Monthly Archives: October 2015

Hypes, Junkies and “Substance Abusers”

I’ve known a junkie or two in my life.  In fact, I know one or two right now.  And there’s a whole lot less than six degrees of separation between those junkies and me.  Over the years, those junkies have been in and out of prison for various crimes.  That junkie life ain’t cheap.  Habits are high.  No pun intended.

The War on Drugs has not been kind to hypes.  Busted with a stash of crack means a trip to jail. Over and over again.  Politicians promising to get “tough on crime” have passed legislation over the years to ensure that black men and women – the junkies and hypes – were removed from society in order to cause no harm.  Never mind how the “War” devastated communities and families of non-violent users.   Despite the black community’s outcries about the negative impacts of this War, this country – at  the state, federal and local levels – continues undaunted.


But then.  Actually, but NOW.  Now WHITE kids are the hypes and junkies.  And it ain’t weed or crack they’re enamored with.  They’re jonesing for Smack. Black Tar. Horse. The “H”.  HEROIN.  And they’re overdosing in record numbers.  Now, WHITE families and communities are being ravaged.  But not for being over-policed.  Because NOW the narrative has changed.

White parents aren’t fond of their loved ones being called junkies and hypes.  And they don’t particularly care for calling them “addicts” or treating them as criminals either.  Instead, they are demanding a “kinder and gentler” approach to dealing with their kids.  And their demands are changing the entire conversation.  White parents prefer that rather than policing their children as criminals…rather than waging a war in their communities with their children and husbands and siblings the hunted enemies…that their loved ones be treated as suffering from a disease known as  “substance abuse disorder”.

That’s right.  There’s a WAR being waged in the black community.  But there’s a HEALTHCARE CRISIS  being addressed in white communities.  So while black folks are being locked up and put on lock down, white people are treated with the compassion reserved for patients suffering from serious illnesses.

Don’t get me wrong.  This is the right approach.  The obvious issue is that how you’re treated, and what level of care you receive, is all dependent, like so many other things, on your zip code.

The more things change, the more things stay the same.


Thanks to Huffington Post for the graphic.




The Three Rs and a Beat Down

Spring Valley HighBy now, we’ve all seen the video of Officer Ben Fields having a “field day” on a 16 year old high school student.  We’ve also likely seen all the victim blaming (well if she respected authority; well if she had only done what the teacher/principal/officer asked her to do, etc).

And I’ve seen several great articles on the racial bias implications of the way that young lady was man-handled.  THIS is one of the best ones I’ve seen.  [FULL DISCLOSURE: the author of that article is my cousin.  Even still, it is an awesome article]  Let me say THIS about THAT issue:

If we examine even the surface of how this child was treated, we’ll find just what most of us know to be true: racism. Why doesn’t it happen to white, Asian, Indian and Hispanic girls? Why aren’t those young girls subjected to the same level of “man-handling” that black girls and women are?  Because there isn’t the context of 400 years of slavery, black codes, Jim Crow and now Jim Crow, Jr. connected to the others. Black people, including (especially?) black women and girls have a long history of being objectified and dehumanized in this country. The depth and breadth of the erasure of our humanity is staggering.

But I digress from the topic at hand: school discipline.

Some people ask what SHOULD the school and FORMER officer Ben Fields have done in the face of her alleged defiance to requests to put her cell phone away and to get out of her seat?

Well, let’s address that.  How should this allegedly non-compliant, defiant teen have been handled?

I’m a school board member in a large urban district.  Do you have any idea how many noncompliant teens there are in a school district on any given day between middle and high schools?  I receive daily emails from district administration informing the board of situations where students have been defiant and escalated.

What’s the appropriate response to her very typical teenage behavior?  Do you think this officer’s reaction is how you handle disrespectful, noncompliant teens? Is his behavior an acceptable standard?

All together now class: “Hell no!”

First, the teacher and/or school administration should not have called an officer for the “egregioius” offense of not giving up her cell phone. Talk about wasting educational time.

How about leaving it to be dealt with for later disciplinary action? A detention? That’s about what her cellphone offense merited.  How about, worst-case an in-school suspension? Perhaps not being allowed back in class on a go forward basis with a cell phone?  Consequences don’t have to be violent to be effective.

And then, what if the school administrators had really stepped out of the box and engaged in a restorative justice practice with her?  Restorative justice is an approach to discipline based on respect, responsibility, relationship-building and relationship-repairing. It focuses on mediation and agreement rather than punishment. It aims to keep kids in school and to create a safe environment where learning can thrive.  Interested?  Read more about restorative justice here and here.

How many examples do I have to give?

Turns out this child at Spring Valley High School is a recent foster care child. She’s got a lot going on. Hopefully they are providing appropriate services to her and in the future will use CPI (crisis prevention intervention) training to handle situations as a school discipline issue, not a criminal police matter. First lesson: unless she is a danger to herself and to others, not every situation needs to be solved right then and there; otherwise it becomes a power struggle and escalates. There was nothing so urgent about her behavior that merited that response, or any response for that matter, from a police officer.

If we learn nothing else from this case about school discipline, we should use this situation as the “poster child” example of why we need CPI training and trauma-informed care in our schools.

Kids need effective discipline; not beat downs.

Ghetto Names and Ratchetness

imageI’ve been reading Raven-Symone’s comments that she wouldn’t hire someone with a ghetto-sounding name. This from a person whose own name (as has been pointed out by many others), with its hyphen, alternate spelling of “Simone” and gratuitous accent mark, bears all the hallmarks of a ghetto name.

She is one apostrophe away from platinum ghetto-name status.  Black folks really need to stop copying white folks’ bad habit of mistreating us.  That’s RATCHET regardless of your name.

But kudos to the sista below who did all black folks a favor. I applaud you and will vote for you for president of the Club at our next duly-called elections. You hit the nail on the head.


One more point.  I’d like to make a motion that we give them Kanye next.  Can I get a second?