Justice for Jayru
This week, Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy charged Cass Tech high school senior Jayru Campbell with one felony charge of assault to do great bodily harm and one misdemeanor count of aggravated assault. After a heated exchange with a with a school security guard, who asked Campbell not to wear his hood in the building, the 17-year-old allegedly body-slammed the guard. The incident was captured on video, which was widely circulated on the Internet.
Many believe the student, who is a standout football star being recruited by Michigan State University among other top ranking football programs, was wrong and should be charged with a felony. The charges, however, are excessive and a reminder of exactly what young Black people face. Violence is never an appropriate answer to harassment. Campbell should not have harmed this security guard in any way, however, the security guard’s behavior speaks to the disrespect facing young Black people.
“Slam me when i’m not looking, lol, pussy. Hit me when i’m looking at you … bet i whoop your ass. I got dropped and got right back up!” tweeted the 23-year-old security guard after the incident with Campbell. Clearly, this person is not professionally, emotionally or spiritually prepared to deal with Campbell or any other student in an appropriate manner. The security guard likely escalated the scenario. Campbell clearly needs help, but putting him in jail for a possible 10 year sentence or adding a felony to his record is not justice.
Last week, the Michigan Citizen covered the rash of security guard related violence in the schools (“Security unsafe for Detroit students,” Feb. 9, 2014 by Phreddy Wishusen.) All too often, the security presence in Detroit public schools has contributed to a tense, authoritarian culture where young people are regularly talked to in a rude manner. Under-educated and over-policed, resources have put uncertified teachers in the school and upped budgets for the Detroit Public Schools Police Department. During another time in education, the teachers and administrators had experience with classroom management and dealing with behavioral issues, and often came from the same communities as their students. Not to romanticize, but there are educators and administrators who can ask a student to remove his or hood and get results without an international incident.
The children are a reflection of who we are. All students should be respectful and courteous, but they do not learn this unless they see an example in self-possessed adults. Children are our responsibility and if they are ‘out of control’ as many adults have asserted on social media — so are we. Unfortunately, the culture of punishment threatens young Black people and is evidence of self-hate. Some made the following comments on social media about the incident:
“Wow, this guard was doing his job, enforcing the RULES and policies the school set and people want to question his motives…”
“So a prosecutor does the right thing to send a message to these young people and some of us are sympathizing with him?”
If tough prosecution sent a message, young Black people would not be entering the criminal justice system in disproportionate numbers. Right now, Black people are over-prosecuted and over-sentenced, according to Attorney Jeff Edison. There is no message in this except the devaluation of Black life.
It is precisely this devaluation that has created this environment of extreme violence toward young Black people where perpetrators walk free. Trayvon Martin. Jordan Davis. McKenzie Cochran was pepper sprayed at Northland Mall, subdued by security guards, who left him to die in handcuffs. The man who shot Renisha McBride is walking free. Have we mustered the same outrage for these perpetrators?
Ideally, we would live in a culture where parents, administrators and students could come together to determine disciplinary action for this student — community-led discipline and justice for Campbell and the security guard. Two legislators have called for a review of security training as a response to these incidents. In this environment, we need state-mandated regulation for security guards and justice for Campbell — no felony and no jail time.