This past Monday morning, Kiera Wilmot, a 16-year-old student at Bartow High School in Bartow, Florida, “mixed a few common household chemicals in a small 8 oz water bottle” in her classroom. The mixture caused a minor explosion that did not produce any damage or injure anyone. Shortly after, she was questioned by school officials who praised her for having good grades and an exemplary record. The principal of the high school, Ron Pritchard, even stood up for Wilmot by stating, “She made a bad choice. I don’t think she meant to ever hurt anyone. She wanted to see what would happen and was shocked by what it did”.
However, although officials were convinced Wilmot meant no harm, she was still arrested and faces felony charges as an adult. In addition to this, Wilmot was expelled from school and will now have to attend an expulsion program. In a country that prides itself in providing justice for all of its citizens, can this course of action be tolerated? Of course, Wilmot should have been more careful and consulted a teacher for guidance if she wanted to conduct an experiment. But on the other hand, students are encouraged to grow as engaged learners. Therefore, it is puzzling that a teenager was penalized so harshly for her intellectual curiosity, which only got out of hand by accident and did not result in any sort of real damage.
Of course, one may wonder if Wilmot’s punishment was a result of America’s growing worry regarding terrorism. Had the school officials and the authorities simply allowed their fear to cloud their judgment? Or, since Wilmot is an African-American, could race be a factor in this situation as well?
Although many Americans may feel as if the country has completely distanced itself from the unfairness of slavery and the Jim Crow era, inequality has in fact not been erased. Instead, society has simply found a new format for it. In Michelle Alexander’s book The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, she explains how through the use of mass incarceration to solve the “War On Drugs”, the government has basically begun to segregate minorities from society once again. Alexander proves all of this by showing that 75% of the people imprisoned for drug crimes in 2008 were African American or Hispanic. However, evidence also shows that there is no difference in the amount of drug usage between minority groups and whites. Facts like these are puzzling at first, and then shocking once one finds out that they really reveal the truth about our country.
Taking all of this information into consideration, one has to wonder whether authorities are using the fight against terrorism as an excuse to arrest even more minorities. If that is the case, it is very reasonable to assume that Kiera Wilmot is a victim of such injustice. It is time to face reality America. If the United States wants to be considered “one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all”, it must extend its fairness to every single race.