Though a police officer exacted the physical violence caught on camera, a teacher, school administrator, and judge participated in it, too. Each of them prioritized power plays, intimidation, and coercion over teaching and learning in a safe environment.
By Khadijah Costley White
Oct 27, 2015
“I was crying. Literally screaming, crying…I know this girl don’t got nobody.”
Those were the words of Niya Kenny, the only girl to speak up during a police officer’s attack on her classmate at Spring Valley high school in Columbia, South Carolina. On a cell phone video taken on Monday by one of the students, we can see a police officer approach a girl sitting silently in her chair. He grabs her by her neck, flips her violently backward on her head while she’s still sitting down, and then drags her by her knee before turning her over and jumping on her back.
It is a violent video, but one with the kind of violence that helps us maintain our manicured lawns and white picket fences while ignoring the homeless woman sleeping on cold steps down the street. It’s a violence to which we’re accustomed, the kind we believe in, the very violence that built this country. It’s a T-shirt that reads “I’m Still Breathing” when Eric Garner’s family still grieves his killing, or a shooting target that looks like a boy killed on the way home from the store. It’s the kind of violence that shoots a baby and kills his mother while she’s holding him in her arms. It’s acceptable, normal, and deliberate. It’s as American as apple pie.
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Khadijah Costley White is an assistant professor in the Department of Journalism and Media Studies at Rutgers University in New Brunswick. Find her on Twitter here.