Dear Bristol: #SayHerName Cuz’ We are “Guilty, Always” Before The Law

Another week brings another video illuminating a moment of police use of force against a black body. This moment sheds light on a senior deputy in South Carolina violently removing a young black girl from her desk within a classroom at Spring Valley High School.

These videos add to our growing archive of truths that many U.S. communities of color have built through experience and collective memory. Many communities and individuals have learned to draw upon this archive when teaching ourselves (adults and kids) on the dynamics of police and authoritative power and the consequences (many devastating) when authority “feels” threatened and/or disrespected.

Unfortunately, I am not shocked that many have come to weigh in and defend the actions of police officers. After all, our culture demands obedience and compliance to authority figures ranging from parents, teachers, church officials, and police officers.

We must ask ourselves what is at stake when culture demands “compliance” without question, especially when culture demands obedience to powerful institutions that have historically engaged in the enforcement of inequality within our country. Police forces were designed to serve and protect, but in that decree, law enforcement served a particular body of people and protected them from certain “others” deemed undesirable and dangerous.  The logic plays out quite nicely in our historic, cultural tropes of “good guys” versus “bad guys”; Cowboys and Indians; Whites and Blacks; etc.

So, to those, such as Bristol Palin, a “redeemed” woman who quickly married to avoid bearing her child out-of-wedlock, that argue that parents are “failing” to teach kids obedience to the law, I write you this short, poetic meditation on race, history, and law for reflection. I title it: “Guilty, Always.”

Guilty Always

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