CINCINNATI (FOX19) - Cincinnati Police Chief Eliot Isaac met with high school students in the Cincinnati Public Schools district Wednesday to hear stories about racial inequity in their own lives.
Isaac spoke with the teens during CPS’s ‘Speak Up, Speak Out’ online forum series.
The discussion covered a wide range of topics but focused on the students’ concerns over race relations and what happened the night several weeks ago when hundreds of protesters were arrested downtown.
“It’s important to remember that these students represent themselves and their experience, and their experience alone is really valid and important,” forum moderator Sia Baucke said.
Baucke asked the students to give their first-hand accounts of racism.
“My first experience with racism is when I was born,” Aiken High School student Keyshawn Townsend said, “because when I was born, I was born into a family of poverty.”
“I get that all the time,” Riverview East High School student Rachel Scales said. “Like, ‘Hey, you talk like a white girl. You’re just a white girl in a black girl’s body.' And I would be like, ‘What does that mean?' Just because I don’t use slang words or I don’t talk improper.”
The students then had an opportunity to pose questions of CPS Deputy Superintendent Tianay Amat.
“What does the future for CPS African American students look like?” Townsend asked.
“This is not an education issue, it is a societal issue that we have to come together, whether it’s with the police department, healthcare, education, to ensure that we wrap-around services for our kids to be successful,” Amat said.
Isaac said he was “extremely impressed and proud of our young people.” He listened most of the time but did speak out about his own experience, about “continuing to have to prove yourself over and over and over.”
Isaac had this to say about the protesters being arrested downtown:
”So what was the reasoning for arresting 300 -plus protestors? There was a curfew, and there was significant damage done throughout the city. We had a police officer that was shot. We had been bombarded with rocks and bottles, and there was a lot of destruction taking place in our city.”
Isaac said when he was a teen, the adage was “kids should be seen not heard.”
Not anymore, he admitted. Now he said he believes there is a cultural shift in the country where young people are not silent and that their voices matter.