by Dr. Boyce Watkins
Seven students were involved in an after school prank that may end up staying on their record for the rest of their lives. The teens in North Carolina were arrested and charged with a misdemeanor for throwing water balloons. A parent was also arrested for trying to find out what was going on.
Wake County Public School System spokeswoman Renee McCoy said “all indications” were that only water was used, so you have to wonder at what point does a little water become some kind of dangerous weapon.
Six of the teens were charged with disorderly conduct, another has been charged with assault and battery for hitting a security guard with a water balloon.
Kevin Hines, the parent who was arrested, told WBT News 13 that he was threatened with a stun gun when he drove up to the school to find out what was happening. He was concerned that officers were acting in an aggressive fashion, and tried to get inside the school to investigate. He says that he was charged with second-degree trespassing for trying to get in the building to check on his child. Another parent filed a complaint with the Raleigh Police Department after he says that officers slammed him to the ground.
“How he was taken down was the most disturbing because they took him down by his neck and slammed him,” Hines said to WRAL.com.
The boys were teens, aged 16 and 17, and from what I know, they were all black males. Being black and male is typically enough to lead authorities to conclude that your life isn’t worth protecting. Black males have become food for the prison industrial complex, a capitalist machine that makes record profits each year by finding ways to put us back into slavery. This isn’t an exaggeration: The 13th Amendment of the United States Constitution plainly states that if you are convicted of a felony, then slavery is no longer illegal.
There is a way that authorities tend to interpret black male behavior that doesn’t apply to nearly any other ethnic group. Black men strike fear into many whites who seem to forget that we are human as well. I recall being in a long line to register for classes when I was a student at The University of Kentucky. After waiting in line for two hours, I found out that I couldn’t register for classes because I owed money for a library book that I’d just paid for. The error in the system infuriated me and I protested to the person at the desk that they must have made a mistake.
After pleading my case as clearly as I could, I remember looking up and seeing over a dozen white people staring a hole in me, like I was an enraged animal at the zoo. At that moment, I began to really notice that the way the world sees me as a black man is not the way I see myself.
Part of the reason I took issue with the racist commercial released last month by Mountain Dew is because these false perceptions of black men as being violent, sub-human animals unworthy of emotional empathy exists all throughout America. It happens when we go look for jobs and are denied even when we have all of the qualifications. It happens when we go in front of a judge who gives us twice as much time as the white kid who committed the same crime. This form of racism destroys lives every day, and it must be confronted on a systematic level (and not just by telling hard-working Morehouse graduates to stop making excuses).
After this investigation is complete, the situation must be rectified. If officers are found to have overreacted, they should be punished as much as the young men and parents who were threatened and arrested themselves. This kind of behavior should not be tolerated, and the residents of Raleigh should stand up to this embarrassing form of racial oppression.
We can’t allow our children to be put back into slavery, for the criminal justice system is doing just that. There is nothing violent about a water balloon.