The Criminalization of Black Boys and How It Affects Them Systemically

Recently, a video emerged of a group of black boys being assaulted and attacked by police. Sadly, this type of violence isn’t uncommon in young black boys, as seen in the cases of Tamir Rice, Trayvon Martin, and more recently, Jordan Edwards. Statistically, black boys are three times more likely to be expelled more than white students and represent 31% of school related arrests. This shows that from a young age, black boys are seen as inherently violent. This system is known as the school-to-prison pipeline, and can be cited as a leading cause of the disproportionate numbers of black men in prison when compared to their white counterparts.

The video from Woodland Hills High School shows the students being physically assaulted, even causing 2 students to lose their teeth. In the video, it appears that the students are doing nothing out of the ordinary. The principal, Kevin Murray, is heard threatening the students, “I’m gonna punch you in your face…and when you go court, it’s your words versus mine. Mine wins every time.” What makes this even worse is that he is holding down the student as the police officer tases him. According to the American Psychological Association, black boys are viewed as older, when compared to their white peers. Phillip Atiba Golff, a professor at UCLA states, “Children in most societies are considered to be in a distinct group with characteristics such as innocence and the need for protection… black boys can be seen as responsible for their actions at an age when white boys still benefit from the assumption that children are essentially innocent”. Black boys are taught that they are supposed to be aware of their surroundings. If they do one small thing, whether it be driving home from a party, playing with a toy gun, or carrying a bag of Skittles, it can cost them their life. Black boys continue to lose their life in the hands of police officers, the people made to protect and serve. Meanwhile, police officers are continuing to get away with murder and assault without any consequences.

When Michael Brown was killed, The New York Times described him as, “no angel” and had a rough past. When Jordan Edwards was shot in a car, they pointed out that he had a 3.5 GPA. The media will to justify if they deserved to get killed or not, based on things that were not relevant at the time that the incident happened. They will make up excuses for why this happened, instead of questioning the police officers at hand and why they did what they did. Instead, the police officers are defended, given TV interviews and instead of going to jail, they walk free.

The sad reality is that black children lose their sense of childhood and innocence. They are labeled as ‘men’, instead of ‘boys’ and’ women’ instead of ‘girls’. The senseless murder of black teenagers based on no evidence that they were doing something wrong has been a long installed practice in the police force. While it might not be intentional, the cycle has gone on for far too long and it needs to be stopped.



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