We humans have been blaming and scapegoating the most vulnerable minority group among us for thousands of years: It’s an age-old tradition. I recently overheard a man say, “Yeah, the West Bank area in Minneapolis used to be a nice neighborhood, but then the East Africans moved in.”
Well, now he knows how Native Americans felt when the White man moved into Dakota Territory and ruined their neighborhoods. At least the newly arrived East Africans have come in peace and not forced us off the land and given us some desolate, windblown reservation in South Dakota to live on.
When the police showed up at South High School to break up the “food fight,” students in the lunch room said the police only went after the East African students. The East African students took the full brunt of the police response. They were being blamed for the food fight.
The group that is the newest, most vulnerable, lacking any political power, took the brunt of the police response: a classic primitive scapegoat response by the police. The police saw the East African students as an easy, acceptable target to get aggressive towards and blamed for the food fight, because these students and their parents have the least number of rights in our society.
The police would never go into a situation like this and grab the White students, mace some of them and rough them up. They know that that would be unacceptable.
What did you learn today at school? “Well, I learned that if there is a food fight in the lunch room and the police show up, the ethnic group that is the lowest in the pecking order in our society will be attacked by the police. Today it was the East Africans.”
And if there were not East Africans in the food fight, “Well, then the police would have probably blamed the African American students and roughed them up.” Wow, you are paying attention at school. Good job!
This police response at South High is very disturbing. East African students had said that before the food fight, they had voiced their concerns about not feeling safe at South High. Well, based on the way the police handled the food fight, these students and their concerns about safety were obviously proven to be justified.
The job of the police is to “protect and serve.” It doesn’t say “Protect and serve everyone, except East Africans.” I’m pretty sure South High will not confront the police on how they disrespected the rights of its East African .
Frank Erickson lives in Minneapolis.