Wednesday, March 28, 2007

God bless the child

(note: there are two other posts on similar themes, "God bless the child" parts two and three)

There is an interesting discussion unfolding in the comments of this post about Shaquanda Cotton, at the Anti-Essentialist Conundrum. Cliff notes: this is a fourteen year old girl, black, with no prior record, who was sentenced to seven years in jail for shoving a hall monitor. And had already served an entire year before her case got any attention outside her hometown.

Others, including Sylvia, have been covering the deep-ingrained societal racism that this case illuminates so starkly. For the moment, I'd like to talk about something separate, if no doubt related: authoritarianism. Which I've talked about before; and which, like so much else, begins--but doesn't end--at home.

So, back at Sylvia's, a commenter has this to say:

Ya’ll stop and think about what you are reading. Shaquanda was/is a troubled child b/c of her mother. The law (Judge, DA, etc)is trying to keep them separated b/c they see its the mother’s influence thats leading her astray. Most of us (black folk) have seen these type situations either in our family or somehow close to us.

7 years is way too long for this assult conviction. But as it reads its UP TO 7 years so she can get out as soon as she learns to behave. The problem is TYC is probably just going to make her harder than she alredy was and when she gets out at 21, she’ll be a true threat to society.

As it stands, who wants a child in their children’s school who feels she can do this to a teacher. If she’ll push a 58 year old teacher today, she’ll stab another student tomorrow or follow thru on her threat to “burn the school down”. This behavior has to be put in check. Where is her dad in all this? Why isn’t he standing up for them? He probably knows what her mother is all about and trying to stay clear.

and, later:

We’re screaming that this is a racist judge making a racist decision b/c he gave two white kids probation and Shaquanda got 7 years. Did you not read that her mother fought the probation that was offered “would not cooperate” she was on K104 (Dallas Ft.Worth urban radio) saying just that. She says Shaquanda didn’t do anything. Kids pushing kids is one thing, but when they are bold enough to push elderly teachers to the floor, that’s different and it doesn’t happen everyday. This type of behavior has been progressing from her for years, you have to wonder where it would go if left unchecked. In our parents/grandparents day they would have handled this on the spot and it never would have made the news or the court b/c they knew how take care of business and the kids then knew it. Now we got people like you talking about rights of children. Look at where it’s getting most of them.

Bint's response(s) to this is a thing of beauty and worth reading in full; I'm just going to include part here:

Yes, I have read about how her mother would not go along with the probation that was offered. Is there any reason why she should have? If Ms. Brownfield did what she says she did and raised her arm to this child, then Shaquanda had every reason to believe that she was about to get hit and therefore she acted as any normal person might do when they feel that they about to be assaulted.

And when did Ms. Brownsfield become elderly? This woman is 58 years old. My step-father is older than that and he can still climb trees and chop off branches. If she’s really elderly, then why in the world would the school put her in charge of keeping children out of the school in the morning? This isn’t about boldness on the part of Shaquanda. The girl didn’t just walk to some random little old lady and push her down to the ground. This was a case where an adult raised her hand to someone else’s child and then acted surprised when the girl reacted to that.

Furthermore, her behavior was not going unchecked. The child was taking medication for ADHD. Guess who had to bring her to a doctor and get her tested and pay for her prescriptions and keep the school supplied with her medication? Here’s a hint: IT WAS HER MOTHER. You know, that woman that you claim just isn’t willing to believe that Shaquanda has any problems. Tell me, in your mind, through whatever process you are using to evaluate all of this, why you think that her mother was doing all of this if she just didn’t give a damn about the girl’s behavior?

Yeah, I used the word rights. If this teacher had the right to raise her hand towards someone’s child, then the child also had a right to try and prevent being hit. And I don’t know about YOUR children but the ones in my life are doing just great. It isn’t talking about rights that leads to problems for children. The problem (or at least a very significant part of it) is people like you with your uncritical acceptance of every illogical epithet and pathetic cliche that society puts out about kids, especially children of color.

So, but putting the details of that particular case aside, I want to get back to this bit:

In our parents/grandparents day they would have handled this on the spot and it never would have made the news or the court b/c they knew how take care of business and the kids then knew it. Now we got people like you talking about rights of children. Look at where it’s getting most of them.

Here he is alluding to the influence (on contemporary theories of parenting, the self-help industry, and the body politic) of such people as Alice Miller. Here is an example of her thinking:

Children who are given love, respect, understanding, kindness, and warmth will naturally develop different characteristics from those who experience neglect, contempt, violence or abuse, and never have anyone they can turn to for kindness and affection. Such absence of trust and love is a common denominator in the formative years of all the dictators I have studied. The result is that these children will tend to glorify the violence inflicted upon them and later to take advantage of every possible opportunity to exercise such violence, possibly on a gigantic scale. Children learn by imitation. Their bodies do not learn what we try to instill in them by words but what they have experienced physically. Battered, injured children will learn to batter and injure others; sheltered, respected children will learn to respect and protect those weaker than themselves. Children have nothing else to go on but their own experiences.

Born innocent

The well-known American pediatrician Dr. Brazelton once filmed a group of mothers holding and feeding their babies, each in her own particular way. More than 20 years later he repeated the experiment with the women those babies had grown into and who now had babies themselves. Astoundingly, they all held their babies in exactly the same way as they had been held by their mothers, although of course they had no conscious memories from those early years. One of the things Braselton proved with this experiment was that we are influenced in our behavior by our unconscious memories. And those memories can be life affirming and affectionate or traumatic and destructive.

In the 1970s the French gynecologist Fr�d�ric Leboyer demonstrated that babies delivered without physical force and given a loving reception by their immediate environment show no signs of desperate crying or any kind of destructiveness. In fact they will even smile only a few minutes after birth. As long as they are not separated after birth, as was the custom in the 1950s, mother and child will develop a relationship of trust that will have positive repercussions on the entire further course of the children's lives. In the physical presence of her baby, the mother will produce the so-called love hormone (oxytocin) enabling her intuitively to understand the signals emitted by the child and to care for its needs by a process of empathy. These phenomena are described by Michel Odent in his latest book ("The Scientification of Love", London, Free Association, 1999).

Why have these important, groundbreaking insights on human nature failed to penetrate into the awareness of the public at large? True, the works of Leboyer have changed the face of birthing practices. But the philosophical, sociological, psychological, and ultimately theological implications of his discovery of the innocent newborn do not appear to have left any mark on society as a whole. We can see this in many areas: in schools, the penal system, and politics. All these areas are dominated by the notion that punishment - and notably the corporal punishment that goes by the name of "correction" - is effective and harmless. There is little awareness of the fact that physical punishment actually creates the evil that we later try - more or less ineffectually - to banish by inflicting more of the same...

As you can see, this represents a rather different worldview from that expressed by, for example, Ray "Cold" Comfort, partner of child-star-turned-fundamentalist-preacher Kirk Cameron and co-author of a website where he produces such gems as:

What a Lovely Child

...It is a tragedy when ugly doings are seen as cute. One of the first horrible things to reveal itself in a child is the back-arch. This often happens when the parent uses the word "No" and stops the child from touching something he wanted to touch. Mom or dad then picks up the precious bundle, and instead of finding cuddly cuteness, they find the back-arch of protest.

This is the first sign of infantile rebellion against parental authority, and if it isn't dealt with, this seed will grow into a monster and destroy everything in its path.

...Understandably, no parent likes to think that their beloved child is evil, just as parents of newborns would reject any thought that their baby is ugly. However, when a youth stretches his wings, and gets away from the prodigal father's eye, sin is given full reign. You just have to listen to the average teenager talk to see that the testimony of God is true when it says "their throat is an open sepulcher," and that "their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness." Perhaps you could never see the little child in your arms as "having feet that are swift to shed innocent blood," but the potential to do so is there. Godless kids love violent movies and sadistic video games. They don't see the blood-thirsty murder of another human being as being something that is horrific. Rather, it is something to be enjoyed. It gives an adrenalin rush. This is why you must introduce the "monster-slayer." You must get rid of the fiend at an early age.

Don't look to a supposed goodness in the heart of your child for a restraint against evil. Man's goodness is a cracked dam. The weight of sin cannot be restrained. It is common for the mother of a vicious murderer to say that her teenage son was actually a good boy. Such loyalty comes from godless reasoning. It comes from the thought that there is good in everyone. That seems to hold true until you define the word "good." It means to be morally excellent. It means to be perfect in thought, word and in deed. It means to love God with all of our heart and to love our neighbor as much as we love ourselves. In that case, Jesus was right. There is none good but God. So, reject the world's philosophy, and instead embrace the biblical viewpoint. Again, God's Word says that there is none good. Not one. Your child isn't good. He is like the rest of us. His heart is evil. Face the ugliness.

Don't wait until you have a Jeffery Dahmer on your hands before you use the word "evil." That monster murdered and cannibalized seventeen people, but his background is no different than that of most children. He himself said, "When I was just a little kid I was just like anybody else."* However, when, as a child he began showing cruelty to animals (something common in human nature), the monster wasn't restrained. So it is up to you to understand that the first back-arch isn't cute. It's ugly. It is the beginning of rebellion. You must deal with it by cultivating the restraint of the fear of the Lord in his life...

If you want to see this philosophy of parenthood made concrete and contemporary (you'll find plenty if you go back to "our parents/grandparents' day" without even trying), by the way, you can take a gander at the Babywise/Ezzo discipline:

After babies reach only 6 months of age, parents are instructed to begin punitive disciplinary measures such as "squeezing or swatting" of the child's hands or "isolation" in the crib for "rebellious" infractions including "foolishness," "malicious defiance" or even playing with food on the highchair tray. Ezzo explains to parents that the use of "pain" and "discomfort" can be essential disciplinary tools. After age 2 and a half, children who have a toileting accident are required to clean themselves up.

Despite the plethora of respected research demonstrating the critical importance of early parent-child attachment, "Babywise" breezily dismisses this concept as little more than self-indulgent psychobabble. Thus, parents are told that they can actually harm a child by too much rocking or holding and that they should, at all costs, avoid "emotionalism" in responding to a baby's cries lest parents be held "in bondage" to the child.

"Of course you can harm a baby by picking him or her up too much," asserts Ezzo.

...Scott notes that, depending on a child's individual temperament, Ezzo's recommendations appear to either work brilliantly -- meaning that the child essentially gives up and stops protesting completely -- or leave parents incredibly frustrated as to why, no matter how many times they "swat" the baby, she still won't use good "highchair manners."

Author and lactation consultant Huggins agrees, observing that parents who read "Babywise" may believe that they are experiencing success with the program when in fact, the opposite is true. "What Ezzo is saying 'works' in that many babies do eventually stop crying as they become resigned to taking only small amounts of milk. In that way, you could say it works," says Huggins.

In interview after interview with families who are using "Babywise," parents spoke of their sincere desire to produce "obedient," "respectful" children. Rarely did these parents mention a hope to produce emotionally healthy adults. Overwhelmingly, "Babywise" parents accepted without question the conventional wisdom that "kids today" are out of control. Faced with the onslaught of media images of rampaging middle-schoolers and wilding teens, these parents believe that by cracking down on what Ezzo defines as infant rebellion now, they will prevent problems later.

"I have no intention of raising an out-of-control child, " says Franklin Stout, a 32-year-old father of two who is implementing "Babywise" methods with his young children. "My wife and I like having a guide to help us know how to respond to our sons' different behaviors. We believe that firm discipline in the first year or two will save us all a lot of grief later."

..."Telling parents that there is one simple way to get kids to behave is, well, let's just put it like this: This type of parenting is part of this whole swing to the right all over the country," says pediatrician and Harvard professor T. Berry Brazelton, known to millions of American parents and grandparents as the author of "Touchpoints" (Addison-Wesley) and numerous other bestselling books on parenting and child development. "I feel bad for young parents who are being told that if they follow this program or that program, they won't have problems. You have to look below the surface to see what's going on with each individual family."

After reviewing "Babywise," noted social historian Stephanie Coontz, author of "The Way We Never Were: American Families and the Nostalgia Trap" and "The Way We Really Are: Coming to Terms With America's Changing Families" (Basic Books), says that she is able to understand how some parents are drawn to Ezzo's advice. "The way this book has been hyped speaks to real dilemmas faced by parents today," says Coontz. "Unfortunately, this book may give the wrong answers. The book provides solutions to real problems that are at least as bad as the real problems themselves."

..."Parenting like this shows very little respect for children," says pediatrician Brazelton. "It's very adultamorphic and not sensitive to the baby. Although parents should gently set limits, punitive discipline for very young children and babies is repressive and can quash exploration and excitement in the first two years of life. It will be interesting to see some follow up on these kids in later years. I suspect that they'll have a lot of inner rebellion."

Don and Jeanne Elium, family therapists and authors of the books "Raising a Son," "Raising a Daughter" and the new "Raising a Family: Living on Planet Parenthood" (Celestial Arts), concur with Brazelton that the discipline practices promoted by Ezzo are neither age-appropriate nor effective in the long run.

"All isolating a baby or young toddler teaches them is that the world is not a safe place to be in," says Don Elium. "Let a baby be a baby so that she can be an adult when it's time to be an adult."

"Leaving a baby alone to cry in order to punish or to train them to sleep can create a sense of rage that comes from abandonment and hopelessness," agrees Jeanne Elium. "These children will probably pay an expensive price in therapy later..."

And here we come to the crux of it: how completely backasswards the whole thing is. Essentially, the child is being asked to have more control over hirself than the adult. And to accept abuse that would be considered an outrage were an adult to do it to another adult (well, all other things being equal, which of course they often aren't; nonetheless). Which pretty much goes against everything we understand about human development, those of us who've come out of the Dark Ages, at least.

And then the child grows up; and guess what happens to all that pent-up rage, frustration, terror, grief, unmet needs? Well, oftentimes sie simply turns it in on hirself. Depression, rage, various ways dramatic and subtle of putting oneself down and out--because, the adult kid is a decent person, doesn't want to do unto others what was done unto hir, is horrified by the prospect of becoming like the abuser...and at the same time, too, the implications of accepting exactly how things really went down are primally scary. back to Alice Miller again:

These letters are almost always written from the perspective of the parents, parents who were totally unable to bear, let alone love, their children. The children's perspective finds no expression whatsoever, except in the sufferings of the adults they have become, the physical symptoms, the bouts of depression, the thoughts of suicide, the crippling feelings of guilt. The writers of these letters constantly insist that they were never abused as children, that the only physical "correction" they received was occasional slap of no consequence at all, or a kick or two they had richly deserved because they sometimes behaved abominably and got on their parents' nerves. I am frequently assured that deep down these people were loved by their fathers and mothers, and if they were cruelly treated from time to time it was because things just got too much for their parents, who were unhappy, depressed, uninformed, or possibly even alcoholics, and all because they themselves had been deprived of love when they were young. So it is hardly surprising that these parents were quick to lose their tempers and take their unhappiness and resentment out on their children. Such behavior is readily understandable. The dearest wish of these children was to help their parents, because they loved them and felt sorry for them. But however hard they tried, they never managed to free them from their depression and make them happy.

The tormenting feelings of guilt triggered by this failure are unrelenting and implacable. What have I done wrong? These people ask themselves. Why have I failed to free my parents from their misery? I try the best I can. And it's the same with my therapists. They tell me to enjoy the good things in life, but I can't, and that makes me feel guilty too. They tell me to grow up, to stop seeing myself as a victim; my childhood is a thing of the past, I should turn over a new leaf and stop agonizing. They tell me not to put the blame on others; otherwise my hatred will kill me. I should forgive and forget, and live in the present; otherwise I'll turn into a "borderline patient," whatever that is. But how can I do that? Of course I don't want to put the blame on my parents, I love them, and I owe my life to them...

...How can people love themselves if the message that they were not worth loving was drummed into them at an early stage? If they were beaten black and blue to make them into a different person? If they had it impressed on them that they were a nuisance to their parents, and that nothing in the world would ever change their parents' dislike and anger? They will believe that they are the cause of this hatred, though that is simply not true. They feel guilty, they try to become a better person, but this can never succeed because the parents take out on their own children the rage they had to suppress and hold back in their dealings with their own parents. The child was merely the butt of this rage.

Once we have realized this, we stop waiting for the love of our parents, and we know why it will never materialize. Only then can we allow ourselves to see how we were treated as children and to feel how we suffered as a result. Instead of understanding and commiserating with our parents, instead of blaming ourselves, we start taking sides with the abused child we once were...

But other times? When sie has what's called in psych parlance an "external locus of control?" That's wight, wabbit. Sie turns around and inflicts the abuse--yep, that word--on hir own kids, and calls it "discipline" or "the way things ought to be."

Or--sie might or might not have kids. And instead/in addition sie becomes, o I don't know, a police officer, or a teacher. Or a preacher. Or a politician. Or a talking head. Or a filmmaker. Or a judge.

The personal, indeed, is political.

And so we come back full circle to Shaquanda Cotton. And yes, institutionalized racism is very much an enormous part of this. Separate from what family-level, intimate abuse and even what Miller calls "poisonous pedagogy," perhaps...and yet, not unrelated.

Because the authoritarianism, and particularly right-wing authoritarianism is the common denominator:

The current study investigated the relations among fundamentalism, authoritarianism, homosexual bias, and racist attitudes. Thirty men and 90 women from a small midwestern university participated. Results indicated a positive correlation among the 4 bias variables: fundamentalism, authoritarianism, homosexual discrimination, and racism. Fundamentalism was positively correlated with authoritarianism, which in turn was positively correlated with racism and homosexual prejudice. ANOVAs of sex and religious denomination (conservative and moderate) found sex nonsignificant with regard to the 4 bias variables. Significant differences of denominational category were found for authoritarianism and homosexual prejudice within the conservative denominational category. Religious self-ratings and church attendance were positively correlated with all bias variables except racism. Results support the previous research of the fundamentalism-authoritarianism-racism relationship. Authoritarian tendency and selectivity bias are discussed as possible explanations for these results.


Right-wing authoritarianism (RWA) is a psychological personality variable or "ideological attitude".

It is defined as the convergence of three attitudinal clusters in an individual:

1. Authoritarian submission — a high degree of submission to the authorities who are perceived to be established and legitimate in the society in which one lives. "It is good to have a strong authoritarian leader."
2. Authoritarian aggression — a general aggressiveness, directed against various persons, that is perceived to be sanctioned by established authorities. "It is acceptable to be cruel to those who do not follow the rules."
3. Conventionalism — a high degree of adherence to the social conventions that are perceived to be endorsed by society and its established authorities. "Traditional ways are best."

and thus is it that one can see the convergence of all these factors in sentiments such as the one expressed by yet another commenter back at the Anti-Essentialist Conundrum thread:

unknown Mar 26th, 2007 at 5:53 pm

To Shaquanda Cotton,

I am so glad to see you get the support and attention that you need. Too bad you did not have that the first 14 years of your life. Maybe some of these people will come to Paris and try to do the same for the rest of your family. Maybe they can provide a place for people like you and your siblings so you can get the help you all deserve. Let them pray that they can find positive activities, besides getting high on the front porch or feeling that you need to be with any guy that shows you the lest bit of attention. I really hope you can bring yourself to ask God to help you in times of you and your family needs, and please don’t forget to ask him for the wisdom you need to get through this. I too will have this entire town in my prayers.

As commenter Taceo notes in response,

It is that mindset that gets situations like the one at hand.


Anonymous said...

This type of behavior has been progressing from her for years, you have to wonder where it would go if left unchecked.

Wasn't this why we invaded Iraq?

I guess the judge figured that a 14-year-old black girl who shoves someone threatening is more likely to become a criminal than a 14-year-old white arsonist, and must therefore be imprisoned pre-emptively. I assume the seven-year sentence was based on the crimes she was so clearly *about* to commit.

It all makes perfect sense.

Sweet Jesus fuck, when am I going to have a country that doesn't make me hang my head in shame?

Anonymous said...

I know you're trying to get out of this business, but I still thought that I'd inflict this very interesting Heart quote on you:

Exactly. The penis is where the weapon is. Racism is about hierarchicalizing the owners of the penises (as is classism, ableism, etc.). Once the penis can no longer be used as a weapon, the hierarchies to shore up that particular usage become meaningless.

belledame222 said...

what an epic maroon.

Anonymous said...

The whole discussion where that was said is absolutely fascinating, but I thought that that was more broadly interesting what with the Michfest controversies that continue apace.

belledame222 said...

but, yeah, what I didn't get into in the main body of the post: of course, there is in fact also -left- wing authoritarianism. or well, Heart for one doesn't actually consider herself "left." but y'know, the MIM folks, f'r instance.

it's a curious phenomenon, because -in theory- it's supposed to be the polar opposite of y'know fascism/right wing authoritarianism. certainly on the surface they're supposed to be against everything the rightwingers stand for: racism, sexism, etc. certainly; less simple, hierarchy, and abuse of power, or maybe power, period.

and yet, in a lot of those cases, at least for the ones who aren't actually wielding any sort of political power (once you get to the level of an actual Stalin or Mao one needs new rationalizations), the only difference between them and the right-wing authoritarians is that they don't cop to their need for strict control and authority.

eventually it does all become kind of a blur, though.

and frankly, no matter what dogma you use, as long as you're elevating it, along with the severely truncated, stereotyped understanding of human nature, over the experience and voice of actual people--sooner or later, you ARE going to be engaging in some kind of gross institutionalized oppression/scapegoating. Viz: the transgender business wrt Heart & co. You can't NOT be a bigot of -some- sort if your Theory Of Everything is -so- rigid that the very -existence- of people who don't fit into it is far more disposable than any part of the worldview.

belledame222 said...

...actually, on closer inspection, i'm not even sure that quote is English. What?

Anonymous said...

...actually, on closer inspection, i'm not even sure that quote is English. What?

The gun is good. The penis is evil.

belledame222 said...

no, in her case it's more, "the penis is father to the gun." or something.

Central Content Publisher said...

Yeah, that about hits the nail on the head. When a perceived challenge to authority is itself viewed as a crime, we have some serious problems.

I don't really know enough to say much about the Shaquanda case. Certainly, 7 years for assault seems extreme, but I don't know how unusual it is in Texas, or if it's unusual with that judge. Here, there's a five year maximum sentence for assault - is seven years the maximum there? I do know that generally people who defend themselves receive much higher sentences than people who plead guilty. Around here it averages about three times greater. So, were she convicted here, in all likelihood she would have gotten 3 years probation, or maybe 3 months detension depending on the mood of the judge. Higher if the defendant doesn't show any convincing signs of remorse.

As you know, proving a racial angle is always difficult. Someone needs to look at previous cases from that particular judge, and a jurisdiction wide look at what's customary sentencing for people who plead guilty versus people who plead innocent. For the conviction itself, you'd have to compare this conviction with other assault cases, again, for this judge and the jurisdiction in general.

Whatever the biases are, there's certainly a common sense problem with sentencing someone to 7 years for simple assault - much less a child. If it's not the result of a racial prejudice, there's still a problem there.

As far as I know, justice systems across the board value aquiesence, submission and remorse above all other concerns. A lot like bad parenting.

nem0 said...

"However, when, as a child he began showing cruelty to animals (something common in human nature), the monster wasn't restrained"

Whaaat. I want to see some statistics on that, otherwise I'm going to assume the writer of the comment is the sort of person who wants to harm animals and thinks pretending that's natural makes him less of a bad person.

Anonymous said...

no, in her case it's more, "the penis is father to the gun." or something.

I really just wanted an excuse to use that clip...

belledame222 said...

nem0--whoa, i'd blipped over that little tidbit. and...yeah.

i suppose it's possible he's conflating, like, stepping on beetles with torturing pets; but even so. given the entire context i'm not that inclined to give him much benefit of the doubt.

belledame222 said...

ccp--I don't understand why a fourteen year old is -in jail-, period, frankly. Full-on JAIL, not even juvie; and for what? for shoving a hall monitor. I can't see -any- sort of incarceration, esp. at that age, for anything short of, you know, murder, rape, serious violence (repeat offenses thereof), arson, torturing animals...-something-.

actually this bit by the commenter at Sylvia's was illuminating:

Kids pushing kids is one thing, but when they are bold enough to push elderly teachers to the floor, that’s different and it doesn’t happen everyday.

As Bint notes, the teacher was hardly "elderly" (shoving a clearly frail senior so that sie broke a bone or something would be something else, of course); what's telling here is, this whole, kids shove kids every day, but an authority figure, well that's DIFFERENT.

Which, first of all, no, not all kids DO shove kids every day, and why would that be any better?

and second, the part where the monitor apparently raised a hand to the child first--doesn't seem to matter.

Don't hit authority.

Not, don't hurt the -vulnerable-.

But, don't attack authority. Period.

What kind of a message is that?

But yeah, it's no wonder that someone who thinks like that would be fine with the idea of the state coming in even harder.

Make 'em submit, bottom line.

This is -not- what democracy is about. Not at the micro level, and not at the macro level either. Yes, -authority- may well be necessary in certain limited circumstances, but that shouldn't mean that the person in authority has leeway to do whatever sie wants without challenge to those below. If anything, the person in a position of authority has MORE responsibility to those more vulnerable.

I mean, seriously, if it had been the other way around? Would the hall monitor have gotten seven years? -Maybe- in some places, in some circumstances (and yeah, that still would've been way harsh); but...well, I don't know if Texas is one of them, but you know that in-school physical discipline is still legal in some states, right?

belledame222 said...

per the racist angle--as eli notes above, this same judge sentences a white 14 year old -arsonist- to--what was it? probation? anyway, -not- seven years in jail.

and again, the commenter's defense of this was illuminating: well, the mother protested the idea of probation! what else was the judge supposed to do??

The other sites i linked to above, there are a number of people who talk about the overall racial context and compare it to similar cases in the area--Temple3 and brownfemipower (in the comments at Sylvia's), for two. There's no doubt at all in my mind that this is racism. But, as you say, even without that aspect, it'd still be deeply fucked up.

belledame222 said...

btw, welcome, nem0.

belledame222 said...

oh yeah, there's this for comparison, at Chitlins & Chopsticks

In March of last year, fourteen-year-old Shaquanda Cotton was sentenced to 7 years in prison for shoving a white hall monitor at her Paris, Texas school. The adult monitor says he was not seriously injured.

“A 19-year-old white man, convicted last July of criminally negligent homicide for killing a 54-year-old black woman and her 3-year-old grandson with his truck, who was sentenced in Paris [same city] to probation and required to send an annual Christmas card to the victims' family.”

Shaquanda is a first time offender. She has no prior arrest record. She did cause no serious injury, but that didn’t matter.

Now she spends her days and nights at Brownwood Prison trying to stay out of reach of the 2,500, murders, robbers, sex offenders and other violent, habitual offenders she is imprisoned with. She has tried to commit suicide to escape her nightmare.

Just three months earlier, the same judge who sentenced Shaquanda sentenced a 14-year-old white girl, convicted of arson for burning down her family's house, to probation.

Central Content Publisher said...

I don't understand why a fourteen year old is -in jail-, period - belledame222

Either do I, and yet, I do. On the one hand, a kid I knew when -I- was a kid spent 5 years in juvie for skipping school. This still doesn't make sense to me. It basically made him insane. I liked him, but he was homicidal. On the other hand, he was homicidal and something had to be done about him. As it turns out, he of course got arrested again, but this time he was sent on this special program (I can't remember what it was called, but they took him way up north and taught him wilderness survival). He came back a completely different person. In the best possible way.

So, I can understand the need to put a fourteen year old in jail. I just don't understand why jail is the choice of action. Know what I mean?

well, the mother protested the idea of probation! what else was the judge supposed to do?? - belledame222

That's what I was talking about with increased sentencing for people who fight the charge. Of course, the rational is usually that lighter sentences are given to confessors to encourage confessions. But the reality is also that people want to make a corrective strike for daring to protest the justice you deserve!

I wouldn't be at all surprised if racial bias was part of the mix. In fact, I would be most pleased if such a thing was uncovered. I just like to encourage an assembly of solid evidence. I'm gunna go peruse the work people have done digging up evidence.

I should add, if I sometimes sound like someone who's in denial, it's because I've had some experience actually having to prove this stuff. I help a friend of mine document and trace hate graffiti (mostly racist and homophobic stuff, swastikas and the like) across our city. Then we bug the authorities to remove it (which they don't because they're lazy and corrupt and racist), then we squeal on them to newspapers and magazines who go interview them. Because these folks are corrupt and lazy they make lame racist excuses. The last one was, I kid you not, "when someone paints a swastika, we can't know if they intended it in a hateful way." We then go to still more papers and magazines with these quotes, and federal level legislators and get THEM to comment on it. I'm sure you see where this is going...

The problem is, these sort of people operate within a closed loop of coruption. You need something as simple as graffiti, something undeniable, something literally "written on the wall" to trap them into exposing themselves.

Probably, might be, sure looks like, just isn't good enough. Know what I mean?

belledame222 said...

well, i think the compare-n-contrast of the other cases is pretty damn glaring. read Temple3's post, too, for more context wrt Paris.

Central Content Publisher said...

It certainly is!

But there's still wiggle room there. How are other cases against city officials treated? How are violent versus non-violent crimes handled (negligent homicide and arson aren't actually violent crimes in the same way as assault)? Did the lighter sentenced people plead guilty or innocent? The comparisons I've seen so far are still too arbitrary.

Still, I think there's enough evidence to warrant AT LEAST an official investigation.

ok... I'm gunna run off and read more!

belledame222 said...

oh CHRIST. god love her; now her father's just died.

bint alshamsa said...

I feel a bit bad that this guy has gotten me so fired up over on Sylvia's post. I've been trying to write about what you've been saying with regards to authoritarianism but I haven't been able to because it's just such a painful topic for me. I grew up in a family with the same twisted "moral values" as the ones Steve was advocating. Reading what you quoted about fundamentalism being positively co-related with authoritarianism literally made me cry. In particular, it brought back the memory of the first "whipping" that VanGoghGirl got. I'm sorely tempted to call it something else because I recognize that the term "whipping" sounds so bad and this particular incident doesn't even compare to the real whippings that we received as children.

Anyway, we (my family) were sitting in church--it was actually a "Kingdom Hall" because we were Jehovah's Witnesses--and I was sitting next to my mother. VanGoghGirl who was around six months old was in my arms. We stood up for the prayer that was held in the middle of the service. VanGoghGirl was none too happy to be jarred from the comfortable position that she'd been lying in. She reached up and flailed her arms towards me. Her hand hit me in the mouth. Before I could even react, my mother had reached out and slapped VanGoghGirl on the hand. It was hard enough to sound off in the mostly quiet church. VanGoghGirl immediately burst into tears and screams. My mother took her from my arms and put her hand over VanGoghGirl's mouth and whisked her off to the bathroom to deal with her there. Like a coward, I didn't even follow her.

I don't think it's just a coincidence that this all occurred in the place where we received constant messages touting the benefits of blind obedience and the need for harsh disciplinary methods in order to prompt the sinner into a state of repentance. I wish I'd have had the courage to leave sooner than I did.

belledame222 said...

I'm sorry that triggered you, Bint. for the record, I don't think you were all that harsh on him, at least last i checked.

and you know: we all do the best we can. at least you're aware of it and trying to go a different way.

even those methods, you know: they serve a purpose, i expect, in their way: it's what people know, and it's used in order to survive in a harsh environment. what it is now is, old habits that no longer serve us.


They fuck you up, your mom and dad
They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
And add some extra, just for you.

But they were fucked up in their turn
By fools in old-stylen hats and coats,
Who half the time were soppy-stern
And half at one another's throats...

(I don't post Larkin's last verse because i don't agree with his conclusions. it be the verse, though, alright)

Central Content Publisher said...

Aw Bint, that completely sucks. I know totally what you're talking about.

When I was a little kid, my mother used to do this thing where she would grab my shoulders and shake me so that my head would whip back and forth while she screamed in my face (or neck depending). It ended when I was six because I punched her in the face. Then I had to live with having punched my mother in the face. It just feels like you can't win sometimes.

belledame222 said...

you were six. you were defending yourself. you did win, as best you could. there's no blame in what you did then.

Central Content Publisher said...

hahaha, yeah. I know that now. It took me awhile to figure it out though. My Mom knows it too. Actually, she could have really done me in if she wanted to, but she didn't. I think I sort of snapped her out of it. The look on her face was... realization. I found out much later she had been HEAVILY abused as a child (she left home at 13 in the fifties - that's hardcore). So, yeah, it's all good now. We look back and laugh. But, you know, a child's mind can't deal with that stuff. At least, mine couldn't.

belledame222 said...

no child's mind can, i'm fairly certain.

belledame222 said...

...oh, yah, sure enough, there he goes breakin' out the Proverbs. "spare the rod and spoil the child." sigh. well, there you are, i guess.

Jennifer said...

good post!

belledame222 said...