When ex-Officer Ben Fields dumped a Spring Valley High School student out of her chair and slid her across the floor, many observers were horrified. Nearly as disturbing was the revelation that the student, who’d gotten in trouble for using her cell phone, was arrested and charged with”disturbing school”.
There is in this country a legacy of criminalizing black kids for just being kids, as evidenced by a case involving two North Carolina black boys.
In 2011 NPR explored the arrests of James Hanover Thompson and his friend David Simpson, who were sentenced to reform school after having been kissed by a white girl:
“We were playing with some friends over in the white neighborhood, chasing spiders and wrestling and stuff like that,” James says.
“One of the little kids suggested that one of the little white girls give us a kiss on the jaw,” he says. “The little girl gave me a peck on the cheek, and then she kissed David on the cheek. So, we didn’t think nothing of it. We were just little kids.”
But the little girl mentioned the kiss back home, and her parents were furious; the police set out in search of the boys.
“The police car pulled up, and they said, ‘We’re taking y’all to jail,'” James says. “I didn’t know what was going on. But when we got down to the police station, we understand that they said that we had raped a little white girl.”
The boys, who were only 9 and 7 at the time, were taken to the police station where they were beaten and charged with molestation.
“We was hollering and screaming. We thought they was gonna kill us,” James told NPR at the time.
They remained in jail for six months before being allowed to see their parents. The boys also spent three months in detention before being pardoned by North Carolina Gov. Luther Hodges at the urging of the NAACP and Eleanor Roosevelt.