For as long as I can remember, I’ve always hated history class. I hated learning about random wars, random dates of those random wars, the colonies and then take tests that were never multiple choice but always short (or long) response. What annoyed me the most is in every history class we’d start with the Europeans coming over, killing all Native Americans, developing colonies and enslaving people and would never ever get past the Great Migration. They always promise modern times but we NEVER get there.
Now after years of living in modern day United States and building a movement for justice, I stop and wonder, why aren’t our rights taught in classrooms? We learn about the Constitution, sure, but we never actually LEARN what these things mean. When we have to take those constitution tests we only make sure that the number of the amendment matches with what it’s suppose to say. We never really put thought into it and apply it to ourselves.
I’ve been a pretty good student regardless of my hatred of certain classes. I’ve always considered myself smart and according to my friends, I’m a know it all, but I did not know that I can tell an officer I don’t consent to a search or that I didn’t have to talk to the police if I didn’t want to. I didn’t know any of the things that actually matter when it comes to dealing with the police and the prison system. There are millions of people just like me, completely and totally unaware of their rights.
So why don’t we learn these things in school? Why aren’t Children of Color, who are targeted by the police, taught how to survive in schools? Because this is another well-thought-out tactic to push People of Color into modern day slavery.
Slavery is still legal. The thirteenth amendment says that “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” Meaning slavery is still legal as long as the person enslaved was found guilty of a crime. Maybe that’s why the majority of people imprisoned are People of Color. Maybe that’s why things like the school to prison pipeline and zero tolerance policies exist. Maybe that’s why public schools are being disinvested into in communities of Color and are being destroyed and replaced by charter schools, so called “better schools.” Maybe that’s why there are 100 police officers per 1 Black person in communities. (This is a slight exaggeration btw but that’s how it feels to be honest.)
To combat the systematic racism, oppression, and violence we, People of Color, need to teach ourselves our rights when in contact with police and how to exercise them. This is why the Know Your Rights workshops are so important because not only will people be able to better protect themselves from police impunity but longer term this will instil accountability within the police force. This is a step towards taking back our lives. This is a step towards equity. This is a step in an already moving wheel of busting up systematic oppression. Take that step by requesting a Know Your Rights workshop today! Go to first-defense.org/community and request a workshop for yourselves, your students, your classmates, your family, your friends, whoever. Freedom starts with you.
Torii Crider is a 2014 graduate of Chicago Public Schools.