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A time for re-evaluation

08 May 2005

Have you even seen a news report that justifies your own personal beliefs – but then you feel real guilty about it?

Not that you have done anything wrong. Its like a light bulb goes off in your head and you think, ‘yeah. Why am I not surprised?’ Then you think, ‘well, maybe it’s not such a great thing that it happened but maybe…in a sick way, someone will actually DO something, petition, cry, whatever’. You hope that the incident will inspire action on a larger scale than just inside your head.

So let’s hope that the fact that a 5 year-old African-American girl was handcuffed and put into a police cruiser will start a healthy but aggressive debate and most importantly, action. Not only about the disciplinary regulations in public schools, the unfair judgment that society places on single mothers but also the lack of judgment that Florida police – or any other law enforcement institutions have when exchanging with juveniles.

Most importantly, we need to start a dialogue about why a 5-year old Black girl was treated like a common criminal. You know why? Because society’s perception is that her life isn’t worth sh*t.

It is inexplicable why this happened. Period. If it was a little white kid, you would not see that happen, straight up.

I was once a little Black girl (a long, long time ago) and I remember questioning the behavior towards my older sister and myself by the teachers in the little country school we attended. They didn’t think we were sh*t, either. The punishment was doled out a hell of a lot quicker than our white counterparts, and when we did act out – which we did a lot, I must add – it was perceived as being an inherent trait. Part of our genetic savagery, I guess.

But looking back, I think our misbehavior came from trying to fight back in a situation in which we felt that we were being ignored over the other students. The unsettling feeling that these people, the same adults that you were told by your parents to respect and listen to without question, didn’t have the same respect for us. We felt that we had to fight to get respect, so be treated like an equal, and while this does not justify behaving violently against another person, I can understand the frustration of both the mother and the little girl. This situation just solidifies what society thinks about Black people and especially Black women - that we are all on the periphery of being extremely violent and once they find that button…. It’s on! And whatever action done is pushed under the rug as being a necessary means to an end.

Ends that will justify the overriding belief that Blacks are inferior. That the life of a Black female is not as worthy as the life of a white one.

While we watch the video over and over again of the little girl hitting a teacher, pulling things off the wall, yelling and crying, our hands involuntarily raise, wanting to smack the bejesus out of the little brat. But that does not excuse the behavior of the teachers, the ADULTS who were so frightened of this 40-pound kid that they would call the five-oh. While I have surfed countless message boards that have covered the ‘incident,’ there have been quite a few – a few too many, that actually side with the police and the decisions of the administrators to get law enforcement involved. This is coming out of a State that lets child pedophiles run wild, and yet they feel compelled the call the police on a kid? Give me a break!

Here are a couple of gems I came across:

  • “She was cuffed for her own safety of those around her.” 
  • “It sounds like the police were afraid of her getting injured while she was in their custody and restrained her.”
  • “Yes. She needed to go to jail. She assaulted and battered two adults. When a child becomes a danger to themselves and others they need to be removed from the environment and placed somewhere safe (like prison, perhaps?). Police are trained to arrest and detain people in a safe manner.”

I would love to dismiss these little bits o’ love as the ramblings of people who have their heads so firmly embedded up their ass*s that they forgot that slavery ended a long time ago. Some other pearls of wisdom included insinuations that she did not live in a ‘proper environment,’ that she got off easy, that they should have pepper-sprayed her, that her mother is simply ‘sue happy.’ I think the writer of that last one should think about the woman who put a finger in her Wendy''s Chili so she could sue the restaurant chain.

But I have to admit: I was once one of those snobby folks who would watch American TV and wonder why so many Black youth were disrespecting themselves by gangbanging, pimping and drug dealing. Why young Black women were selling their bodies in the streets and in music videos and wearing inappropriate clothing in public (but I still don’t understand paying for your man’s clothes, rent, weed and Bling and getting disrespected in return – still boggles the mind, sorry). Then I started seeing it in Toronto! Can’t blame the Americans for that one!

But with the era of the portable video recorders and camera cellphones, the grimy underbelly of North American society is now blazed across our TV screens every night. What else did we miss before our dependence on new technological devices permeated our everyday lives? I shudder to think. But I now understand why some people act the way they do. Because they are angry and while it is incredibly unfair to youth, I think that kids know very early on what their value on this earth is, and will always be. And society has put in our hands to get out of it. There will be no disembodied hand reaching out of the clouds to help us, to guide us. It’s all on you, babee.

Unless you go through the experience of being young and having little faith in the future, you will never understand what it feels like, to wake up everyday with a sense of dread. That’s why I feel so strongly that the Black community needs to re-evaluate how we treat  our youth and how they are treated outside of the home. This is an incident that could happen anywhere and should not be dismissed by our community as an isolated incident.

When I was in my pre-teens, I imagined that the living hell I was living in would go away when I was an adult. I imagined a better life for myself, one in which I would be able to do whatever I wanted to. And while I am now in a position to do whatever I please, err, somewhat, that is - the restraints of being judged by my skin color have never gone away. I am told that it will never happen in my lifetime. I just pray that this little girl forgets this experience. Because if she doesn’t, we will all have hell to pay.

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