On September 16th and 20th, Terence Crutcher and Keith Lamont Scott were fatally shot by police officers in their respective cities of Tulsa, Oklahoma and Charlotte, North Carolina. Both men were unarmed at the time of their deaths. These two instances reflect a recent trend in unnecessary police brutality against black people in the United States.
On February 26, 2012, 17-year old Trayvon Martin (pictured above) was walking back from a convenience store after purchasing Skittles, and was followed by George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watchman, because he looked like “a real suspicious guy.”
Zimmerman called the police, who told him not to follow Martin, but he did anyway. It is unclear what occured next, but one thing is certain: Zimmerman fatally shot Trayvon Martin.
Martin’s death sparked the Black Lives Matter movement. According to blacklivesmatter.com, the movement is “an ideological and political intervention in a world where Black lives are systematically and intentionally targeted for demise,” as exemplified by police brutality against black people in the United States.
The Deerfield Black Student Alliance (DBSA) hoped to raise awareness about the issue of systematic oppression in American society today, so at school meeting on September 28th, the DBSA showed a video called “23 Ways You Could Be Killed If You Are Black in America,” in which celebrities and public figures told some of the stories of black people who lost their lives to police brutality.
After the video, members of the DBSA stood together in silence on stage, showing the community that they deeply feel the effects of these issues, and emphasizing that this issue does affect the Deerfield community.
Imani Goodridge ’17, a Co-President of the DBSA, commented, “We’ve always talked about black issues and we feel like it didn’t get through to the student body last year. We wanted everyone to understand why it matters to us.”
At the end of the presentation, the DBSA announced that on Friday, September 30th, the school would hold a blackout. On that day, students wore black clothes in solidarity for the Black Lives Matter movement and for the deaths of Crutcher and Scott.
The blackout day was a way to bring the entire school together for one common cause, while simultaneously aiming to educate the student body on the issues facing black people in the United States today. Annie Roberts ’17, another DBSA Co-President, explained that among other reasons, the main motive behind holding the blackout and showing the video was so to involve the whole student body on an issue that affects everyone.
“It’s always seen as a black issue when it really affects everyone in America,” Roberts explained. “We felt it was important to do something that involves the entire school.”
Many students reacted positively to the blackout. Cornelia Mackay ’18, said, “Actions definitely speak louder than words and the blackout day was a symbolic way to show support to people in our community and stand together for the lives lost.”
Roberts also emphasized the fact that she wants the Deerfield community to become more educated on these events and issues so that students can empathize with those in the community who are grieving. She stated, “It’s frustrating when you really care about [the Black Lives Matter movement], but when you talk about it, nobody knows what you’re talking about.”
Ms. Marjorie Young, Director of Inclusion and faculty leader of the DBSA, commented, “As a community we can better educate ourselves so that we can engage in productive dialogue rather than being afraid and remaining silent… We need to commit to addressing inclusion in sustained and systematic ways.”
Mr. Thomas Heise, who has taught United States History at Deerfield for over 25 years, offered the idea that what we learn in the classroom sometimes directly relates to these current events, thus offering an opportunity to discuss them further.
“There are ways in which these issues come up in class,” Mr. Heise explained. “And when that occasion arises, it certainly is a good thing to talk about these problems and connect the study of history to what we are experiencing in the present.”
Roberts agreed, saying “A huge component of Deerfield’s mission is to educate us to be successful in the world after Deerfield, and keeping up on current events is a crucial part of that.”
Goodridge explained how she believes that the Deerfield community is actively trying to become more aware of what’s happening outside of our campus. “This year, there’s a different mindset… Everyone cares more,” she said.
Roberts urged people to continue to listen and educate themselves about societal issues facing black people today. She commented, “If someone is feeling hurt, try to hear where they’re coming from, have empathy, and put yourself in their shoes. All I’m asking is that people try to listen and learn.”