CNN screenshot
CNN screenshot

I do not know what happened in that classroom at Spring Valley High School before Deputy Ben Fields violently assaulted a teen girl who was, apparently, "resisting arrest." I'm quite sure, however, that information will find its way into the public sphere very soon. We will also know more about Deputy Fields — his work history, his relationship with the students, his personal life — and we will definitely know more about the girl who was the victim of assault. Perhaps her name won't be made public, but her academic record and behavioral history will likely be. There will also be conversations about the need to have actual police officers in schools, and whether their presence helps control or helps contribute to an adverse environment.


All of this context will congeal to cloud and color how this case will be deconstructed, assessed, and, ultimately, decided. And this will be the wrongest thing to do, because none of that matters here. At least not in a macro sense. The only thing that matters when deciding how to think about and discuss this story is race. Specifically, the race of the officer (White) and the race of the student who was assaulted (Black). This is where the conversation about this — any conversation about this — needs to start. And then, once you acknowledge that the most meaningful conversation to have about this story needs to start with race, you'll be more prepared for the next conversation, which is a bit more complex.

I have no doubt that if the student who was assaulted happened to be a Black boy instead of a Black girl, the assault still would have occurred. I also don't have much doubt that if the student who was assaulted happened to be a White boy, the assault still might have occurred. Maybe it wouldn't have. But I'm not confident in saying that. I can still see it happening.

The full video of the Spring Valley High School Police Officer brutally assaulting a peaceful student.

— Shaun King (@ShaunKing) October 26, 2015

I can not, however, see that happening if the student who was assaulted happened to be a White girl.


This isn't to say that White girls don't experience violence at the hands of men. I'm not even suggesting that White girls don't also experience police brutality. But White women and girls are generally treated with a kindness and care that often escapes Black women and girls. They're (generally) considered more delicate, more sensitive, more fragile, and more feminine, and this often gives them a certain level of, for lack of a better term, protection not given to Black women and girls. (And, to be frank, this is not something that can be solely blamed on White people. This lack of protection for Black women and girls is just as pervasive within the Black community.)

A White girl in that same situation would not have been slammed on the back of her head and ripped from her chair and dragged from the classroom, like a stuffed dog won at an amusement park. Basically, that White girl would not have been treated like a man.

Because you might hurt that girl. You might scare her. You might scar her face. You might make her cry. That Black girl — a Black girl who was more than likely hurt and scared and scarred and maybe even cried — did not receive that type of consideration.

Because Black girls don't.

Damon Young is the editor-in-chief of VSB, a columnist for, and the author of What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Blacker (Ecco/HarperCollins)

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