“It’s Not Even Surprising Anymore”: Middle School Students React to Police Brutality

by Clara Totenberg Green and fivefifths

Clara Totenberg Green
Clara Totenberg Green, a native of Atlanta, is a teacher in the Atlanta Public Schools. She tries to write as much as possible between teaching and grading papers.
fivefifths
Vann R. Newkirk II (fivefifths) is Co-Chief Scribe at Seven Scribes, a writer at Daily Kos, a fiction writer, blogger, futurist, and activist. Vann is currently working on a science-fiction novel and short story series and resides in Silver Spring, MD. Find him napping on a bus near you.
Editor’s Note: This gallery is a complimentary piece to Clara Green’s article “The True Crime” about the Atlanta Public Schools cheating scandal.

Five days after the school year started in Atlanta, Georgia, Mike Brown lay dead in a Ferguson street. I had just started teaching middle school social studies in a Title I. school with a 97% black study body. The next week, I stayed late after school and with the assistance of fellow teachers, drove around thirty students to a local protest in support of Ferguson. After the protest, the students felt a sense of accomplishment and excitement. But those feelings have since waned.

I did not know then that these public killings and public outcries would continue throughout the school year. With each new case, I have challenged my students to discuss, debate, and write about their feelings. Increasingly, they have become frustrated with this process. Their comments reflect a sense of hopelessness and anger. “In real life we all know the government isn’t gonna do anything about it, and the police isn’t gonna do anything about it,” one student tells the class. “I’m used to it. It’s not a surprise to me. I’m just like oh, another person got shot.”

During the recent Baltimore uprising, the nation discussed whether or not rioting is logical and legitimate. But not my students. Not one of them questioned why people riot – they only debated if it’s a wise tactic. These are some of their reflections from one of our many conversations.

 

About the Authors:
Published by Clara Totenberg Green
Clara Totenberg Green, a native of Atlanta, is a teacher in the Atlanta Public Schools. She tries to write as much as possible between teaching and grading papers. View all posts by Clara Totenberg Green
About the Authors:
Published by fivefifths
Vann R. Newkirk II (fivefifths) is Co-Chief Scribe at Seven Scribes, a writer at Daily Kos, a fiction writer, blogger, futurist, and activist. Vann is currently working on a science-fiction novel and short story series and resides in Silver Spring, MD. Find him napping on a bus near you. View all posts by fivefifths

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