#CounselorsNotCops: Youth Justice Against the Police State
At the corner of Central Avenue and 120th Street in South Central Los Angeles, an abandoned Boys and Girls club trailer sits across from a fast food place and a liquor store. The trailer is a few blocks from high achieving King-Drew Magnet of Medicine and Science, a predominantly African American and Latino school and unsung model of culturally competent instruction in the Los Angeles Unified School District.
In neighboring Compton, children navigate vacant lots, brown fields and abandoned buildings to get to school. Several miles away at Gardena High School, students are handcuffed for the “crime” of truancy. By contrast, their white South Bay and Westside counterparts a few freeway exits away have an array of extracurricular and recreational resources to choose from, largely free from the yoke of police state suppression.
The recent murder of 18 year-old Carnell Snell by the LAPD in the Westmont community near Washington Prep High School in South L.A. highlights how the constant threat of state violence fatally undermines the learning environments of students of color. Drive down the stretch of Western Avenue near where Snell was gunned down and the most prominent public spaces are fast food joints, storefront churches, 99 cent stores and beauty salons.
On a daily basis our youth contend with unsafe conditions that white teens in middle class and affluent areas of the city either don’t have to deal with or have a social safety net to shield them from.
On the corner of Manchester and Western, Jesse Owens Park is one of the few in an area that has been branded “park poor” (a term that that accurately describes the need but still carries a deficit laden stigma). On a daily basis our youth contend with unsafe conditions that white teens in middle class and affluent areas of the city either don’t have to deal with or have a social safety net to shield them from. From high rates of gun violence to sexual violence, sex trafficking, police abuse and school pushout, youth of color in L.A. must navigate criminalization on multiple fronts.
It’s been well-documented that simply having a massive police presence in the community increases the risk that youth of color will be stopped, harassed, frisked, arrested, or, tragically, murdered by law enforcement. This threat, coupled with the dearth of community centers, afterschool programs and recreational spaces, further institutionalizes violence as a norm in working class neighborhoods of color. The psychic and emotional trauma of living in this state of siege often goes unrecognized and untreated.