Image courtesy nyclu.org
By Jonathan Stith
There is a war going on outside — that no Black youth is safe from.
Most recently, we’ve seen this war played out through the extrajudicial killings of Trayvon Martin, Mike Brown, Tamir Rice and other victims of state-sanctioned violence. But we also know it through the devastation of mass incarceration under “New Jim Crow” policies and the “War on Drugs”. State violence against Black youth doesn’t end in the streets with police. It’s in our public education system and it’s killing our children. We charge Mentacide and demand an end to the war on youth.
Mentacide is “the deliberate and systematic destruction of a group’s minds with the ultimate objective being the extirpation of the group,” according to Black psychologist and political activist, Dr. Bobby E. Wright. In other words, if mentacide is the method, genocide is the goal.
State violence is government power that hurts, government power that harms. It is the violent indoctrination that in America, for Black children, learning means learning to stay in your place. The same lesson the Little Rock Nine learned when trying to integrate Central High School almost over half century ago is the same one youth learn today. The national guard of yesterday has been replaced with a school-to-prison pipeline that suspends Black youth at three times the rate of their White peers, but the end result is the same: immediate annihilation or compulsory assimilation to teach Black youth their place.
Education is the earliest form of state violence Black youth endure. The Department of Defense’s 1033 program equips school police with all the grenade launchers and tanks they can haul while our students scramble to find guidance counselors and books. The federal government has denounced the school to prison pipeline while continuing to fund it.