The Myth of the Dangerous Black Girl

By Takina Pollock, Age 22

By now you’ve probably seen the video from a classroom in Spring Valley High School in South Carolina (trigger warning). A female student there was violently assaulted by a police officer for allegedly refusing to put away her cell phone or some other teenage classroom offense. Every week there’s a video coming out of a police officer assaulting or murdering a Black person. It is absolutely exhausting to see over and over again. People are blaming social media, video sharing, etc. for an alleged rise in violent crime against police officers, only 48 of 101 officer deaths in 2015 were by assault, gunfire, vehicular assault or pursuit; while 207 Black women and men have died at the hands of police. 814 people this year have been murdered by police across America. This number doesn’t even capture the people who were assaulted, wrongfully arrested or died mysteriously in police custody. Yet folks continue to wonder why mistrust exists between police and those they are supposed to be protecting and serving. 

Seeing the video of a child being thrown backwards from her desk and dragged like a carcass is unreal to me. I hope she’s getting all of the support she needs to move past the incident and understand what happened to her was not her fault. An altercation like that can be scarring, especially to a child. Especially to a child who recent reports are saying has just become an orphan due to the loss of her mother and is in foster care. But little Black girls are not given enough humanity to look for the “why” in their behavior. They are immediately labeled as problems and dealt with violently, whether physically or through policies.

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Some folks are questioning what happened just before the video. From what I can tell she was just sitting there. Maybe she mouthed off, but what teenager hasn’t? Why does anyone think there’s anything she could’ve done to deserve that? I understand enlisting as a police officer is a dangerous job. No one wants to go to work and be assaulted or stabbed or otherwise harmed in any way. But at the same time, I’m sure the student in the video didn’t wake up that day thinking she would be thrown around her classroom where she should feel safe, no matter what. Especially after the loss of a parent.

I call into question the humanity of people who think they need a shred more evidence to condemn the violence and blatant disrespect of that officer. I call into question the teacher’s lack of reaction to what was happening– a teacher who probably had the context of her background and could draw reasonable conclusions and deal with it later, rather than escalating the situation and traumatizing her even further. It makes me wonder what kind of experiences so many other Black girls across the country are having in school. Personally, I went to Central High School in Bridgeport which is right across the street from an adult correctional center. What kind of message does that send to students when they pass barbed wire and high fences on their way home from school every day for 4 years? The school to prison pipeline is very real and so insidious that people believe a teenage girl, who didn’t want to put away her phone, deserves to be violated.

I never realized how revolutionary it is to survive in this country, not identify as male, and be so audacious to speak out against injustice. I just hope we can collectively speak loudly and proudly enough to make every officer in the country shudder at the mere thought of using force. I am not anti-police, I am anti-police brutality. Police officers are human and they make mistakes, but there’s a huge difference between making a mistake and body slamming a teenager in her classroom because she didn’t quiver in your presence. This officer was not in danger, she wasn’t armed, she wasn’t even trying to defend herself, she was just Black and defiant and people hate that.

While the country is inundated with cases of police brutality and legislation struggles to catch up with the reality, it’s important to arm Black girls with the tools to preemptively choose to be survivors, even in the ugly familiar face of racism.

Young Women Rising encourages Connecticut women ages 18-35 to raise their voices about issues they care about. Each writer speaks for herself as an individual and Young Women Rising as a whole does not intend to endorse the views of any particular writer. If you’re interested in submitting a guest piece please contact us at Michelle.Noehren@cga.ct.gov.

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