It’s incredibly frustrating seeing white people spin a statement as innocuous as “Black Lives Matter” as politics. It’s not political; it’s literally just a more concise way of saying “the color of our skin shouldn’t dictate the way we’re treated.” Of course, facts have never gotten in the way of white feelings, and as a result, two Black boys were pulled out of class at their Oklahoma elementary schools for wearing a Black Lives Matter shirt.
According to the New York Times, last Tuesday, Jordan Herbert sent her sons, Bentlee and Rodney Herbert, age 8 and 5, to school in matching Black Lives Matter shirts.
Herbert says that the boys were pulled from their classes at Charles Evans Elementary and Will Rogers Elementary as a result of wearing the shirts. Herbert says she had previously spoken to Kim Holland, the superintendent of the school district, about the shirts when the principal of Bentlee’s school had told her to speak to him regarding the school’s dress code.
“He told me when the George Floyd case blew up that politics will not be allowed at school,” Herbert said on Friday, referring to Mr. Holland. “I told him, once again, a ‘Black Lives Matter’ T-shirt is not politics.” In an interview with the Daily Ardmoreite, Holland said “It’s our interpretation of not creating a disturbance in school.”
“I don’t want my kids wearing MAGA hats or Trump shirts to school either because it just creates, in this emotionally charged environment, anxiety and issues that I don’t want our kids to deal with.” Holland added that this isn’t the only incident of this nature he’s had to deal with over the school year. “Most of it has not been an issue until this lady here has been angry about it,” Holland told the Ardmoreite. “I wish she weren’t so upset.”
Know how I know this dude just doesn’t get it? First, he basically called Herbert an angry Black woman for sticking up for her kids. Second, he clearly doesn’t realize the message he’s sending to these young boys by telling them they’re in the wrong for simply expressing that their lives matter. MAGA hats and Trump shirts are expressly political as they’re attached to a political figure. Black Lives Matter is an unfortunately necessary reminder for the less civilized among us that no, you don’t get to treat us any kind of way because our skin doesn’t look like yours.
Even if the shirts were truly political, the American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma argues that banning them is a violation of the boys’ First Amendment rights.
From the New York Times:
In the letter, the A.C.L.U. said it would be a violation of the students’ First Amendment rights to be prohibited from wearing clothing that says “Black Lives Matter.”
If the school district does not reverse its policy and allow students to wear “Black Lives Matter” clothing, it must be prepared to prove in federal court how wearing the T-shirts creates “a substantial disruption of or material interference with school activities,” the A.C.L.U. said. “Anything less than that would be found to be a violation of the students’ First Amendment rights.”
It cited a 1969 U.S. Supreme Court case, Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District, which addressed the issue of a group of students who wore black armbands to object to the Vietnam War. A principal told the students that they would be suspended if they wore the armbands at school.
The court ruled 7-2 that students do not “shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.”
Herbert has said that despite the controversy, it wasn’t her intention to be disruptive. She told the New York Times that the shirts weren’t supposed to be an “attention-seeking ordeal.”
“I don’t see Black Lives Matter disrupting anything,” Herbert added.
She’s right. Now if only folks would start acting like it.