"Pretend That I'm A Cop"-Part II
This is a continuation of a previous post. Click here to read Part I.
Part II Norms for Reading Our Blog
In Part II of the blog post, each author will have engaged with a reflective tool to analyze the powers at play in the situation. The purpose of reflection is to refine and redefine oneself, so that one can continue growing into a more disciplined self. Nepantla Teachers Community is using a reflection tool called Levels of Oppression (created by Mariame Kaba). This reflection tool is included below with the definitions of four types of oppressions. When we analyze the levels of oppression we are looking at, we are asking ourselves the questions “Who had the power?”, “Who had control?”, and “Who had access to what?”.
Part II Analysis and Resolution - (written by Jerica Jurado)
Levels of Oppression
-I believed that the young people (gang members) in front of me would end up in prison if I didn’t help them.
It’s difficult for me not to generalize others once I see something happen. I had students who were affiliated and were cycling in and out of CCJ. I had to realize that I wasn’t there to save anyone. The one person that I can “save” is myself.
-I believed that by telling students to think of me like a cop they would be afraid to say things around me. Growing up I had family members who were incarcerated, and part of me went back to that moment when I heard the students talking about slangin’ drugs. I wanted them to be scared, so they didn’t end up regretting it later.
-I humiliated Ronaldo by calling him out in front of the entire class.
It’s difficult for me to trust Ronaldo to make a different choice in this situation because of the topic that he was talking about. It feels like this is the only way I can get him to stop. I spoke with his parents after school.
-I asked him to think of me like a cop when he has had negative experiences with cops.
Ronaldo was on house arrest when I asked him to see me as a cop. He was constantly reminded of his limited freedom with an ankle monitor. I could have asked him to think of me like a family member he wanted to be proud of him. I’ve learned to ask “Would your mom be proud of you if she saw/heard you right now?”.
-Chicago Police Department has been known to pick up gang members and drop them off into rival gang terrority.
At the beginning of the year, Ronaldo shared that a friend of his had gotten a beat down from CPD and rival gang members. When I asked students to see me like a cop, it was insensitive to their experiences with police departments and incarceration facilities. I couldn’t expect my classroom to be a safe space, if I didn’t respect and acknowledge my students prior experiences. I had to evolve beyond instilling fear as a tool for complacency.
-Rudy Lozano Leadership Academy was seen as a “last chance” for students.
When students would get angry at Rudy, they would say that they were going to transfer back to their neighborhood high school. Many of them had been expelled, and this wasn’t an option for them. The staff did our best to create meaningful unique experiences to build a sense of belonging and community at Rudy, so that students would feel pride to graduate from our space. One of the favorite things that we (students and staff) did was eat together as we sat at long rows of tables family style. The school would order trays of Mexican food on half days a few times per year so everyone got to eat and convivir. We’d have high attendance, and everyone got to school on time on those days. It was something everyone looked forward to.
-Society believes that teachers need to police what their students say.
Teachers have to listen in on hundreds of conversations a day in a classroom. We are expected to monitor hundreds of interactions, and teach conformity to students through punishment. While it is an internal struggle to be more disciplined, I push myself to model for others what freedom through self-discipline can look like. I do my best to teach students to control themselves, so that others don’t have to.
-Society believes that when someone deals drugs that they are a bad person.
We are taught that this is one of the groups of people that prisons were created for. We must develop the intellectual and emotional discipline to humanize people for who they are versus what they do for a living. You can’t ask someone to change unless you’re ready to feed them.
-People who are involved in gangs are exempt from empathy or understanding.
We are taught that not everyone deserves empathy. If a gang member gets killed, some people say they deserve it. People join gangs for different reasons, and many of the young people who die do not have fully developed brains. They carry heavy burdens and difficult journeys with few resources. You can’t judge someone whose journey you’ve never lived.
So What Happened?
At Rudy Lozano Leadership Academy, there was a strong culture of restorative justice. Conflicts were dealt with as quickly as possible, so that the teacher and student could return to the classroom ready to work towards building something new and healing the harm.
I talked to Carlos, the school’s counselor, who listens to me process what happened. Carlos processed with Ronaldo for the remainder of class after he walked out. Carlos was prepping us to have a peace circle. Carlos and I walked down the hall to pull Ronaldo from his next class. The three of us walked into a room and sat together. Carlos facilitated the peace circle. When we Ronaldo and I saw one another, I felt the relief of realizing that we both wanted to fix what happened. Carlos put a deck of cards on the table, and we began to play a game as we talked. We each shared what happened, and were able to see things from one another’s perspective. I saw how my words were inconsiderate and not fair to say to Ronaldo. Then Ronaldo listened to me explain to him that I was trying to show that I cared for him, because I don’t want him to end up in a cage. Ronaldo and I cried as we shared each of our experiences that lead us to say what we did. We made agreements to better our relationship, and we hugged at the end of the circle. I had to be honest with myself and those involved in the circle about how I misused my power in that situation. I didn’t honor the students’ experiences and was insensitive to the realities that they face that I don’t know anything about living. In that circle I needed to own that and in front of my class I needed to own that.
I spoke with my class the next day about how I didn’t know what to do in that situation, but that the choice I made was wrong. I explained the fear I felt, and how I needed to work on polishing my communication more so that I could honor everyone’s humanity in the room---including mine. In the long run, it was important for me to learn to say I made a mistake in my classes, so that the culture of the room could grow stronger. I learned to stop and take a few deep breaths before I react to a situation, so that I can take responsibility over the impact that I will have.
Thank you for reading our first blog post set of Nepantla Teachers Community. We will be posting a mathematics educator's story on the first Sat and following Wed of every month. Subscribe to get email notifications.
Please support our work and help us build more spaces like these by donating to our organization here.