Last week a young black girl in South Carolina was slammed, while still at her desk, to the floor, by a grown man – a police officer in fact – and then dragged across the floor and thrown again. It continues to upset me. It’s more than any child should have to endure. I don’t care what they’ve said or done, or not.
I’ve read a lot of comments from white people defending Deputy Ben Fields and blaming or shaming the girl. I’ve read that she got what was coming to her. She shouldn’t have been disruptive. She should have asked for help if something was wrong. She should have saved herself.
Even though these types of comments are mind blowing to me, I understand that white privilege and racism make it very difficult for blackness to be treated or viewed humanely.
But how about the black people who say and think the same things? Who, like one black father whose comments I read, feel that a black child who endures the type of violence our baby sister in South Carolina did, deserves even more of the same once they get home? What does that say about our mentality? Are we so wrapped up in concerns about respectability, and control, and patriarchy, and power, that we really believe our children require, even deserve violence when they don’t do as we say?
I’ve been thinking a lot about all of the things many of us like to say when our children don’t behave (because these things were said to us): I’ll hurt you; I’ll slap the taste out of your mouth; I’ll knock you into the middle of next week; I’ll snatch you up, and so forth. What’s the difference between the violence we threaten and often mete out because of minor infractions committed by our children that challenge our sense of control and our manhood and our sense of safety and security, and the violence that was committed against that young South Carolina teen?
If we can be outraged by how she was treated, but back slap or punch our own children, what in the world are we saying? And if you’re black and not outraged by what happened in South Carolina, if you can’t see that that young girl was abused and deprived of any type of love or understanding in the moments leading up to and at the point that police officer picked her up as if he were wrestling with an animal and body slammed her down – if that doesn’t offend your sense of decency and compassion and humanity, then I don’t know what to say other than you may just be a part of the problem.
Our children are children. Yes, they need instruction, and direction. Yes, they need to learn respect and to acknowledge and follow authority. But they also need our unconditional love and protection, even when they’re wrong. They require and deserve that. And I’m telling you, if we don’t wrap our arms around our babies and at least offer up home as that space in their lives where they know they’re safe, loved and appreciated, we’re setting them up for trauma.
In fact, we’re their oppressors just as much as anyone else who might do them harm. Violence is violence. It’s either ok all the time, or not at all. We can’t have it both ways.