A simple action you can undertake from home or anywhere: Please email Amy Dotson firstname.lastname@example.org
As Portland and the nation are undergoing a racial reckoning over the deadly nature of over-policing, Portland’s nonprofit NWFilm Center has made the disturbing choice to kick off its summer programming with KINDERGARTEN COP. This choice ignores the fact that in real life, there’s nothing entertaining about the presence of police in schools, which feeds the “school-to-prison” pipeline in which African American, Latinx, and other kids of color are criminalized rather than educated. (Yes, 5- and 6-year-olds are handcuffed and hauled off to jail routinely in this country. And this criminalizing of children increases dramatically when cops are assigned to work in schools. One of the first positive outcomes of the recent resurgence in Black Lives Matter protests here is that Portland Public Schools unilaterally ended the “school resource officers” program that placed Portland police in schools.)
It’s true KINDERGARTEN COP is only a movie. So are BIRTH OF A NATION and GONE WITH THE WIND, but we recognize films like those are not “good family fun.” They are relics of how pop culture feeds racist assumptions. KINDERGARTEN COP is the product of an era that dramatically increased over-policing in the U.S. with the promise it would reduce crime; it hasn’t. Because despite what the movie shows, in reality, schools don’t transform cops. Cops transform schools, and in an extremely detrimental way.
There is not only nothing funny about over-policing kindergartners; there is something especially disturbing in white-dominated cultural institutions like Northwest Film Center and the Portland Art Museum thinking this was ever funny. Much of American racism that is so normalized most white people cannot perceive it. Ironically, the second movie NWFC is showing is GOOD TROUBLE, the new documentary about John Lewis. But if we truly want to honor his lifelong dedication to challenging racism, we need to examine how our own actions — as institutions and as individuals — impact African Americans and other people of color.
How it is possible nobody affiliated with NWFC or PAM had enough awareness to realize how offensive KINDERGARTEN COP would be, now more than ever? Please email Amy Dotson email@example.com and tell her she owes Portlanders an apology, and an answer to that question.
(If only there were a film that focused on, rather than whitewashing over, this issue. Oh, wait, there is: https://pushoutfilm.com/ )
You can read more about the school-to-prison pipeline and its impact on black girls in particular here: https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2016/03/the-criminalization-of-black-girls-in-schools/473718/
[IMAGE DESCRIPTION: Picture of theatrical poster for Kindergarten Cop [Tall white man covered in kindergartners] that has been edited with the word “OUT” after “Cop” and a large black X cross over the characters in the poster.]