So I ran across an old flash drive the other day. Now I already know what you’re thinking, “who the fuck still has flash drives,” but hey, I’m getting pretty old so yeah, I still have old flash drives from college lying around. Anyway, I decided to pop that bad boy into my laptop to see what was on it. To my surprise, I found an old piece I was working on back in 2014 titled, “New Slaves: From Chain-Gang to Chain-Gang.” It was supposed to be an ebook (nuts right) so it’s a lengthy mf, BUT, some of the content I covered in the piece is still relevant today. SO, instead of keeping this unfinished work to myself, I decided to bring sections of the piece to the blog. Below is a small section from my unfinished piece, “New Slaves: Chain-Gang to Chain-Gang,” where I shine some light on an ongoing epidemic here in America. The School to prison pipeline. REMEMBER, this piece is from 2014 (5 years ago). I’m giving it to you guys unedited and raw!
The School to Prison Pipeline
“Every man in my family has been locked up. Most days I feel like it doesn’t matter what I do, how hard I try—that’s my fate, too.”
– 11th-grade African American student, Berkeley, California 2014
Try and imagine walking through a metal detector every day just to get to class, or simply feeling the threatening glare your school police officer gives you as you walk past him with a book bag that he believes “looks” suspicious? Believe it or not, being an Afro-American I know exactly how it feels, but a majority of Americans don’t know how it feels to be racially profiled while simply walking around their school, and in many cases don’t even believe things like metal detectors in schools exist in America.
I can still remember the first time I walked into a school that had a metal detector. I was in the 7 grade and had an AAU Basketball tournament at Vashon high school in St. Louis, Missouri. Even though the tournament started on a Saturday, I still remember having to place my gym bag on a table to be quickly searched and then walking through a metal detector to a police officer waiting for me on the other side just in case I (a 13-year-old) was “packing” a little something more than Gatorade. Yes, it seemed strange to me at first because I’ve never had to go through anything like that before just to play ball, but I didn’t think too much of it at the time primarily because I was too young to understand what it was I had just been through. That wouldn’t be the last time I had to walk through a metal detector to play ball either. This happened to me a few more times while I was in high school. Whenever I had a game in a high school that was located in the inner city (Like East St. Louis High School in East St. Louis Illinois) I had to walk through a metal detector, but even as a teenager in high school I never noticed the extreme racial biases I was forced to participate in.
It wasn’t until a few years ago I realized that my past experiences with methods such as these were my first face-to-face encounters with the American school to prison pipeline and the racial bias within it. Throughout my entire basketball career, I’ve played in thousands of gyms across this great nation. From San Diego California all the way to Daytona Florida, and I can personally testify that I’ve only seen metal detectors in schools that happen to be located in inner cities which on average are primary Afro-American communities. Why is this? Multiple studies support the fact that no race is inherently more violent than the other, yet in America, we tend to view Afro-Americans, especially Afro-American men, as dangerous thugs and future criminals that must be watched and punished much more severally than any other ethnic groups, excluding Hispanics.
According to PBS’s school to prison pipeline fact sheet (The image you see above), students of color face harsher punishments in school than their white peers, which in turn, leads to a higher number of youths of color incarcerated. Here are some quick facts that help illustrate the significance color plays in today’s school to prison pipeline:
- Afro-American and Hispanic students represent more than 70 percent of those involved in school-related arrests or referrals to law enforcement;
- 40 percent of students expelled from U.S. schools each year are Afro-Americans;
- Afro-Americans and Hispanics students are twice as likely to not graduate high school as whites;
- 68 percent of all males in state and federal prisons in America do not have a high school diploma;
Some might look at these numbers and find nothing wrong with this epidemic. To them, these numbers are justified because racism is no longer a problem in present-day America. In their minds, we have come a long way from slavery, black codes, and the segregated Jim Crow era’s that haunt or nations past, especially with the election and re-election of American’s first bi-racial president Barack Obama. That these numbers aren’t racially charged, but just the results of the unbiased society we live in. All of these beliefs are misguided by ignorance that the majority chooses to live with simply because it doesn’t affect them directly. We’ve all heard of the old saying, “Out of sight, out of mind,” well this is a real-life example of it.
But for those who are affected by this unjust school to prison pipeline, wither it’s directly or indirectly, we understand the seriousness of both the school to prison pipeline and the mass ignorance of its existence by the majority.
Thanks for reading this piece! Like I said it was written back in 2014, so some things have changed since then.
For example, at the beginning of the piece, I said, “in many cases [majority of Americans] don’t even believe things like metal detectors in schools exist in America.” Unfortunately, I didn’t predict the future massacres that will later occur in our schools by deranged individuals. Massacres like the shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School (Parkland, Fl) have changed the conversation surrounding school security to where metal detectors in schools are almost seen as a necessity. But even that itself is a testament to how biases the school to prison pipeline is. On one hand, it takes countless innocent lives being gunned down in their classrooms before anyone even thinks about putting metal detectors in schools occupied by predominantly white students. Meanwhile, students in black communities have become numb to “Big Brother,” watching over us constantly reminding us of how society views us…
Bodies that need to be controlled…