A SWAT team at Habans Elementary School, New Orleans. (Flickr/Bart Everson)
This article was originally published by AlterNet and is reposted here with the permission of the author.
I grew up in Oxford, Connecticut, a town over from Newtown. Both are solidly white and (at minimum) middle class, with white, middle-class politics to boot. Democrats and Republicans shake hands after yelling at each other. Democrats vote for Republicans if they’re known to be respectable people around town. There are no police review boards; the police are who you call when you accidentally set off your house alarm. And, in one of America’s most racially balkanized states, there’s little talk of racial injustice. For residents of Connecticut’s white getaways, society is, by default, post-racial.
In the wake of the Newtown massacre, municipalities far away, and far different, from Newtown are ramping up their school police forces and security checks. They have an ally in President Obama, whose 23 gun control proposals include added funding for “school resource officers”—that is, police.
As a result, students of color across the country are bracing for the dependably discriminatory impact of heightened school security. Since the advent of zero-tolerance policies during the Reagan-era war on drugs, suspension rates have gone up disproportionately for blacks, Latinos and Native Americans. Black students are now three times as likely as white students to get suspended, despite scant evidence of greater suspension-worthy infraction. The policies undergirding this discrimination are twofold: first, codes of conduct with heavy penalties for nonviolent incidents like being late, talking back, violating dress codes, or, as Daniel Denvir writes at Vice, farting; second, more school police to enforce them—a 38 percent national increase from 1997 to 2007.
Treating students of color purely as victims, though, misses half the story. In a movement uniting large advocacy organizations like the Advancement Project with a vast array of student and community groups, the zero-tolerance years have also been an era of collective resistance.