Recent Article that I thought was important share
By: Stacey Patton
The Washington Post
Last month, a rumor that more than 500 mostly black and Latino children from the District of Columbia had been abducted and sold into sex slavery went viral on social media. A new decision by D.C. police to alert the public whenever children were reported missing had backfired; most of the kids had been found safe within 24 hours, but those updates never spread as far as the initial reports. Worried people, from the Congressional Black Caucus to LL Cool J, raised alarms over what looked like an epidemic going ignored in ways that would be unimaginable with white children.
Hoping to quell the outrage, Mayor Muriel Bowser assured the public that there has been no surge of missing kids. “But that doesn’t mean there aren’t children that need our help,” she said March 24 as she unveiled plans for a task force to work with vulnerable teenagers.
Hundreds of children of color have been reported missing in D.C. at some point since January, but those numbers aren’t higher than usual. The police say 2,242 children were reported missing in 2016, down from 2,433 in 2015. Virtually all were found unharmed within 24 hours; in many cases the children, who showed no evidence of being exploited by sex traffickers, had repeatedly run away from home, according to a spokesman for the mayor.
Which means many children do indeed need our help – and we need to pay more attention to the home lives that they might be running away from.
Rates of reported child abuse are disproportionately high for black children. According to the Justice Department, black children ages 12 to 19 are “three times more likely to be victims of reported child abuse or neglect.” As many as 7,354 young people ages 12 to 24, most of them black, experience homelessness each year in D.C., and more than 2 million children nationwide do. In one national survey, nearly half reported intense conflict, neglect or physical harm by a family member as a major factor in their homelessness. Others experienced family instability due to unaffordable housing, or left the juvenile-justice system or the foster-care system without enough education or support to make it on their own. Research from the Administration for Children and Families shows that up to 42 percent of runaway and homeless youth are sexually abused before they leave their homes.
Black children are also disproportionately likely to suffer treatment at home that’s so bad that they want to flee. In 2015, black kids had the highest rate of abuse and neglect, at 14.5 per 1,000 children, compared with 8.1 per 1,000 for white children, according to the Children’s Bureau, part of the Department of Health and Human Services. More than 3,600 black children in the United States have died as a result of maltreatment in the past decade, a rate three times higher than for all other racial groups. Suicide rates among elementary-age black children have nearly doubled since the 1990s, while the rates for white children have fallen, according to a 2015 report from the Journal of the American Medical Association.
A disturbing number of children in D.C. and elsewhere are gambling that life on the street could not be worse than their abusive homes. I made the same choice in 1987 and in 1991 while growing up in Trenton, New Jersey. I ran away from my adoptive family when I was 9 and again when I was 12. After the second time, I refused to go back, and I ended up yet another black child in New Jersey’s foster-care system. A warm bed and steady meals were not worth constant “whuppings” and verbal abuse – which my adoptive parents and the wider black community said were love, discipline and protection from the police or white racists. I felt safer on my own, even if that meant living on the street. From age 12 to 14, I was shuttled between foster homes, youth shelters and group homes, until I was fortunate enough to win an academic scholarship to the Lawrenceville Prep School. So I understand where many of these kids are coming from.
My own experiences helped shape my role as an advocate for children, and it’s painful to see how common such abuse still is in my community. Without question, the toughest part of my work is convincing black people that a “no hitting” zone at home is crucial to helping children feel and be safe. Whupping kids is not “a black thing.” But parents argue that without the discipline they think whuppings instill, their children will end up in prison, even though we’ve been having national conversations about mass incarceration for decades. They cherry-pick Old Testament scriptures to justify hitting. They argue that there’s a difference between spanking and abuse, as if a child’s body experiences pain differently based on what parents call a swat or the intent behind it. And many people proclaim that they were whupped as children and “turned out fine,” even though they’ve grown up to see striking a child’s body as normal behavior. It’s a violent, unnecessary parenting practice planted in our culture through colonialism, slavery, forced indoctrination into Christianity and centuries of racial trauma.
If we are going to talk about missing children in D.C., we must look at beating kids as one of the root issues. Yes, sex trafficking does happen, and yes, the types of children who go missing in Washington and other cities – mostly black; mostly poor; disproportionately lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer – are more vulnerable than other kids. But neglect and abuse are among the most common factors.
So much of our national focus on black children is on how “bad” they are: how they need more physical punishment, zero tolerance at school, harsh sentences from the courts. They are blamed for their own deaths at the hands of adults who claimed they were afraid of them. That systemic devaluation of black children even extends into classrooms. In 19 states, students are still subject to corporal punishment; a disproportionately higher number of black children receive it. According to reports by the Education Department’s office of civil rights and Human Rights Watch, racial bias contributes to this problem, along with black parents giving teachers and administrators permission to hit their children.
These messages have consequences. When black children are constantly told that they are a problem, that they are unworthy and undeserving of empathy and kindness, that they can be beaten in schools, in the streets, by cops and by the people who love them, running away from home doesn’t seem like such an extreme choice. If home so often isn’t a safe haven, should we be surprised?
The best way to keep black children out of the headlines – to protect them from a predatory foster-care system, the school-to-prison pipeline, sex traffickers and other traps – is to make their homes safer and more loving. That means more parental education on child development, so parents can set reasonable expectations for their children, as well as giving parents information on nonviolent discipline practices. Churches need to become sanctuaries that reinforce positive parenting strategies, instead of preaching “spare the rod, spoil the child.” We need to send a strong message to black youths that their families and community institutions will protect them by providing counseling, advocacy, shelter and emotional support. Service agencies need ethnically diverse, culturally competent staff members who will avoid policies and practices that perpetuate trauma and institutionalized racism. Unfortunately, there’s no quick fix for impoverished communities dealing with generations of poverty, trauma and divestment.
Black children’s lives need to matter before they become a statistic or a hashtag. But the blame doesn’t rest entirely on outside forces. We need to take responsibility for protecting our children in the place that matters most, so that home is the place they’ll run to, and not away from.
This dialogue between Pac and K. Dot on Mortal Man is the epitome of many African American men experiences growing up in this country
“I remember you was conflicted
Misusing your influence
Sometimes I did the same
Abusing my power, full of resentment
Resentment that turned into a deep depression
Found myself screaming in the hotel room
I didn’t wanna self destruct
The evils of Lucy was all around me
So I went running for answers
Until I came home
But that didn’t stop survivor’s guilt
Going back and forth trying to convince myself the stripes I earned
Or maybe how A-1 my foundation was
But while my loved ones was fighting the continuous war back in the city, I was entering a new one
A war that was based on apartheid and discrimination
Made me wanna go back to the city and tell the homies what I learned
The word was respect
Just because you wore a different gang color than mine’s
Doesn’t mean I can’t respect you as a black man
Forgetting all the pain and hurt we caused each other in these streets
If I respect you, we unify and stop the enemy from killing us
But I don’t know, I’m no mortal man, maybe I’m just another nigga”
Shit, I like to think that at every opportunity I’ve ever been threatened with resistance, it’s been met with resistance.And not only me but it goes down my family tree. You know what I’m saying, it’s in my veins to fight back
In this country a black man only have like 5 years we can exhibit maximum strength, and that’s right now while you a teenager, while you still strong or while you still wanna lift weights, while you still wanna shoot back. Cause once you turn 30 it’s like they take the heart and soul out of a man, out of a black man in this country. And you don’t wanna fight no more. And if you don’t believe me you can look around, you don’t see no loud mouth 30-year old muthafuckas
That’s crazy man. In my opinion, only hope that we kinda have left is music and vibrations, lotta people don’t understand how important it is. Sometimes I be like, get behind a mic and I don’t know what type of energy I’mma push out, or where it comes from. Trip me out sometimes
I wanted to read one last thing to you. It’s actually something a good friend had wrote describing my world. It says:
“The caterpillar is a prisoner to the streets that conceived it
Its only job is to eat or consume everything around it, in order to protect itself from this mad city
While consuming its environment the caterpillar begins to notice ways to survive
One thing it noticed is how much the world shuns him, but praises the butterfly
The butterfly represents the talent, the thoughtfulness, and the beauty within the caterpillar
But having a harsh outlook on life the caterpillar sees the butterfly as weak and figures out a way to pimp it to his own benefits
Already surrounded by this mad city the caterpillar goes to work on the cocoon which institutionalizes him
He can no longer see past his own thoughts
When trapped inside these walls certain ideas take roots, such as going home, and bringing back new concepts to this mad city
Wings begin to emerge, breaking the cycle of feeling stagnant
Finally free, the butterfly sheds light on situations that the caterpillar never considered, ending the internal struggle
Although the butterfly and caterpillar are completely different, they are one and the same.”