What do students of color have to say about how the criminal justice system sees them?
Students at Northwest Academy of Law High School in St. Louis made a video to describe their feelings regarding Mike Brown, the Darren Wilson grand jury verdict, and Ferguson protests happening in their community.
Joshua Saleem, AFSC’s peace education director in St. Louis, says that the grand jury decisions in the killings of Mike Brown and Eric Garner sent a negative message to youth that blackness is suspect, dangerous, and threatening.
“Many in the black community have already received these messages either through direct experience or knowledge of the history of the oppressive relationship between law enforcement and people of color in this country,” he says. The grand juries’ failure to indict reaffirmed the message that defenders of “justice” don’t place value on young black and brown lives.
“If we don’t name what has happened, youth of color will internalize the message that their life doesn’t have as much value,” Joshua says.
The video above developed out of student conversations about the impact of the grand jury decisions. Some of their responses to how the system sees them include: “A thug,” “wild,” “dumb,” “a demon” (per Darren Wilson’s testimony), “violent,” and “suspects.”
Who are they really and how do they want to be seen? Their responses include: “A human being,” “a citizen,” “smart,” “beautiful,” “wise,” and “good.”