deep, deep, deep rot that exists within their organizations, and they need to do it right now. Because the police are, more and more every day, looking less like a group of people whose job is to “serve and protect” and more like a mercenary army who are not only allowed but encouraged to kill and injure the rest of us as they see fit without any chance of consequences.
This must stop. Now.