By Reds in Ed June 3, 2020
Class is in session! We are learning from the people in the streets, rising up against racism and police brutality. Our students and families, the communities we serve and educators ourselves are out in the streets expressing rage against this brutal racist regime. The rebellion against police brutality taking place in Minneapolis, Washington D.C. Indianapolis, Los Angeles and cities across the country provides a critical lesson in standing up against racism and police violence.
Reds in Ed salutes the thousands of people coming out into the streets every day against oppression and racist police brutality. We stand in solidarity with all families affected by police terror.
The corporate media is heavily focused on “looting” while it also tries to characterize the protests as violent. We don’t abide by a morality that is more concerned with things. As Walter Rodney said: “By what standard of morality can the violence used by a slave to break his chains be considered the same as the violence of a slave master?” The protests are overwhelmingly large gatherings of people expressing justifiable indignation at racism, police terror and oppression.
The police are the ones who killed George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Sean Reed, Tony McDade and so many more. The police are the ones attacking protests with tear gas, rubber bullets and even live ammunition as they protect the private property of a tiny few that profit while the rest of us suffer.
On May 29, the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers called for the Minneapolis Public Schools to cut all ties with the Minneapolis Police Department, saying, “Every student in Minneapolis, no matter the color of their skin or where they come from, deserves to feel safe and welcome in their neighborhood school… The officers of the Minneapolis Police Department have become symbols of fear to the children those officers were sworn to serve and protect. The killing of George Floyd and the escalation of the recent protests were only the latest examples of the department operating without empathy for our neighbors or accountability to our elected leaders.” MPS currently spends over $1 million to place 11 police officers on school campuses. On June 2 they ended their relationship with the police department. This is the beginning of a change we need to see in all school districts.
About 46,000 police officers are assigned as School Resource Officers across the country. The vast majority receive no training at all. Study after study has shown that Black students bear the brunt of increased police presence on campuses. In the 2011 to 2012 school year Black students were 16 percent of students enrolled in U.S. public schools. They were 27 percent of those referred to law enforcement and 31 percent of those arrested for school-related incidents.
The call to get cops out of our schools is not new. Police were placed in schools in the 1940s and 50s primarily to enforce racist Jim Crow laws. By the late 1960s, civil rights activists began calling on schools to hire more teachers of color, and offer ethnic studies to address, and begin to end, systemic racist oppression. These activists were met brutal repression by the police, against both students and their families. Also in the late 1960s, the “War on Drugs,” which was really a war to criminalize anti-war activists and the Black community, began to take hold. Its “get tough on crime” line was used as a cover for mass incarceration in the United States, especially targeting the Black community.
Though there was no increase in school-based crime, by the 1990s, under President Bill Clinton, federal funding for school policing massively increased. The school to prison pipeline led to higher suspension rates for Black and Brown youth. The rate of school arrests of Black students was double that of white students. The number of prisoners in the United States rose from 500,000 in 1980 to 2.3 million today. Now, daily racist police terror, for-profit corporate prisons, highly exploited prison labor and widespread incarceration is the norm.
The rebellions sweeping the country are a powerful force for change, and they have already ensured that one district cut ties with the police. It’s time to get the cops off our campuses!
The lessons of the Minneapolis rebellion and the rebellions against police terror sweeping the country will be many for educators and school districts. To challenge systemic racism, the Chicago Teachers Union, and teachers’ unions across the country are at this time calling for school districts to cut ties with police departments as Minneapolis Public Schools is doing. Collectively, school districts across the country could direct billions of dollars to meet students’ dire needs, instead of funding student criminalization and repression.
Reds in Ed stands in solidarity and in the streets with the rebellions against racist police terror! Justice for George Floyd! End Police Brutality!