There has been a lot said about the assault that happened at Spring Valley High School in South Carolina. Supporters of Officer Ben Fields action have spoken out (and I’ll get to that in a few) and people who believe his actions were out of line have as well. While I have my opinions about the situation, which I will express, I want to point out an aspect of the video that bothered me just as much as the actual assault, and that’s the inaction of the black man in the room.
I don’t know who he is, probably the teacher who called the resource officer or maybe a substitute, which would explain why he couldn’t handle the class. But I do know that he stood there and didn’t say or do anything when that girl was manhandled, and I want to explore what I believe to be the reason.
For years, American people of all races have warned about this country becoming a police state where, according to one definition, the government exercises power arbitrarily through the police. But I argue that black people in America are under a type of police state system, and that is the only reason I can explain why that black man standing in the class seeing that white officer drag that black girl around didn’t do anything. I mean I’m not saying he had to jump in and fight the man off of her but to not say anything? Not even, “Hey man that’s enough, or “You’re hurting her?” That makes me sad. But the fear of retribution is too great for black people to exercise their rights to speak up in the heat of the moment as injustices are happening or go about their business. We have to “be careful” not to sass police, look at them funny or say the wrong thing. If they pull you over, don’t ask why because you may not live long enough to hear the answer. We are policed without cause and without a warrant, and that creates an attitude toward black folks that translates into situations like Spring Valley High School. And it’s a two-way street. Black people are on high alert, which causes tension when approached by law enforcement and the ones in uniform, well a lot of them, for whatever reason, just don’t give care. It then comes down to cause and effect.
This especially rings true for South Carolina where racism is still very much alive and well. Am I saying that Officer Fields is racist? Not necessarily, and his dating of a black woman (allegedly) isn’t the reason why. A lot of time black women who date white men are the most damaging critics of the actions of black people. But that’s a whole other For the Record. Am I saying that Officer Fields more than likely responded to that child the way in which he did because she was black? Yep. SC is known for its racism and according to a young man who receives his education in the state’s school system, as a mixed person (half black, half white) he is told by his guidance counselor to ask no questions, “just do what you are told” if a police officer approaches you. What’s wrong with asking questions?
How can we live in a world where we cannot ask why we are being detained or held, demand humane treatment while in police custody? Aren’t these things that everyone has a right too? Apparently not.
As for the behavior of the student who some argue is the reason all of this happened, I will say this, I do not play when it comes to kids and teenagers being disrespectful. I don’t tolerate it, and if the girl was being as rude as they say and even hit the officer, she was dead wrong. I will never, ever excuse one’s bad behavior, but the punishment for her “crime” far exceeded what’s reasonable. Just as much as I will not condone misconduct, I will never accept the kind of reaction Ben Fields had to the situation as “okay.” Nor should anyone else.
With that, there is a fundamental aspect of all of this that people who support the actions of Officer Fields are missing. And that is if it were their child, their niece, their sister or their friend who was flipped out of her seat and then flung like a rag doll into a wall, they would not think his actions were justified. There wouldn’t be such hateful, and disgusting comments being made about a young teenage victim. I promise you that.
Furthermore, as for the other video that supposedly shows the girl hitting Officer Fields before he used the excessive force that got him fired, that is irrelevant and here is why. If he let the hits of a child get him that riled up to the point were he lost his composure and brutally dealt with the girl, then he didn’t need to be in that position in the first place. When you deal with kids, they push your buttons, and you have to be ready to exact the appropriate response within the scope of your duty. He obviously went outside of that.
Which brings me to my next observation; everything inside of me likes to believe that this situation would have still gone down the way it did had the girl not been black, but my conscious just will not allow me to accept that. Everything inside of me knows that had it been a white girl or girl of another race disobeying, hitting and being disrespectful, he would not have handled her like that. And it all goes back to the way in which black people are policed in this country.
The system in place allows for these situations to happen. So change the system change the outcomes.