I believe Kiera Wilmot is a victim of two societal paradigms that have been going on for far far too long. I will be breaking both of those down so we can all be on the same page with this. I will also be stating some hard facts and asking some hard questions. I hope that we will all take some time to have a hard look at ourselves because We The People are the reason why.
First some housekeeping:
#KieraWilmot #Solidarity4Wilmot #ScienceIsNotCrime – Go on ahead and show your support by tweeting your early science experiments and what happened to you. SIGN THIS PETITION. I’ll also be speaking about why those areas of support are good things, and make us feel good, but also why they are not nearly enough, and I’ll put forth some suggestions on what else we can do to make sure this will never happen again.
Please note that information about a defense fund for Kiera will be posted on Joe Madison’s facebook page as indicated during the show. I have already seen two links supposedly already raising funds for Kiera. I won’t link to them, as I am pretty sure they aren’t official, and it will have to be taken on faith that the funds already and continually being raised there will end up were they say they will. I’m waiting for the link from Kiera’s attorney before I got throwing my dollars around. I urge you to do the same.
The two items of interest:
1) The school to prison pipeline/Zero tolerance policies
2) How we react to acts of terrorism and terrorists
The School To Prison Pipeline and Zero Tolerance Policies
This is the first item at work here. I want everyone to understand that Kiera Wilmot is only one student out of the hundreds of thousands of children already caught up in that system. I’m glad that she is has become essentially The Face of, or the Poster Child for this alarming issue. I’m glad that she has awakened the sympathies of so many and her case has garnered so much national and international attention.
But I want us all to think about this. What happened to Kiera Wilmot should not have even happened at all. Our schools should not have regressed to the prison pipelines that they are today. Our schools should not have these Zero Tolerance policies in the first place. We have seen the same framework in operation in the “adult world”, and those stats, like those of student age children and their schools, ain’t pretty.
That Black and Latino children are statistically more likely to be caught up – no let me be more truthful, cuz “caught up” sound like some sort of happenstance or accident – more likely to be targeted and pushed toward the pipeline is something that needs to be addressed.
For far too long the majority of people – some of these very same people who are all up in arms about Kiera – have ignored the consequences of that pipeline and those ZT policies that allow it to continue. Because it wasn’t their children being targeted, and/or it wasn’t happening in their schools. It wasn’t a problem that was on their radar.
This is a very American problem. Take the current
Depression economic recession for example. Unemployment wasn’t considered a huge problem or even a very big issue until it white people were suddenly among the pink slipped and couldn’t get a job the next day hit the demographic that usually has very low unemployment rates. All of a sudden there was a focus on jobs, unemployment, minimum wage and the like.
During the time before as well as during the recession, unemployment rates for African Americans was always very high. Higher than the national averages. Has been that way for decades. Being out of work, unemployable, under-employed, searching for work, taking “junk jobs” to pay the bills while you are looking for work in your career field is nothing new to Black people.
The same goes for our children being targets for harsher punishments, and let’s keep it real, punishments in general, and being funneled towards expulsion, the courts, juvenile detention, and so on in much higher numbers than their white counterparts.
This is nothing new. It has being going on for decades. With juvenile detention centers and prisons becoming increasingly privatized and turning into businesses – ways to make billions of dollars – the situation had only gotten more dire. They have cells to populate, beds to fill and the incentives have turned away from prevention to having quotas to fill.
On my explorations of the #KieraWilmot twitter feed, I have found a couple of people who were interested in giving Kiera a Summer job in their respective labs, or science companies or wherever. I think that is a wonderful thing. But I think the outreach has to go much further both in Kiera’s case and beyond.
Maybe get together with your fellow lab employees and see if you can’t start a scholarship or a fund or something towards getting Kiera situated for her final year of school. Instead of her going through some expulsion program to get her high school diploma, why not see if we can get a position in a school with a more nurturing and supportive environment that has science teachers willing to foster her curiosity instead of throwing her under the bus.
That is the immediate thing you can do. The other thing would be to also look out for her once she graduates. I’m basing all of this on her actually not being sent to prison for 5-15 years, by the way. There must be a way for her – and her twin sister too for that matter – to go on to a really good higher education that will allow her to maximize her potential. Her mom is a single mom! Let’s see if we can get her some help in paying college tuition for her kids.
Then there is the dismantling of the Zero Tolerance policies. I think we should check in with our local schools. Pick three in your area – more if you want to. Find out what their school codes are. Find out if they have school-based internal police or if they are, like Kiera’s school set up for any in-school infractions to be sent immediately to the state’s attorney’s office. Find out what the process is for changing those policies if/when you find them during your research.
Organize parents, your local community, business owners – WHOEVER to come together and support those processes and be a part of taking action to bring our schools back to education instead of being mini-prisons and places where creativity and curiosity is squashed and our children are criminalized.
The harder part will be taking apart the school to prison pipeline. You will be going up against a branch of the Prison Industrial Complex. There are billions of dollars involved. There is also the simple bare fact that you are also going up against the endemic racism that is in our society. I do not have any real suggestions on how to combat this. It is absolutely such a very huge problem. We would, as Americans have to make an enormous paradigm shift. A shift that would involve us having to acknowledge the problem in order to begin to address it.
And we already know that that is a national conversation that we are not ready to have, despite many people attempting to try it. So on that front, I don’t have any answers. But I do know that there are already grassroots organizations, national coalitions etc that have been combating racism in America for decades. Maybe join on up and see what you can do to help out.
School-to-prison pipeline fact sheet. An excerpt:
The Orleans Parish School Board’s expulsions under zero tolerance policies were 100% Black, with 67% of their school-related arrests being Black students. The RSD-Algiers Charter School Association had 75% of their expelled students without educational services black. Furthermore, 100% of their expulsions under zero tolerance policies and 100% of their school-related arrests were all Black students.
Remember: While it’s easy to think the school-to-prison pipeline only impacts particular students and their respective families, we must remember that our whole society will feel the consequences. Today’s youth are tomorrow’s leaders. And we must remember that we cannot teach a student who is not in school.
How We React to Acts of Terrorism and Terrorists
Kiera Wilmot was also a victim of how we as Americans have been dealing with terrorism and terrorists. I wish I could lay the blame solely at the feet of George W. Bush and his antics and tactics after 9/11, but we also have to shoulder a lot of the blame too. We didn’t have to fall into the traps he laid out for us. We didn’t have to let our latent racism rise to the surface. We didn’t have to fall for the rhetoric, the ratcheting up of fear and hate from the media and our government officials. We didn’t have to be puppets.
Here is a very interesting article about bombings on American soil over the years written by David von Ebers. Of interest is how people reacted to the bombings and also to the bombers themselves. What a difference 100 years makes indeed. The Contradictory and Disgusting Politics of Terrorism written by Anson Asaka is also a very good read on the subject and what happened in the time between the bombing in Boston and when the perpetrators were found.
Kids being kids or … Terrorists? Randle Aubrey makes some very telling points in his article on this subject. Kiera Wilmot and 18 year old Cameron D’Ambrosio were swept up in the net of kneejerk responses and our blind fear reactions to anything that comes near to even possibly being some sort of Terrorist Thing.
Kiera got cuffed and charged as an adult with two felonies for “crimes”. D’Ambrosio also got the book thrown at him – he is facing 20 years in prison and being held on one million dollar bail. His crimes? “…who’s only crime at this point is being a goofy suburban white kid with delusions of hip-hop grandeur”.
My contention is this. The terrorists have already won. They have us living in a constant state of fear. They keep our society on a knife-edge of panic, hatred and racial strife. They are dictating how we treat our children.
Also of interest, Tim Wise has this to say about the subject at hand as well. Terrorists are not white. They are brown people. They are not Americans. People who are Muslims are terrorists. People who wear turbans and the hijab are terrorists.
When terrorists are white, Christian and wholesomely American like that long scary list in Tim Wise’s article, we don’t call them terrorists. They are “gunmen” or “shooters” or “loners” or “confused” or “suffer from mental illness” etc. But they are hardly ever labeled as the terrorists they are.
When it turned out the people behind the bombing in Boston were actually literally Caucasian, the brownification and the othering of the terrorists began post haste. Because it was beyond comprehension for so many Americans that it was two white boys who caused all that mayhem, harm and terror. I keep seeing things like “ethnic Chechen” being bandied about in the press. Aside from the word ethnic being code for uhh brown people, everybody on the planet is ethnic something or other so yeah. And trying to link them to (GASP!) hip-hop and underscoring them and their families as welfare recipients well…
And interesting enough, despite all that, they are called the “Boston Bombers” and not outright terrorists so much. There are also leanings that the younger more “Americanized” brother was lead astray by his radical muslim older brother. I’d roll my eyes, but I only have two and they already rolled away somewhere long ago back in early September 2001.
We let our racism dictate our response to terrorism and terrorists. We let ourselves get tangled up in a war that cost trillions of dollars and thousands of lives. Money, time and investment that could have been spent overhauling our school system, or going towards other things that would serve towards healing our country and bettering ourselves as a nation.
We are now reaping what we have sown. And some people have not learned anything from our past mistakes. Let us not be like them. Let us find a way to take back our dignity and let us rule our own lives and how we treat our kids. Let us remember that our children are indeed our future, and what kind of future are we going to have when we choose to lock up our kids, criminalize them and use unthinking policies instead of teaching moments, actual education and support for curious minds?
In conclusion. America we have to do much better. We have to come together and do TANGIBLE and CONCRETE things to turn us away from the course this country is on.
When someone else’s child is a target, and subsequently is denied an education or receives a sub par education, or if someone else’s family gets torn apart: We ALL Lose. As a country we LOSE.
There is no more “it isn’t happening to me or my kids so it is ok.” it is far from being ok. Find out what you can do to make changes in your community, your local schools, your neighborhood.
Reach out and see what organizations are already in place that have been combating these societal ills for decades. Join the fight. Use your privilege and power to be a part of making changes for the betterment of our society, to save the lives of our children, to make sure that our future is not our present.
We can’t do this without each other. Or our society would have already changed for the better. We need everyone to pitch in. It is not about what the least you can do – it is about what is the most you can do.
No more Kiera Wilmots.
Your child, your niece, your nephew could be next. Things like this aren’t static. They tend to spread and spillover and infect everyone. Our schools are already diseased. That a few haven’t caught the flu yet, means nothing, as history has proven time and time again.
Now is the time to take action and reverse and dismantle these systems that are killing us as a nation and ruining our future.