Saturday, April 07, 2007

God bless the child, 3, or: You've got to be fucking shitting me.

(note: there are also same-themed/titled posts: "God bless the child" parts one and two)

Via Vox Aemliae: think the Shaquanda Cotton case was outrageous? Now they're arresting kindergarteners, no shit:

AVON PARK, Fla. -- Police arrested a 6-year-old Florida girl and even handcuffed her when she acted out in class. Police officers said Desre'e Watson, a kindergarten student at Avon Elementary School in Highlands County, had a violent run-in with a teacher on Thursday.

"I was scared," the little girl said.

Police claim the little girl got angry and began kicking and scratching. She even hit a teacher attempting to intervene in the disturbance.

However, the girl's mother doesn't believe the story.

"She never fell out. She is very respectful. If I tell her to do anything, she will do it," Lateshia Wilson said.

School officials said they were forced to call the local police department, who cuffed the child and put her in a police cruiser. The little girl's mother is angry and said her daughter is usually very respectful.

"I was very upset about that and I feel like they violated my baby's rights," Wilson said.

The chief of police said his officers did the right thing.

"When there is an outburst of violence, we have a duty to protect and make that school a safe environment for the students, staff and faculty. That's why, at this point, the person was arrested regardless what the age," said Chief Frank Mercurio, Avon Park Police Department.

The kindergartner was booked in the Highland County jail and was charged with a felony and two misdemeanors.


Although the date of the story is March 30, it does not appear to be an (unfunny) April Fool's hoax: they've got video.

blogher
has more commentary:

For Watson, who threw chairs and hit her teacher during a tantrum, the authorities were called before her parents could get to the school. The six year-old faces three charges: disruption of a school function, battery on school employees and resisting arrest. While there has been understandable outrage over the African-American girl’s arrest, there has also been an outpouring of solidarity for the police involvement.

In both cases two African-American girls were treated by the criminal justice system as adults, while there behaviour was, while extremely disobedient, typical and unfortunately common for children who are in need of discipline. Yet there seems to be a fear from both the public and the authorities that if the problems these particular kids displayed would not be penalized through authorities, they would most likely be destined for a life of crime. The parenting skills of the parents, (even though no personal information was released to the press) was also viewed by many as a justifiable reason for their arrests: From various messageboards:

pathetic,now some ghetto mother is gonna get rich off her kid being a brat

And:

Fingerprinted and put into a cell? Hardly. Why on earth is it always someone else's responsibility when someone acts up? PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY. Seems like it is never the child's fault, and it is never the parent's fault. Then who's fault is it? I don't get it. Today's innocent little darling, is tomorrow's welfare recipient and criminal. If this kid can't get control of her emotions now, will she never hold a job, or be a responsible parent herself one day. Some of you are acting like the cops beat her or something. I miss the old days, when things made sense.

Were these two girls treated this way because they are black? In my opinon, Hell yeah. But more importantly, is that these are not the first instances of black youth being arrested by the police for minor infractions, infractions that in using proper common sense, would be handled by the school. There is the belief that despite their age, a black child acting out is seen as an intimidating presence, that either their actions will lead to increased violent behaviour, or as they get older, they are destined for a life of crime...


There are all kinds of ways of being punished for being vulnerable, aren't there? Via Feministing, here's a lovely little story from New York magazine, on how a 13 year old Latina has been fucked over; and fucked over, and fucked over, and...

In this city, a U.S. citizen like Lucilia is seen by the law as a prostitute. The federal law technically applies, but local law- enforcement follows state law. And according to state law, she is a victim, yes—of statutory rape, since the legal age of consent in New York is 17. But since the rapist paid money for the privilege, she’s also a criminal, subject to arrest, prosecution, and incarceration, no matter how young she is. And the prostitutes are getting younger. The consensus among the police officers, juvenile-rights lawyers, and prosecutors on the front lines is that more and more are entering the life as young as 12 years old. So how do we as a society deal with a girl like Lucilia? The contradiction between the state and federal legislation has created a crisis in policy and law enforcement. Is she a “moneymaking ho,” as her pimp called her, who should be prosecuted as a criminal—or is she just like the girls brought here from China, Colombia, or Belarus, a trafficking victim who should be equally protected under the law?

It would be difficult to pick the one moment that sent Lucilia down her dark and Dickensian path. Her autobiography is, of course, the testimony of an adolescent and thus might be viewed skeptically. But all of the facts as collected and reviewed over the years by child-services caseworkers, police officers, city prosecutors, defense attorneys, and judges have thus far supported her grim account. “I was a very emotional, sad child when I was growing up,” Lucilia says. She spent her first five years in foster homes after she was hurt in a knife fight between her parents. She went to live with her grandmother at the age of 5 and was molested by an uncle at age 10. When her grandmother heard about it, she told Lucilia she was a liar and a whore...


The six year old girl having a tantrum is a "criminal;" the ten year old incest victim is a "whore." As iainad notes back at the Blogher story about the six year old Watson,

this is the fear that justifies the police and the criminal system to treat these children like the criminals that they- maybe not so subconsciously- feel that they are destined to grow up to be.


Sure enough, back to Lucilia:

One day, her mother confronted her and said she’d heard that she was “being nasty” with a boy. When Lucilia denied that she had done anything but hug him, her mother punched her in the mouth. The next day, with a split lip, she ran away again, this time to the ice-skating rink in Prospect Park. The cops found her at McDonald’s; when she screamed that she didn’t want to go back to her mother and banged her head on the ground, they took her to the Kings County Hospital psych ward. She was released to a city-run group home in Manhattan, where she says she was threatened with a curling iron by a worker. When she said she wanted to leave, they unlocked the door for her.

She got on the train to Brooklyn, met some guys, and left with them...


After multiple rapes and abuses, in grimly classic fashion, she ends up with a "protector:"

Romeo had five other girls living in his house, a small bungalow facing a park on Guy R. Brewer Boulevard in South Jamaica. He told Lucilia that he would take care of her, but how would she pay him back? He had sex with her, and the next night took her to the “track” on Rockaway Boulevard, where she turned her first trick...

“People always ask, ‘Why don’t they just leave?’” says Kim McLaurin, a supervising attorney at Legal Aid’s Juvenile Rights division in Queens...


Well, apart from the beatings and emotional blackmail (details at the link, it is upsetting) and the various abuses by -everyone else- who ever had "responsibility" for the thirteen year old and her not having anyplace else to go, no particular reason.

Oh, well, except for this: she's still subject to arrest by the State. Prostitution is against the law, you know. And no, her age doesn't make for any more tender treatment.

As a matter of fact, the first time she got arrested,

She told the cops that her name was Sharlene Brown and that she was 16—ensuring that she would be sent to Rikers and processed as an adult. She was back out in a week.


contrariwise, the next time,

Lucilia admitted that she was 13. She was locked up behind razor wire in Bridges, a juvenile jail up in the Bronx. She was issued a blue jumpsuit and assigned a number. Her case was prosecuted over the summer. She was transported to and from Family Court in handcuffs and leg shackles.


So, she testifies against the pimps, as a witness, despite the risk for doing such things. They plead guilty and get two-to-six and three-to-six. Her reward: a year in juvenile detention, and psychotropic meds when she (gosh, who could've guessed?) suffers from depression. Then,

In the summer of 2005, after Lucilia had done her time, she was moved to Leake & Watts, another state juvenile facility, in Yonkers. She could have been released if there were somewhere for her to go. There wasn’t. The state was prepared to keep her in the system another three years, until she was 18. Instead, on May 17, 2006, she went AWOL.

Lucilia didn’t run back to the streets. She showed up at her mother’s door. But she got into a fight with her mother’s boyfriend, who screamed at her, “You just came out of prostitution, you a little whore, a little slut!” Her mother told her she had to leave. She stayed with friends and got a job bagging groceries, saving up to get to Virginia, beyond the reach of the state warrant that had been issued after she went AWOL. The same week in December that she left for Virginia, Lucilia’s mother got a subpoena to come to court and give up any information she had about her daughter’s whereabouts. The day after Christmas, Lucilia got a call from her half-brother, who told her that her mother was sick in Kings County Hospital. She got on a bus and went back to New York. She bought presents and balloons and a get-well card and met him across the street from the hospital. It was a setup. The cops were there, too.

On January 26 of this year, Lucilia is brought handcuffed and shackled in a van from the Crossroads juvenile jail to Queens Family Court for a hearing to decide her fate. ...It’s a rare situation: Both the prosecutor and the defense attorney have known Lucilia since she was 13 and are asking for the same thing. They want Lucilia to be placed at the supervised house run by GEMS. OCFS wants to punish Lucilia for going AWOL by sending her upstate to Tryon, the juvenile equivalent of maximum-security state prison. The hearing goes on for a week and a half.

On the third day, Lucilia takes the stand herself. She describes the situation she found herself in at Leake & Watts, saying that “the male staff, they were perverts, flirting with girls—I had a male staff tell me, ‘I can give it to you better than any young boy.’” She testifies that a boy there threatened her with a gun. She says that she kept calling her caseworker for help but never got a call back. “In one way, I knew I was wrong for AWOLing, but I probably would have been injured now, or in a hospital, or dead,” she says through tears.

“It’s hard,” says the judge, when the hearing resumes the following week, “to make up for twelve, thirteen, fourteen, or fifteen years of a child’s life.” She says that she believes Lucilia. “None of us,” says Lubow, “are used to youngsters who insist, and insist, and insist on being heard.” Judge Lubow releases her to GEMS.


Happily ever after, eh?

The rest of the New York article seems to paint this as a shocking but fixable loophole in a system that otherwise works pretty good:

If Lucilia had been picked up three years ago not by the precinct cops but by the FBI, her life could have been entirely different. She would have been brought to a women’s crisis shelter. She would not have been prosecuted. She would have been given therapy and other services. If she were here from another country, she would have been given a temporary visa and refugee status. In this separate-but-unequal legal system, Lucilia’s only real crime was being born an American citizen.


Right, because we treat immigrants so well.

But whatever; it's hardly a contest at this point, right? The point is...the point is...well, what is the point, here, exactly? What are we to make of this? How do we explain the inexplicable?

Do we, like some of the quoted commenters, defend the actions of the police in the one case and only wish for more policing in the second, perhaps longing for the good old days when parents would exercise the strict discipline needed so the State wouldn't have to?

Say that these are regrettable examples of holes in the system and/or some individual bad situations, which can hopefully be put to rights by changing the law and/or the guard?

That the patriarchy hates women and girls, and sexual abuse, rape, and pimping/street prostitution, as here, is the raw naked expression of this? (Watson doesn't fit that particular scenario quite as well).

That this is the expression of white supremacy/colonialism, which very specifically targets black and brown folks as future outcasts, cheap labor, and criminals, starting in childhood?

That this is a classic example of imperialist State power at work, and the exploitation of these two children (forced prostitution and attempted fodder for the prison industry, respectively) can be understood to be capitalism in its pure form?

That this is the end result of "poisonous pedagogy": child abuse, pure and simple, which, for all our collective handwringing about how "the children are our future" and so forth, we don't seem to be terribly invested in rectifying?

That evil will always be with us and that's all there is to it?

Some of the above, all of the above, none of the above?

"When there is an outburst of violence, we have a duty to protect and make that school a safe environment for the students, staff and faculty. That's why, at this point, the person was arrested regardless what the age," said Chief Frank Mercurio, Avon Park Police Department.

Police claim the little girl got angry

If this kid can't get control of her emotions now, will she never hold a job, or be a responsible parent herself one day

“You just came out of prostitution, you a little whore, a little slut!”

"“We’re locking up girls...for things that have been done to them."

When her grandmother heard about it, she told Lucilia she was a liar and a whore

She could have been released if there were somewhere for her to go. There wasn’t. The state was prepared to keep her in the system another three years, until she was 18

this is the fear that justifies the police and the criminal system to treat these children like the criminals that they- maybe not so subconsciously- feel that they are destined to grow up to be

Today's innocent little darling, is tomorrow's welfare recipient and criminal

“You not getting your money back!” he said. “You making this money for me to take care of you.”

pathetic, now some ghetto mother is gonna get rich off her kid being a brat

“I always wanted to know how a mother’s love feels,”

"She is very respectful. If I tell her to do anything, she will do it,"

When Lucilia denied that she had done anything but hug him, her mother punched her in the mouth

And then he explained what he called “the Game,” how he would love her and be her “daddy,”

when she screamed that she didn’t want to go back to her mother and banged her head on the ground, they took her to the Kings County Hospital psych ward

“You’re not going nowhere. You stayin’ here with me. I will beat the shit out of you ”

“People always ask, ‘Why don’t they just leave?’"

PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY.

But since the rapist paid money for the privilege, she’s also a criminal

I miss the old days, when things made sense

She spent her first five years in foster homes after she was hurt in a knife fight between her parents

Then who's fault is it? I don't get it.

And then he explained what he called “the Game,”

It was a setup. The cops were there, too

Her autobiography is, of course, the testimony of an adolescent and thus might be viewed skeptically

"I was scared," the little girl said.

“None of us...are used to youngsters who insist, and insist, and insist on being heard...”


****************

Them that's got shall get
Them that's not shall lose
So the Bible said and it still is news
Mama may have, papa may have
But God bless the child that's got his own
Thats got his own

Yes, the strong gets more
While the weak ones fade
Empty pockets don't ever make the grade
Mama may have, papa may have
But God bless the child that's got his own
That's got his own

Money, you've got lots of friends
Crowding round the door
When you're gone, spending ends
They don't come no more
Rich relations give
Crust of bread and such
You can help yourself
But don't take too much
Mama may have, papa may have
But God bless the child that's got his own
That's got his own

Mama may have, papa may have
But God bless the child that's got his own
That's got his own
He just worry bout nothin
Cause he's got his own...



--Billie Holliday

16 comments:

nezua limón xolagrafik-jonez said...

wow. powerful.

Sylvia said...

Jesus.

Emily O. said...

The world is really incomprehensible sometimes.

Dan Fitness said...

Horrifying, in a look in the mirror kind of way. How can anyone support this systematic cruelty towards another human being, let alone a child?

Alon Levy said...

Please tell me you're submitting this to sundry carnivals.

Anna said...

That's horrific.

Octogalore said...

Wow. As you said, it's mind-boggling that the school couldn't handle this. And surely did have to do with race. If there is any measurable damage, like wrt record or emotional distress, I hope they do sue.

Cassandra Says said...

So let me get this straight...a bunch of adults are claiming to have been scared of a six year old? And it's OK to prosecute abused 13 year olds for prostitution even though legally they are incapable of consent...
If anyone really thinks this has nothing to do with race then they really need to pull their head out of their ass. The view is so much clearer that way.

Jack Stephens said...

This is a great post and I'm gonna definitely post this in the upcoming Erase Racism Carnival. Also, are you able to help spread the word about the carnival too? I've gotten some pretty bad submissions so far and I also haven't gotten enough submissions. If you could spread the word somehow that would help out in making the carnival that much better. Thanks.

belledame222 said...

I've linked it a couple of times, but will try to be more pro-active, and nominate more from other blogs as well. thanks, js.

magniloquence said...

Good gracious, Belldame. That's one hell of a post. Well researched and beautifully written.

(You and Aunt B. are conspiring to keep me from getting any work done, aren't you? It seems like every time I turn around, one of y'all has something new for me to read!)

Fallen Angels said...

Horrifying. As for the 6-year old who had a tantrum... emotion regulation is just starting to mature between the ages of 4-6 years old. "The ages are just a guide, some 4 year olds have impressive emotion control and some 6 year olds still do not"(Berger 2006). School officials should know this!

belledame222 said...

They should, shouldn't they.

Marj aka Thriver said...

It took me a while to read this entire post because it brings back so many memories and pisses the hell out of me. But, I want to thank you for including it in the Blog Carnival Against Child Abuse, which I maintain.

The reason it brings back memories, isn't because my own mother ever called me a whore...she just called me "a bad, dirty, evil girl that even God can't forgive" because her husband (my father) was screwing me...when I was only seven years old!!!!

Sorry for the drama, but this shit really gets me riled. Thanks for raising awareness. I see here that you really do an excellent job of that.

belledame222 said...

Thanks, marj, that means a lot.

Anonymous said...

This is horrible. I agree with almost everything you said except- Leake & Watts is not state run (it is a private company that the state may place youth in but it is not state operated) and Tryon Girls has both a secure and non-secure center on the campus. If she was sent there- it does not necessarily mean she was sent to the secure side of the facility- which means she would not have been in "maximum security."