By now, you’ve seen the viral video of the male sheriff’s deputy dragging the female high school student out of her desk and onto the floor. While the details are still emerging, the video shows undeniable excessive force in the situation. There are a lot of contrasts in this story: male/female; black/white; young/old; subordinate/superior. And, social media is arguing every angle, including the possibility of the student being insubordinate by not leaving the classroom when asked after being caught for trying to pull out her cell phone. Words like “disrespectful,” “no home training” and “ignoring authority” are being tossed around as though they somehow justify the attack. They do not.
I couldn’t help but to think back to my days in high school. I was raised what would socially be considered the “correct” way. I knew and practiced my manners, had respect for self and others, and was taught right from wrong. And, I was punished for doing the latter. But, I was also taught to think for myself, speak up and stand for what I believed. For that, I was supported by my parents even when I staged a walk-out in support of a teacher who I felt had been wrongly fired, and after a teacher called me a bitch for engaging other students to help a massive school activity. There was also the teacher who I felt just didn’t like me; he threw me out of class every day. When we met, my mother sided with the teacher, but I wasn’t admonished for having a different opinion.
But, things are different now. Instead of encouraging independent thinking and respectful opposition, our young people are admonished, beaten, arrested or killed when going against the grain of authority, even if and when that authority is wrong. Age, culture and color are a direct and sometimes automatic conviction of guilt without any consideration, review or assessment of the facts. At a time when our young people are smarter than ever, this seems backwards and wrong.
The assumption of guilt on the part of our young people has circumvented adult accountability and altered the landscape of mutual respect. Instead of teaching and protecting our children, those responsible for such are terrorizing and penalizing them. Sure, there are those who defy the doubt’s benefit and dictate a different level of discipline. But, the situation in South Carolina—like so many others—doesn’t appear to be one of them.
On the other side of the coin of discussion, the need is for accountability and respect. Mutual accountability and respect among those contrasts of male/female; black/white; young/old; subordinate/superior.
For as long as we champion for blind submission to authority we are generously handing the reigns to those who will exploit it.