On Jan. 15, just about five miles away, four female students at East Middle School were allegedly strip-searched during school hours. The four African American students, all of whom are 12 years old, were searched on suspicion of drug possession after “appearing hyper and giddy during their lunch hour.” The story has now gained the attention of news outlets across the country, as it appears to be yet another incident of black people facing police action for no good reason.
The families of the girls are being represented by Progressive Leaders Of Tomorrow, a community advocacy group, and are claiming that one girl was made to be searched in her undergarments alone, two were made to remove their shirts and be searched in their bras and one student refused to remove her pants and shirt and as a result, received an in-school suspension.
The Binghamton City School District provided a rebuttal of the allegations made, denying that the girls were strip-searched. In a statement provided last Thursday, Jan. 24, the school stated, “When students exhibit behavior that warrants further evaluation the district has an obligation to ensure their health and wellbeing, which may include physical and medical evaluation … it may require the removal of bulky outside clothing … This is not the same as a strip search.”
The parents of the girls also attended the meeting where the statement was released, stating that they themselves were not notified of the events until their daughters told them afterward. The parents also described the effect the incident had on their daughters, saying the girls “no longer feel safe at East Middle.”
Unfortunately, it seems this is not an uncommon occurrence. From barbecuing in the park to sleeping in a school lounge to sitting in Starbucks, it seems that black people aren’t able to do simple, everyday tasks without having the police called on them. And unfortunately, children are not exempt.
Twelve-year-old Reggie Fields’ neighbor called the police on him for mowing lawns in his neighborhood; the police were called on 13-year-old Jaequan Faulkner for selling hot dogs without a permit; and in one instance, a white woman went so far as to call 911, claiming a 9-year-old boy groped her inside a Brooklyn deli. Upon viewing tapes from the store’s security camera, it was quickly shown that his backpack brushed against her backside as he was leaving the store with his sister and mother.
It’s no secret that racial discrimination and profiling is a problem in America today, but at what point did calling the police for the most trivial reasons become the norm? When is calling 911 on a 9-year-old ever an acceptable practice? African Americans shouldn’t have to prove they live in a certain building in order to enter it normally; young boys should be allowed to work to earn extra spending money; four 12-year-old girls should be allowed to be as “hyper and giddy” as they want outside of class. The color of their skin makes no difference. What 12-year-old girl isn’t giddy from time to time?
When white people actively treat African Americans as outsiders and call the police on them, they are not only perpetuating dangerous thoughts and stereotypes with no evidence, but are also putting those individuals’ lives in danger. So I invite those who are considering calling the police on others doing something completely harmless to honestly ask themselves: Is there truly a concern for others in your mind, or are you just blinded by the color of someone else’s skin?
Elizabeth Short is a sophomore double-majoring in biology and English.