UPDATE 3/6/2015: The Baltimore City Delegation has officially withdrawn HB 101. Thanks for your support!
We live in a society that seems willing to deal with Black people as if we are merely sites of pathology and criminality. The violence and self destructive behavior we see in our communities are not inherent in Black people. This environment is produced by two major factors. The first is the lack of strong, independent well organized Black civic, political and economic institutions. This is an important factor, but not the focus of this piece. Our focus in this piece is on the second major factor which are the polices that are implemented in our society that demonstrate a fundamental lack of regard for Black humanity. One such policy is HB 101/SB 17 which has been introduced in this year’s General Assembly.
Over the past few years issues of police brutality have dominated the headlines in mainstream media. This has inspired law makers to pass legislation to address this issue. Here in Baltimore the City Council passed a bill that would require police officers to wear body cameras (which was vetoed by the mayor). Last year the General Assembly passed Christopher’s Law which requires that police officers are trained on issues of “cultural sensitivity” (which is intended to deal with police brutality) among other things. How can a group who has made policy commitments to address police brutality think it is a good idea to authorize police officers to carry guns in schools that are primarily populated with Black youth?
What is unfortunate is that this legislation was put in on behalf of Mayor Rawlings-Blake and supported by the CEO of City Schools Dr. Thornton. I can not understand how anyone who claims to be conscious of the issues around police brutality would think it makes sense to authorize police to carry guns around children. Children in Baltimore are dealing with enough trauma, imagine police officers using their guns to break up a fist fight in light of a law that authorizes them to do that. Think about the effect that would have on a child? The only way anyone could seriously support this kind of legislation is if you have a disregard for the humanity of Black youth.
If the goal of this bill is to deal with violence in schools then this misses the mark. We can not arrest our way out of this problem, nor will increased presence of police firepower deter violence in our communities. The only way there will be significant change in our communities is if there are investments made in developing strong indigenous institutions that can re-socialize our communities to be life affirming and independent.
A couple of weeks ago I attended a panel discussion on MLK day at the Reginald F. Lewis museum. Commissioner Anthony Batts was on the panel and said one of the most profound things I have ever heard from a public official. He remarked about his time in California as a police chief and talked about the failed polices of the War on Drugs that he was forced to implement as a law enforcement official. He said that in the early 2000’s he reflected on all of the damage that was done by the polices that he had carried out and said that he realized that he was involved in the “genocide of his own people.” He is not the only one who’s behavior in public office could be described that way.
Call your representative and demand that they withdraw this bill!