We are deeply saddened to learn that Officer Matt Kenny has not been indicted for taking the life of unarmed Black teenager Tony Robinson on March 6th in Madison.
We are deeply saddened, and yet we are also not surprised. With very few exceptions, police officers are almost never indicted for killing people in the United States. An indictment is neither a statement of guilt nor innocence; if Officer Kenny were indicted, that would simply mean that probable cause had been found to press charges against him for his actions and the case would go to trial. There, a jury could hear all the evidence and make a decision about whether or not he should be held accountable for killing Tony Robinson. We feel that by not indicting Officer Kenny, Tony Robinson has essentially been found guilty without a trial, that his killing was justifiable.
The violence that the Black community is experiencing in this country at the hands of police and the state is not justifiable.
We see this playing out in our schools, in who gets stopped by school officers, who gets sent out of the classroom for being “disruptive”, and who is subjected to higher rates of scrutiny, distrust, and disciplinary actions. Wisconsin has one of the highest disparities in the country in academic outcomes for students of color compared to White students. We also have the highest incarceration rate in the country for people of color as compared to White people. We believe that these two things are related, and point to deep-seated biases and systemic racism that many in our state do not want to discuss.
As LGBTQ+ youth, we stand in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. The struggles we face are not separate. Many of us are LGBTQ+ and youth of color, so we experience not only homophobia and transphobia in our daily lives but racism as well.
As a group, GSAFE’s Youth Leadership Board has been discussing Tony Robinson’s death for weeks now, and many of us have been very active in protests organized by the Young, Gifted, and Black Coalition here in Madison. We know that the news of the non-indictment will make many students feel angry, confused, hurt, and even scared.
The family of Tony Robinson has asked that people not protest on Tuesday, May 12th, and we want to honor and respect their wishes.
There will be future opportunities for students to get involved. Some schools and some parents will be supportive of their students participating in actions and protests, and others will not. We encourage students to work in partnership with the adults in their lives to find helpful and healing ways to support the Black Lives Matter movement.
If your GSA would like support in holding a discussion about Tony Robinson, the non-indictment of Officer Matt Kenny, or the Black Lives Matter movement, please reach out to the staff of GSAFE for suggestions on how to make that happen.
GSAFE’s Youth Leadership Board