Note: I sent this to DA_South@phila.gov Saturday morning
To District Attorney Larry Krasner, and anyone else concerned:
It’s Friday night and I can’t stop thinking about this article. It documents the Philadelphia police using social media as a type of dragnet to place young black men into the penal system without them ever committing a crime. I hope you read it.
I think what stuck with me is that Jamal, the young man whose alleged involvement in a lunch room brawl has ruined his life, could be any one of my students. I teach at a small public High School in West Philadelphia. I teach teenagers, and the teenagers spend an unbelievable amount of time and energy trying out identities. They change their hair, wear new clothes, jump in and out of cliques, and post stupid, harmless things on social media.
Other than social media, I did all this too. I’m pretty sure we all did. I had a guy at camp tell me white boys go through a “Jim Morrison phase”. I told him at the time he meant Kurt Cobain, but whatever. My friends wore black clothing with white makeup, bought absurd wallet chains, and snuck “Co-ed Naked Softball” t-shirts into school. Like Jamal, we tried out being different people. Writing Marylin Manson lyrics on our Trapper Keeper may have garnered some odd looks, but it never (even post-Columbine) meant surviellance, arrest, interrogation, and ultimately a lifetime as a second class citizen.
Jamal could be any of my kids. But I could never be Jamal. That’s a horrifying reality.
I realize you can’t do everything. But if there’s anything you can do, I think you should do it. And if there’s anything I can do that I don’t realize, please let me know.