The conversation regarding school safety cannot start and stop with guns and shootings.Since 2018 began, at least 8 school shootings have occurred in the US involving injury or death. In the days since the most recent widely publicized shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, several conversations have erupted regarding U.S. school safety. Similar to other shootings, gun control has re-emerged in the mainstream discourse. As well, there are discussions regarding arming teachers and increasing militarization of U.S. public schools. For example, in Broward County, Florida where the shooting took place, the police have reportedly stated that sheriff’s deputies will carry rifles on school grounds going forward. But amidst the growing discourse surrounding violence and guns, one particular discussion about school safety has been erased: that US students have been under threat and are under threat everyday. Understandably it is a worrisome and frightening and grave situation when a school shooting occurs, but “school safety” is more than just about school shootings. And this hyperfocus on the state of US schools only when widely publicized events happen, obscures that schools have been unsafe and that teachers and students are constantly threatened and in dangerous situations. In particular, the conversation on increasing police presence in schools or further incorporating metal detectors and other scanners or arming teachers, ignores that many schools are already militarized and policed in this way. Many schools already have policies in place for metal detectors and drug-sniffing dogs, especially among schools with a greater concentration poor students and students of color. The National Center for Education Statistics notes that up to 24% of U.S. schools have random drug-sniffs by dogs and almost 9% of high schools have random metal detector scans.
The “Black Panther” narrative allows Black women to be both angry and tender, both strong and vulnerable, both independent and interdependent on each other and those around them.[This essay contains spoilers for Marvel's “Black Panther”] “Black Panther” is not your typical superhero blockbuster. It's a political epic, it's Black as fuck, it's critical of white supremacy, colonialism, and imperialism, and it delivers a monumental story about the tension between Black Americans and continental Africans. Setting up a battle between young King T'Challa (Chadwick Boseman) and N'Jadaka (Michael B. Jordan), nicknamed Killmonger for the many lives he seemed to enjoy taking during his time as a CIA operative, it tells this story in a way that subverts expectations about both Blackness and Africa on film. What it also does is magnify the Black women within the story, and that is something that should not be considered secondary to its other achievements, because the Black women of “Black Panther” are central to its narrative and ultimately determine the direction that it takes. Not only are Shuri, Okoye, and Nakia each integral to the plot, driving the story with their actions, voices, and decisions, but their characters also provide positive, determined, and humanized images of Black women and girls. These are characters who are multifaceted, imperfect, capable, intelligent, and authentic. I see myself and the Black women and girls that I have the privilege of knowing reflected in the characters of “Black Panther,” and that, unfortunately, is something that I cannot say often enough about Black women in media. [caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="610"] Okoye (Danai Gurira), Nakia (Lupita Nyong'o) and Ayo (Florence Kasumba) in Ryan Coogler's "Black Panther".[/caption] After last year's “Wonder Woman”, I contemplated the trend of “feminist triumph” in mainstream U.S. action films as an achievement largely for and about white women. Essays, think pieces, and manifestos flooded the internet to celebrate its apparent feminism after its release — with one even marveling at the fact that Diana's thigh apparently jiggled — in the same way that countless articles were written to praise the feminism of Imperator Furiosa and the women of “Fury Road" and Rey of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” and several other actions films of years past. In these roles, white actresses portray characters who are larger-than-life, innovative, and unapologetically badass. Now, “Black Panther” finally makes a way for this triumph to be realized for Black women, and it does so in ways that extend beyond the strength granted to the individual women, because the ways in which the women of “Black Panther” are celebrated highlights the differences in social understandings of white womanhood and Black womanhood. Historically, being “strong” has never been a point of “feminist triumph” for Black women. We have and continue to face stereotypes of hyper-masculinity and animality, while white femininity has largely been viewed as delicate and docile. For white women, strength is something that expectations of white femininity have never afforded them, and the strength given to heroines like Wonder Woman can be used as a means to subvert the infantilizing expectations of white womanhood. Conversely, the “Strong Black Woman” stereotype goes hand in hand with the “Angry Black Woman” stereotype, and has been used as a convenient excuse to impose superhuman expectations on us, abuse us, gaslight us, and police our emotionality. The “Black Panther” narrative instead allows Black women to be both angry and tender, both strong and vulnerable, both independent and interdependent on each other and those around them. Among this long and distinct history of harmful stereotypes about Black womanhood is the phenomena of colorism and anti-Blackness, both in the media and in our lives, that is especially apparent in the way that dark-skinned women are treated in Hollywood. Light-skinned Black women are granted more visibility and often better roles that do not utilize the kind of misogynoiristic stereotypes that dark-skinned Black women are frequently limited to. This is especially limiting for older and/or fat Black women, who are at once recruited to play “Mammy” characters and also routinely mocked by Black men in drag and fat suits for “comedy.” One of the most significant aspects of this film is the celebration and normalization of seeing dark-skinned Black women front and center, as the heroes, the masterminds, and the love interests. Wakanda has been able to thrive untouched by white colonialism and its imperialist violences, its anti-Blackness, its body terrorism, and its gender violence through sexual and reproductive violations. White aesthetics and beauty standards are not dominant within its society, and therefore, it is Black aesthetic and beauty and African tradition which are respected. This is apparent in the presence of dark skin as well as in the abundance of natural Black hair and traditional African hairstyles. I cannot express how important it is for Black women and girls to see these things celebrated.
Our Detroit school is a fortress. Every door is locked from the outside and equipped with sensors. Leave it open too long and the alarm screeches through the hallway like a cat in heat.When school shootings occur, as a school counselor, I spring into action. I prepare myself to have students come to my office for courageous conversations about gun violence. My job is to attempt to restore their confidence and normalcy; get their head back in the academic game. In Detroit, where I work, no one ever comes to me after a shooting — not even a parent phone call to ask, “what is your plan if someone shoots up the school?” Nothing. After the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida I decided to go to them. In the lunch room, I sat with my students and asked: “Did you hear about what happened in Florida.” They had. “Are you concerned about something like that happening here?” Their answer is a confident unanimous, “No.” My kids cavalierly mention, “Black people don’t go around shooting up places, all reckless, white people do that.” I reminded my students of The Charleston Massacre when Dylann Roof, a white supremacist terrorist killed nine black people in their church. So even if black people do not typically commit mass killings on average, we can be victims of them. “Oh, yeah, that was crazy, Mrs. Mohammed,” another student says, “but that was a church. Ain’t nobody getting up in here with no nonsense!” High School students aren’t confident about much, but my ad hoc focus group of black, Latinx, and Arab-American students are very confident about their safety in our school building on the Detroit’s west side. Every morning students arrive an hour to thirty minutes in their uniform before the first bell to wait in a line to pass through a metal detector, have their backpacks searched, and get patted down by security guards. It is just not students — every parent, guest, even the postman walks through those metal detectors, gets their photo taken, and is greeted by a security guard who escorts them to the main office, right by our deputized police officer’s desk. Our Detroit school is a fortress. Every door is locked from the outside and equipped with sensors. Leave it open too long and the alarm screeches through the hallway like a cat in heat. All the windows have bars, and thick glass with wire mesh running through it. Shooting it out would be a waste. Only one of the metal six front doors can be opened without a pass-card or a key. And none of the side doors are ever unlocked. There are cameras at every intersection, and patrolling security guards. The main throughway doors have magnets which can be tripped by an alarm and instantly shut and lock, quarantine whatever part of the building you need it to. If there were a shooter, he would not be able to freely roam the building if that particular alarm was tripped. This isn’t The White House, this is inner city schooling.
"Good" white people uphold and support white supremacy because they are unwilling to see their own roles within systemic racism.Back on the tail end of 2016 I wrote a status update on Facebook which read something to the effect of, “When POC speak on genocide they are talking about subjugation and murder. When white people talk about genocide they are talking about mixed babies.” This is, of course, a reference to the idea of “white genocide” as discussed in white nationalist circles. My white friends — who are not white nationalists — were pissed. The thread turned into 200+ comments deep of mostly white people defending that they don’t mean that when they talk about white genocide, that the status was offensive — but what about my individual marginalization? Even though I stressed that I was speaking about white nationalists, all of these people could not get over how offended they were and spent all night literally #notallwhitepeople-ing on my page. And this is the story about why I never wrote about “white genocide” or how the offense of “good white people” helps to silence the voices of marginalized POC. That violent pushback against the concept, that was aired in my own space with people who I knew, had garnered such hate and vitriol that the idea of writing a full piece to educate people — knowing that backlash from people who did not know me would be much worse — was too much. The idea of the comments that would be to sent me and knowing that I would be facing it alone wasn’t something that I was willing to put my mental health through. So I didn’t write it. I stayed silent. In 2018 the concept of white genocide as a racist dog whistle is much more well-known. It has seen some coverage in big-name outlets and none of the people who were upset with me for my comment then would be so now because they are more familiar with it. But consider how much time that the concept had to grow and fester because there was no coverage a year or two ago. I’m not a huge voice but I am a voice and white offense silenced me.