I had the honour recently of hosting a public debate commemorating the 50 years since Malcolm X’s assassination. It is important that these historical events be remembered and celebrated as lessons and road maps, even, for how we ought to navigate our way through life within a system that is institutionally racist and deceptive. ‘Our shining prince’ – as Malcolm X was described by the famous actor Ossie Davis at his funeral in 1965 – taught that if we are to reap the fruits of freedom, justice and equality, we must do so ‘by any means necessary’, which became the theme of the commemoration event.
It was therefore interesting that when a teenage girl in the audience stood up and spoke powerfully about her experience of racism in a local academy high school and described the intimidating presence of white policemen patrolling the school, she articulated clearly the need for a good education unhindered by prejudice. While a number in the audience did not immediately see the relevance of her story to the theme of the event, it was clear to me that she had in fact hit the nail bang on the head by identifying the school environment as a critical aspect of the struggle for the very freedom, justice and equality Malcolm X spoke of so often. In fact he described the school system as ‘the killing fields’ because of its hand in the miseducation of black people. I came away from this event reminded that whilst we focus much needed attention on the Police and Criminal Justice System, we must remember to listen to our children’s experiences to make certain that while in school they are being educated and not policed.