by Loryn Wilson
In McKinney, Texas, 14-year-old Dajerria Becton was slammed on the ground while she was wearing nothing but a two-piece bathing suit. Her friends rushed to help her and then one of the officers drew his gun. Most of the teenagers involved lived in the community where the pool party was held or were invited guests. It has been reported that white members of the community instigated the entire chain of events by yelling racial slurs and assaulting at least one of the teens.
After by-stander video of the event went viral, Dajerria was released from jail without charge and Officer Eric Casebolt was given administrative leave because of his actions. In the wake of national and local protests, he has now resigned.
In discussions about incidents like this one, many players, including the media, take the event out of its broader context. The fact is that this incident did not happen in a vacuum. From start to finish, every element of this incident has its roots in a history of racism in the United States. For example, the U.S. has an ugly history of segregated swimming pools and attacks on Black Americans when they fight for integration of and access to pools and other public spaces. There are several famous photos of a White pool manager pouring acid on Black youth after they attempted to swim in a segregated pool.
What happened in McKinney last week is history repeating itself. Not only did the police interfere and assault Dajerria and her friends, but race colored the way White community members reacted and targeted teens as well.
Too often, Black youth in general and Black girls in particular are seen as less innocent and perceived to be adults more often than youth of other races—it was true for 12-year-old Tamir Rice who was killed after he was mistaken for an adult male, and it is true for the police response to 14-year-old Dejerria Becton. For girls of color, the chance to be viewed as children is not a given, as discussed in a recent Huffington Post article.
The YWCA educates people about the full spectrum of violence that impacts the lives of women, girls, people of color and their communities. There are many types of violence and not all violence is acknowledged or responded to equally—especially as it impacts women, girls and people of color. This spectrum of violence includes institutional and structural violence enacted by our political, economic, and legal systems.
The recent events in McKinney, TX are yet another example of women and girls of color being targets of police violence, and it is another reason why the End Racial Profiling Act can’t wait. YWCA advocates for laws that hold police accountable for their actions and provide consequences for officers who abuse their power and target women and girls of color unfairly. If you believe you have observed racial profiling in your community, you can use the YWCA Racial Profiling Checklist to document what you have seen or experienced.
Get involved and help us eliminate racism by contacting your member of Congress and urging them to support the End Racial Profiling Act.
Read the YWCA USA statement about McKinney here.
Loryn C. Wilson is the Social Media and Online Engagement Coordinator at the YWCA USA.