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Walter Scott and Murder In Our Schools
4/16/2015 12:28:00 PM

By Barney Blakeney

It’s been a week since North Charleston police officer Michael Slager shot and killed Walter Scott. The video recording of Slager’s eight shots fired at Scott as he ran away from the officer in an attempt to avoid arrest has been at the center of the incident which has drawn the attention of the world to North Charleston.

I decided I wouldn’t use the incident as a subject for my weekly opinion piece for this edition. The Holy City has been a hotbed for news organizations around the world covering the graphic story of a reality Black Americans have faced for generations. The video shot by a witness walking to work as the sequence of events unfolded more than confirms the injustice of American law enforcement.

The Walter Scott story is being told in more ways than most might imagine. I don’t like overkill - funny the use of that word in a story about a man being fired upon eight times as he runs away - so I thought I’d write about a letter someone sent regarding efforts to improve academically failing Burke High School in downtown Charleston.

For generations the traditionally Black high school that since its 1912 establishment has been an educational bridge enabling average Blacks through Jim Crow and beyond to gain the academic tools needed to transition from sittin’ ‘n’ grinnin’ to full citizenship. But in the past couple of decades Burke has been neglected. Academically, it is less than a mere shadow of its once great tradition.

White folks have moved back to the Charleston peninsula which 40-year veteran Mayor Joseph Riley, through systematic gentrification, has transformed into an upper middle class haven for whites only. Burke is the peninsula’s only neighborhood high school. It’s newly rebuilt facility has the potential to become one of the state’s finest high schools.

Black folks sat around for the past two decades scratching their heads trying to figure out how to improve Burke. White folks who demand a quality high school their children can walk to will show them how it’s done. Of course, it helps that white folks run the system that makes quality schools possible. But that’s another story.

I just read Julianne Malveaux’s editorial piece about the Black teachers convicted of cheating on test scores in Atlanta, Ga. Black folks go to jail for cheating Black students out of their education. White folks get a brand new school surrounded by a swimming pool and tennis courts. And white folks will get Burke High School!

Anybody remember the Mishawna Moore fiasco - the Black Sanders/Clyde Elementary School principal accused of fudging test scores. Last I heard, when Geraldine Middleton, the Black area superintendent for whom Moore worked left town to take a job with North Carolina’s Dept. of Education, she took Moore with her. Some Black educators go to jail, others get promotions.

Reading Malveaux’s article, I thought how tragic it is that Black kids in Charleston County schools and schools across America are academically murdered every day. The beat goes on.

Young white girls who themselves have only yesterday left the playgrounds are tasked with teaching kids with some of the most challenging impediments to education. They get lost and frustrated. In the ensuing chaos, Black kids are academically murdered. They don’t get a chance to run away from the hail of rounds fired at their backs.

I was talking to my sister this morning. It’s amazing how small our world really is. It turns out Walter Scott next month was slated to marry our little cousin. I call her our little cousin because she’s actually our cousin’s daughter. I felt the pain of that brother’s death before, I feel it more intensely now.

The world seems blown away at the video of Scott’s murder. I don’t know why. We’ve seen Black men murdered on video before. We watched Eric Garner choked to death and weeks later we saw 12-year-old Tamir Rice gunned down by a Columbus, Ohio cop. Years ago we watched California cops mercilessly beat Rodney King. None of those incidents changed the culture of police abuse.

Do we actually expect something different to happen in the case of Walter Scott? America has proven time and time again, it doesn’t matter what evidence of injustice exists. America has known for generations that Black men routinely are murdered by cops and other white men. All Slager’s video shows me is that he is a poor marksman.

I wish I had the optimism to believe that this tragic incident will make a difference in the struggle for human rights in America, but I’m not optimistic. Not when I see Black kids murdered every day in our public schools.

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