“Until the revolution come and all the feds start runnin’”Noname
Last week, it became publicly known that a 15-year-old Black girl, known as ‘Child Q’, was the victim of state-sanctioned sexual assault and racist gendered policing, which were a violation of her human rights. We as a collective are enraged, traumatised, and deeply dispirited to learn that this had happened to Child Q. As an organisation that works with schools to abolish current systems and introduce transformative justice and BlackCrit practices and thinking, we have seen first-hand what happens when radical and transformative practices do not exist in a school. This is seen in the egregious failures that led to Child Q’s unlawful strip search.
In the 36 page report by the City & Hackney Safeguarding Children Partnership (CHSCP), we read how she was adultified, subjected to misogynoir, racially profiled, and criminalised by her teachers, school, the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS), and the State.
Racial Profiling & Policing in Schools
Racial profiling is a form of violence because it infringes on Black people’s ability to move freely and without fear in public spaces. Racial profiling is also a direct violation of the enjoyment of many human rights, namely Article 5 (the right to liberty and security), Article 8 (respect for your private life and family life), and Article 14 (protection from discrimination), freedom of movement, protection against arbitrary arrest and other interventions, effective remedy, and the protection of the best interests of the child.
Police presence in schools causes serious harm, which is regularly inflicted on our youth, who are subject to constant scrutiny, daily fears of racialised harassment, and continual interference in their day-to-day lives. Police presence in schools triggers and causes race-based anxiety as the effects of being regularly and systematically dehumanised begin to affect and wear down on young Black students. Additionally, the introduction of police as ‘officer friendly’ in schools (especially in primary school) serves as a broader effort known as ‘copaganda’. This powerful and dangerous PR tool endeavours to frame and show the police and policing as an institution that ‘serves and protects the public. Again, we in the Black community know and learn quickly as children and young people that this is the greatest lie ever told. The police never have and do not ‘serve nor protect’ our children or community.
The myth of Black criminality has enabled the police to have unfettered authority over Black communities and people for decades. This means that the police have been given access that is quasi-legal to illegal powers to conduct unlawful searches upon Black people. In London alone, 9,088 children were subjected to strip searches whilst in custody between 2016 to 2021. Of those children, a disproportionate amount of Black children were subject to strip searches. This is why we call for a complete end to strip searches; they leave deep scars of humiliation and degradation on Black children and adults subjected to them.
Through our work and caseload here at BLAM UK, we see the terror of the white supremacist carceral (police and prison) state on how Black children and especially Black girls are treated in the British education system. This has a real and lasting mental health impact on Black girls as it perpetuates ongoing racial trauma and affects their racial esteem during incredibly formative years in their lives. Even now, we know that Black girls are scared that they too could have the same harmful and traumatic experience as what happened to Child Q. In our casework, a young Black girl was accused of smelling like vape smoke and was made to show her bra to four different teachers, one being male, and kept in a room without food, water, or the ability to call a parent before she was excluded. We successfully challenged the exclusion, although she had to move schools.
As Black people, we view calling the police as a direct and targeted act of terror as it threatens our lives with the potential for death at the hands of the police and other injury or harm to both our physical and mental person. The police have never kept our communities safe, and they will never keep us safe. The teachers (violence enablers) who facilitated the atrocity against Child Q allowed MPS to enact violence and harm on Child Q.
Within the realm of racial profiling is the policing tactic of using the ‘smell of weed’ to control and criminalise the Black existence in public space. Such tropes and racist biases are profoundly and inherently anti-Black. They are used as justification for the criminalisation, scrutiny, surveillance, frequent interruption, racialised police intervention, and violations of Black people’s human rights. These are systemic issues that we can only bring to a swift end with the complete abolishing of the police. Until that day comes, we are demanding that there be no police in schools.
Misogynoir, Adultification, Spirit Murdering, and Hair Discrimination
School is a hyper-violent space for Black students and, in particular, for Black girls. Black girls continue to be adultified, criminalised, and spirit-murdered by educators who enact racially discriminatory school disciplinary policies. Child Q was grossly violated and subjected to state violence, misogynoir, adultification, and hair discrimination. Child Q represents the real human impact of anti-Black education policies, practices and standards, which destroy the experience of Black children in educational institutions.
Scholars such as Hines and Wilmot, and Love highlight how the white Euro-Western education system commits acts of spirit-murdering of young Black children every day. Instead of creating affirming, nurturing, motivating, engaging, and equitable learning environments for Black students, schools, participate in actively destroying the racial esteem and spirit of Black children. Some ways in which spirit murdering occurs in the school environment include:
- Acts of physical violence aimed towards Black children at the hands of school police officers;
- Laws and policies that lead to disproportionate school discipline and excessive punitive actions, in which working-class, Black, Brown, and racialised children are more likely to be temporarily and permanently excluded from school.
Actions like strip-searching a young Black girl for ‘smelling like weed’ are spirit-murdering, as we know that Child Q went from an outgoing and bubbly teenager to a withdrawn and timid young girl. Her world and life have forever been shifted and changed by the callous carelessness of her ‘teachers’ in a single moment. That is how deeply and quickly spirit-murdering can occur in a space where children are meant to learn and grow with safety and care.
Due to the intersecting systems of oppression, we must look into and call out the misogynoir and specific racist gendered violence Black girls face. Researcher Connie Wun has found that the focus on discipline policies, while necessary, excludes a critical analysis, one that centres the social order that positions Black girls as receptacles for racist and misogynistic projections. The dominant discourses on school discipline disparities obscure a structural condition that characteristically places Black girls within a social order where their lives are illegible and inconsequential, rendering them perpetually susceptible to discipline and punishment. Black girls are much more vulnerable as they are often excluded from conversations of racism or sexism, which creates intersectional invisibility that marginalises them. Instead of being protected by her teachers and school, teachers and police met child Q with excessive punitive disciplinary action because she is a Black girl. While punitive discipline policies are imagined to punish students for violent behaviours or normalisation purposes, they instead are weaponised to further villanise Black girls who experience adultification both in education and their communities.
In 2017, Georgetown Law’s Center on Poverty and Inequality conducted a study that applied statistical analysis to a national survey of adults’ attitudes toward Black girls. It found that adults believe Black girls ages 5-19 need less nurturing, protection, support, and comfort than white girls of the same age and that Black girls are more independent, know more about adult topics, and know more about sex than white girls. In a follow-up report released in 2019, some of the findings of the focus groups of Black women and girls ages 12 to 60 included:
- Black girls routinely experience adultification bias.
- Adultification is linked to harsher treatment and higher standards for Black girls in school.
- Negative stereotypes of Black women as angry, aggressive, and hypersexualised are projected onto Black girls.
- Adults attempt to change Black girls’ behaviour to be more passive.
- Adultification bias can lead educators and other authorities to treat Black girls in developmentally inappropriate ways.
- Factors contributing to adultification bias include anti-Black racism, sexism (specifically misogynoir), and poverty.
- Adults have less empathy for Black girls than their white peers.
‘[T]o society, we’re not innocent. And white girls are always innocent,’ said a participant in one of the focus groups (ages 17-23).
The indignities against Child Q represent an education system entrenched in anti-Blackness and punitive behaviour policies and measures. It is why abolition in education is so important. We must move away from legitimising and upholding the carceral state and its lust for punitive ‘justice’ to a system entrenched in transformative justice practices that deal with harm through accountability and community healing. We must allow children to be children and have the joy and carefree happiness of being children. Society, education, and teachers must stop replicating systems of violence and harm through racist ideologies, practices, beliefs, and policies. Serious unlearning of harmful biases and conflict resolution needs to happen at all structural levels. We can only resolve institutional failings through institutional rebuilding. Our current models of education and ‘status quo’ school policies that fail to see the far-reaching effects of the harm they cause to Black students, especially Black girls, need to be dismantled entirely and abolished and replaced with a new and innovative system that make education what it is meant to be, a place to learn and grow knowing you are supported through both your mistakes and your successes. We demand to end this system. There should be no police in schools, and strip searches must end.
We are calling for:
- Black freedom, justice, and abolition in the education system.
- Education spaces that cultivate Black Girl Magic and Black Girl Joy.
- Educators ask themselves, ‘Do I need to respond in a way that relies on the state or social services?‘
- Radical transformative justice to be practised in all UK schools.
- Afro hair discrimination and bias to be stamped out.
- Mandatory training of teachers on adultification bias and misogynoir Black girls face.
- Schools to be sites that cultivate, place at the centre, and recognise our cultural artefacts as Black girls and use it to build us up and empower us against the harsh white backdrop of white supremacy and misogynoir.
We echo the words of Black Crit Thinkers and believe that UK schools must become sites that act ‘as forging refuge from the gaze of white supremacy—where Black children dream weightless, unracialised, and human. Where language flows freely and existence is nurtured and resistance is breath. Where the Black educational imagination dances wildly into the night—quenching the thirst of yearning and giving birth to becoming.’
We want to end this by addressing our Little Sister Q, who we hold in our arms and heart at this time. Healing will come. Your community of Black sisters stand with you and are thinking about you. There is resistance in healing recovery, and there is resistance in you taking the time to give yourself that deep love and care as you navigate your feelings and emotions since that day. When you weep, we weep; when you laugh, we laugh. This journey is your journey. Only you can dictate and shape it. But rest assured that you are truly cherished and loved forever and always. You are all our Little Sisters; our sweet Black girls deserve childhoods filled with joy, laughter, and magic.
Black Girl Realities & Experiences
Black Girl Freedom: Strategies of Resistance http://www.blackfeministpedagogies.com/ii-black-girl-freedom-strategies-of-resistance.html
Black Girls and School Discipline: The Complexities of Being Overrepresented and Understudied
Demands for “Sisterly” Love: Exploring the Hyperpenalization of Black Girls in the School District of Philadelphia https://repository.upenn.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1305&context=curej
Power and Vulnerability: Black Girl’s Magic in Black Women’s Science Fiction https://publish.lib.umd.edu/?journal=scifi&page=article&op=view&path%5B%5D=382
Unaccounted Foundations: Black Girls, Anti-Black Racism, and Punishment in Schools http://www.usprisonculture.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/Black-Girls-Anti-Black-Racism-and-Punishment-in-Schools.Wun_.pdf
Adultifcation & Misogynoir
Moya Bailey, “Misogynoir Transformed: Black Women’s Digital Resistance” https://www.brown.edu/academics/race-ethnicity/events/moya-bailey-%E2%80%9Cmisogynoir-transformed-black-women%E2%80%99s-digital-resistance%E2%80%9D
Research Confirms that Black Girls Feel the Sting of Adultification Bias Identified in Earlier Georgetown Law Study https://www.law.georgetown.edu/news/research-confirms-that-black-girls-feel-the-sting-of-adultification-bias-identified-in-earlier-georgetown-law-study/
Anti-Black State Violence, Classroom Edition: The Spirit Murdering of Black Children https://bettinalove.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/Anti-Black-state-violence-classroom-edition-The-spirit-murdering-of-Black-children.pdf
From Spirit-Murdering to Spirit-Healing: Addressing Anti-Black Aggressions and the Inhumane Discipline of Black Children
Spirit Murdering vs. Life-Giving Education Among Black Youth https://www.psychologytoday.com/gb/blog/culture-community-and-conscience/202110/spirit-murdering-vs-life-giving-education-among-black
Policing and Strip Searches
Copaganda: A Powerful and Dangerous Police PR Tool [24 July 2020] https://www.4frontproject.org/post/copaganda-a-powerful-and-dangerous-police-pr-tool
Met Police’s Use of Traumatic and Degrading Strip-Searches Is On the Rise [17 February 2022] https://www.thecanary.co/uk/analysis/2022/02/17/met-polices-use-of-traumatic-and-degrading-strip-searches-is-on-the-rise/
Strip Search Freedom of Information Request Summary Tweets by Tom Kemp (@tomgk90) https://twitter.com/tomgk90/status/1493566075216273413?s=21 https://twitter.com/tomgk90/status/1504057278781132800?s=21
Racial Profiling and Human Rights
General Recommendation No. 34 Adopted By the Committee: Racial Discrimination Against People of African Descent [03 October 2011]
Preventing and Countering Racial Profiling of People of African Descent https://www.un.org/sites/un2.un.org/files/preventracialprofiling-en.pdf