Black Children Should Not Be Used as Political Pawns
Black Children Should Not Be Used as Political Pawns
Black children in poor urban neighborhoods often grow up seeing things that no child should see. They live without feeling that warm security kids should have, not only in public but at home, too.
But a California pediatrician wants to lay the blame at the feet of police.
In an opinion piece for NBC News, Dr. Rhea Boyd cited multiple cases where police shot black adults while children witnessed the event, most recently that of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, WI. Describing Blake as a “29-year-old Black father” who was merely “attempting to enter his vehicle,” she writes how his three small children witnessed police shooting Blake.
“And our kids are watching,” she moralizes:
“Police kill about 1,000 people per year in cars, homes and neighborhoods across the United States. According to The Washington Post, 999 were shot and killed in 2019. And our kids are watching.”
Plus, according to Boyd, police traumatize black children through their presence, too:
“Police surveil neighborhoods and accost people in public and in private. And our kids are watching.”
Boyd tells the reader that black children thus lack security — or “sanctuary” — not only in their neighborhoods, but in public, at school, and even in their homes. The effects are enormous:
“And when children witness violence, in person and virtually, it results in poor self-reported physical health, mental health conditions such as depression and post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD, and impaired school performance.”
Well, yeah, of course. And this goes beyond the overwrought argument about whether or not kids who play shoot‘em up video games turn to violence. Children who grow up witnessing first-hand violence — whether by gun, knife, or fist — are at high risk for emotional impairment, similar to kids who live in abusive homes. Some are emotionally resilient enough to survive such trauma, but others aren’t.
So what is Dr. Boyd’s solution? We must protect black children from police, either through reform or abolishing police forces.
“Calls to reform or abolish the police must be understood within this broader context — because the people directly and indirectly impacted by the harms of policing are not only the men and women we have painfully witnessed suffer in video after video, but also our children and teens.”
Of course she does. Boyd is an activist who focuses upon racism leading to health care inequities. She teaches academic programs on structural inequality and health. And she recently wrote an article for Cosmopolitan in which she stated, “Protests save lives even during a pandemic. I’m a doctor, so you can quote me on that.” Certainly Dr. Rhea Boyd has a political axe to grind.
But since Boyd criticized police shooting Jacob Blake in front of his children, I wonder how she would’ve handled the situation. Maybe call in for a back-up counselor? Or perhaps a social worker from Child Protective Services: “Just a minute, Mr. Blake. I need to remove your children from their car seats before you steal this car.”
The truth is this: one of the reasons that police shot Jacob Blake was to protect those black children in the back seat of the car. The SUV didn’t belong to him — it belonged to his off-again, on-again girlfriend whom he had previously assaulted. When police were unable to physically restrain or Tase him, they had no other choice than to shoot before he sped off in a stolen SUV with children in the back. If police hadn’t stopped Blake, what could’ve happened to those kids? Would he hold them hostage? Or abandon them after ditching the SUV? Or worst of all — killed them as revenge? Yes, those children witnessed the horrendous sight of police shooting their father. But they’re alive, thanks to those police.
Or what about the black children caught up in the latest mass shooting in Chicago? On Sunday, gunmen opened fire on patrons dining in an outdoor tent at a pancake house. This pancake house is like those across America: full of families enjoying brunch after church, which is precisely when the shooting occurred. A car pulled up and three gunmen fired at a table with three women, two men, and a baby.
Yes, a three-week old baby was in mortal danger, according to the news report. And this child wasn’t the only one; as one woman who was dining with family members said:
“Her grandbaby is sitting with her there, 2 months old. And y’all shoot when you see a 2-month-old baby? That’s outrageous. You kind of get used to it, you see it every day on the news. These babies, they don’t care.”
The Rev. Donovan Price told told reporters:
“This place is a staple. Sunday afternoon, Sunday morning brunch is a staple. Our staples are being taken away and our traditions are being taken away.”
“And slowly, but surely, our hope is being taken away,”
Black children in urban neighborhoods are certainly at risk for trauma, and that risk seems to be growing out of control since the George Floyd incident. But the biggest threat doesn’t come from the police — it comes from the gangs and criminals who dominate cities like Chicago. No child should have to witness a police shooting. But no child should live under the greater threats of gang-driven crime and violence, either.
Featured image: Wikimedia Commons/cropped/public domain.