Every once in a while, I come across a story where I genuinely don’t know how to feel.
On Tuesday, students at Denver South High School were shown a video on how to respond if a student is being attacked because of their race. The video instructs students to avoid calling the police.
From 9 News:
The nearly four-minute video, titled “Don’t be a Bystander: 6 Tips for Responding to Racist Attacks,” tells students to engage in conversation with victims, document the attack and “avoid the police.”
“Armed police presence often escalates rather than reduces the risk of violence in a situation,” the video, which was not produced by the school or district, said. “Because police have been trained to see people of color, gender non-conforming folks and Muslims as criminals, they often treat victims as perpetrators of violence.”
“So if the victim hasn’t asked you to call police, do not, I repeat, do not call the police,” the video’s host instructs.
You can probably guess how the police reacted to the video.
“It is reprehensible of them to include a tip that specifically states not to contact police,” Denver’s Police Foundation said in a statement.
“The message in this type of video continues to manipulate the narrative of law enforcement’s relationship with the community,” the statement, adding that the characterization of police bias is a “blatant misrepresentation” of Denver Police Department training.
So, here’s the thing—there’s an adage known to cops and white people who love cops that goes, “Everyone hates cops until they need one.”
The first person to say this had to be white. It had to be someone who hadn’t experienced being Black in America because if they had, they’d know and understand why so many of us hate cops even when we need them. I couldn’t possibly count how many times in my life I had to call 911 for one reason or another and felt anxiety over the mere thought of being in close proximity to the police. And I’m one of probably millions of Black Americans who have called the police to report a crime against them only to be treated like a suspect once the cops arrive.
To be fair, I will say the video’s assertion that “police have been trained to see people of color, gender non-conforming folks and Muslims as criminals” misses the mark a bit. It would be more accurate to say that America is conditioned to regard people of color as criminals,” and that the system of policing is part of that America.
Anyway, the point is that I see where the video is coming from. But on the other hand—how are school officials leaving it up to students to decide whether to call the police when another student, a minor, is being attacked period, let alone because of their race? What sense does it make for a student to wait until a student to tel them to call the police while that student is being attacked? Again, I understand that for Black people, calling 911 can be a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” situation, but each situation is different and there are far too many factors to consider for an instructional video to just be telling children blatantly not to call the police when they see a Black kid getting attacked by a racist.
In fact, it’s probably for those reasons that a Denver Public Schools spokesperson said the video “was not fully vetted prior to its viewing” and included narratives “we do not subscribe to in DPS.”
“We have connected directly with the leadership of [the Denver Police Department] about this matter and look forward to our continued work with them,” the district’s statement continued. ‘
“I understand where the video is coming from, but I think if something is a crime, it needs to be reported,” Darlene Sampson, an equity analyst at the Western Educational Equity Assistance Center, told 9 News.
“The video itself cannot be used alone,” she continued. “There has to be a lot of education around it. Hate crimes are against the law. So we don’t want to make a blanket statement. We have to look at each situation individually,” she said, adding that “there are times when a hate crime must involve the police.”
“When we are addressing hate and bias in schools, it’s everyone that has to be engaged, from the community to the parents,” she said. “You just cannot do it in isolation.”
So, what do y’all think?
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