“I can’t believe what you say because I see what you do.”
“Did you know that there’s a special something in your life?
And it ain’t no secret, cause it’s right there inside of you.”
Strong – Dornik
A child, a black girl, 15, is sent to juvenile detention. Diagnosed with ADHD slept in. She struggles to complete her online homework without her mandated extra tutoring. We are a few months into a global pandemic.
A child, a black girl, 17, bravely records a video that awakens the world. She is attacked online, for not stopping the killing.
A child, a black girl, a fostered black girl, 16, is threatened by an adult brandishing a knife. She is shot multiple times in the back minutes before another officer is charged with the murder of George Flloyd.
Two children, black girls, 12, 14 – they were killed when authorities dropped a bomb on their home – are denied rest. Their bones are held in front of the camera in an online forensic anthropology course.
“The bones are juicy, by which I mean you can tell they are the bones of a recently deceased individual… If you smell it, it doesn’t actually smell bad.”
Dear Sister, know that you are held. We see you. We are with you.
I shed tears that this happened to you. I shed tears that, so few professionals spoke out or stood up for a black girl degraded by police officers in a school. How do they still not understand that no child is safe if black girls are uniquely unsafe? Ubuntu.
We stand, so many of us, because we are reminded. Nothing in the whole world it seems, is more threatening than a thriving, brilliant black child. We’ve been here before.
We have been forced to silence our collective trauma. To gloss it over with small talk and fake smiles lest others feel discomfort. Then along comes a Black child reminding us to tell the Truth.
You precious Black Girls, have been saving us.
You give us all the love in the world.
We snatch your innocence in return.
We break you before you have the language to explain what we stole.
Complicit, look how we love posting pictures of cats. Motivational words. Black children dancing.
Look at us, posting and posting.
As if the world had not collapsed around you.
We can do everything nowadays it seems. Everything except empathise with a black girl from the estate.
We owe you the right to walk safe streets. How much more the right to safe schools?
The shame is ours; it was never yours.
Safeguarding is meant to keep you safe – not to traumatise you.
Nothing justifies what was done to you. Nothing.
You are not a “learning experience”.
You are a CHILD.
Some choose forgetfulness.
And some are reminded daily, that we are watched, stared at, glared at, scrutinised, monitored, but rarely ever seen. We see you, hear you and will fight for you.
With time and love you will recover and excel again. You are brilliant and wise and resourceful.
You’ve shown far more courage and grace than us adults. You demand justice, not revenge.
But black girls are “too loud, too much” too… Forgiving?
You want assurances that no other child will ever experience what you and so many thousands, have already endured. You were respectful and compliant. How many black and brown children who were terrified, physically or learning disabled, autistic, unable to hold their tongues, were brutalised in the name of safeguarding? Who repairs them?
We have the tools, including annual safeguarding training, our CPD and basic humanity – we have the tools to respond calmly, compassionately, when white, middle-class pupils demonstrate behaviours that challenge us. We are professional enough to deescalate the situation. We are trauma informed and sensitive to individual needs. We reflect and understand that we are dealing with a child. We are based in schools, after all. We invest the necessary time and energy to build trusting relationships with children and young people. We send referrals to agencies that can provide extra support. Only when black and brown children need nurturing, do we call for backup.
We are called to witness.
Time to live the principles we wax lyrical about.
We will end this system of harming and imprisoning black children for sport. Of normalising state sanctioned sexual assault on you babies. It will stop. We will stop it.
We scream in your name. We will keep screaming until, like you say, it ends.
You have given countless people a voice to speak these unspeakable things. We still have so much to do, but we have us. We keep safe by keeping each other, honouring each other.
We love you.