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TULSA, Okla. — At Wednesday’s City Council first Listening Session on racial disparities found in the 2018 and 2019 Equality Indicator report, a doctoral student in Black Studies at the University of Texas at Austin and Booker T. Washington alum, Noelle Janak highlighted the unspoken and unreported disparity in juvenile queer and trans youth arrest.
By Noelle Janak, guest writer
“My name is Noelle Janak, I grew up in Tulsa, I live in District 4, I graduated from Booker T. Washington High School, and am now a doctoral student in Black Studies at the University of Texas at Austin. I am a scholar of policing and surveillance.
Queer and trans youth represent roughly 5-7% of the total youth population, yet 13% of the juvenile justice system.
I know what it is like to grow up not only Black but also queer and in constant proximity to the criminal injustice system.
I attended BTW high school where Black and Brown students filled the TRAICE classroom. But if you looked closer, the kids in detention were also queer and trans.
We must protect our youth.
We know that interactions with police and policing systems have real effects on students’ lives.
We know Black and Brown queer and trans young people are more likely to suffer from depression and are at greater risk for suicide than their peers.
Nigel Shelby, 15-year-old, made national news when his mother found him unresponsive. Young Nigel had committed suicide and suffered from depression due to being bullied for being gay.
Disparities in policing do not simply occur as a result of individual bias, but also occur because of a system designed to create those disparities.
Policing was never designed to be equal, equitable, or liberatory. The very framework of policing in this country and the world is racist, sexist, and queerphobic.
Many have stated community policing is the way to build trust and transparency between law enforcement and citizens. There is no greater community policing tool than an Office dedicated to doing just that. An office that should have subpoena power. We have approved an Office of Independent Monitor.
Now, it is imperative that we fully fund this mechanism and give the community power to police the police.
It is clear they cannot do so themselves. This is one small step the City of Tulsa can take to make this city more just for poor folks, queer folks, Black and Brown folks and the intersections thereof.”