Lamya Cammon was sitting in her first grade class playing with her hair. The sound apparently annoyed her teacher and so she was instructed to stop. When the girl continued to play with her hair, she was called to the front of the class with an offer of candy. When she arrived at the front, her hair was cut in front of her fellow students. Lamya walked back to desk where she sat down and cried.
Much of the talk regarding this incident involves the high level of teacher stress. It is true that far too many classes are packed with kids and in some cases schools are so underfunded that teachers are providing materials out of their own pockets. Teachers are also expected to take on the short fall of lack of parenting that now occurs frequently because of the extreme hours far that too many parents are forced to work. Teaching today is at times an impossible task.
Even with all of these concerns, what is not being discussed is Cammon’s race. Black women exist with very little social power and as a result it is extremely easy to devalue a little Black girl. It is already a known fact that in the states in which spanking is legal, Black girls are subject to the most corporal discipline. This is not because Black girls are any more unruly than any other child but that they exist as a group with no social power. Race and gender combine to make them valueless socially from birth.
Lamya has returned to school and has been placed in another class but the damage has already been done. Children are already powerless in our society but when they exist with a visible marginzagtion like race, gender, disability or even poverty, we are far more likely to to take harmful action against them. Unlike White children, Black children do not have the pleasure of enjoying their innocence as the world quickly teaches them that they are second class in nature. It is one of the greatest crimes of racism that to this day, our children are often robbed of their childhood.
Along with dealing with teacher burnout and stress, we should examine the ways in which this affects the marginalized students. Marginalized students are already streamed into groups that are not college bound from an early age. We know that by grade three students of color frequently lose their desire to learn and this cannot solely be because of a lack of parental interest. Clearly, schools daily are failing children of color. When incidents like this happen, not only do they cause direct harm to the child involved, there is an indirect cost to every child who witnesses. White children learn that it is okay to oppress a child of color and Black kids learn that they are second class citizens. Everyday across the nation, hierarchy is informed by actions just like this. Schools today teach more than the ABC`s, they teach who we value and how each body should be treated.