Education Is Our Most Powerful Weapon

Attending John Jay to enter the field of Law Enforcement was my plan B. I had completed my undergrad as a dual major and didn’t see the purpose in going back to school for education. It was summer 2010, I was writing a paper on Stop & Frisk for my Policy Analysis course and as I sat in the library reviewing the statistics on the impact of this policy in my borough, I paused for a second. I thought to myself who the hell would create such a policy. As I researched further, I realized that this policy was around for some time but wasn’t identified as “Stop & Frisk”. It was that day that I pondered on whether becoming a police officer was for me. If I decided to go into Law Enforcement, it would be for policies and procedures, that is where change can come for my people. It was at that table in the library that I realized that cleaning up the “problem” as an officer would be a never-ending cycle. If I wanted to get in front of the problem, it would be more effective to educate my community.

As a teacher, I don’t run away from the hot heads, but try my best to be supportive of them, because the last thing I want to hear is that a student of mine ended up behind bars. We constantly hear about young teens being tried as adults, not being allowed a second chance at life for their one mistake. So, to hear that Philando Castile an honest black man lost his life in such a manner, is disheartening. When my students hear about cases like this, they come to school feeling discouraged. Our school never tells us how to manage these conversations with our students. These conversations need to happen, students need a safe space to vent, especially because the problems are those that impact their demographics. Unfortunately, many students don’t trust the cops and don’t respect them. Years ago, I could confidently say, this was one dumb man and he wasn’t a trained officer when my students returned to school that fall inquiring about the Trayvon Martin trial. That was 2012. What do we tell them now?

We cannot afford to solely focus on ourselves and not pay attention to what’s going on in our community. We must continue to educate ourselves and our people so that we can revolt against the injustices. More of us need to be making decisions for us. We cannot expect those who have never walked a day in our shoes to know what’s best for our people. Are you tired yet? Because I’m exhausted.

Philando Castile’s story is a reason I teach and encourage our youth to become leaders in our community. They are our future.

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