The horrific articles that tell of three children left in a terribly horrific situation in a Harris County Texas apartment complex fending for themselves while the body of their 8-year-old brother Kendrick Lee, covered in a blanket, rotted in a closet brought back terrible memories for Stacey Patton, who was adopted as a child herself and runs stories in an effort to advocate for children.
Stacey Patton is a journalist, child advocate, PhD., and author of Spare the Kids: Why Whupping Children Won’t Save Black America and the forthcoming Strung Up: The Lynching of Black Children in Jim Crow America, and now It takes a village to beat and murder a child.
Seeing the news reports about the unbelievably horrific case of child abuse including the murder of a sibling child inside the West Oaks Apartments in Harris County Texas where another child, an 8-year-old sibling was found dead brought back memories for Stacey Patton who expressed her thoughts on Yahoo yesterday saying,
“When I read about the Harris County case, it brought back my own childhood nightmares. My adoptive mother abused and beat me long before this pandemic. And the village failed me just as it failed the children in this Texas horror story. My neighbors, teachers, the people at church, and family members all knew that my adoptive mother was abusive. They saw the bruises on my face. They witnessed how skinny and fearful I was. They all whispered about my abuse but took no action. Luckily, I survived.”
“I once asked an aunt, Why didn’t y’all try to protect me? Why didn’t you call social services or the police? That was our sister, she said. We didn’t know what to do. We didn’t want to see her go to jail. She was silent when I asked, What would you have done if she had killed me?” Patton added. “My aunt would have done exactly what the people in this Texas case did: admitted to seeing signs of abuse and expressed regret for not having helped”.
“This case is yet another horrible example of how many people turn a blind eye to the abuse of Black children. How could their mother not only fail to protect her own children from her violent boyfriend, but abandon those who survived his attacks? How could she keep coming to the apartment to drop off food, but never seek help? Never call or ask anyone to help? How did this tragedy happen?”
“How could the neighbors have been so disconnected? How could they see a thin Black teenager begging for food, sleeping outdoors, smelling a foul odor coming from his apartment and not call the cops? Did they fail to act because they are accustomed to accepting the suffering of Black children who are impoverished, unkempt, starving, and abandoned? Is the adults’ fear of the police, child protective services—the system—so deep-rooted and pervasive that even this situation would have them enabling the suffering rather than reaching out to authorities to try to end it?”
And then she begins trying to make everything make sense by “connecting factors”, beginning with “The larger ecosystem of oppression and anti-Blackness that drive all systems in this country”. And then she expressed her “what if” thought; “But what if the system isn’t the biggest threat to young Black life?”
Realizing that society is not perfect and that people often avoid getting involved even in life threatening situations, she went back to asking herself questions about why the black community is at such a high risks for injustices to happen.
“The tragic reality is that Black children are more at risk of being seriously injured or killed by their own parents than by the police. Between 2013 to 2018, 41 Black children were killed by police in the United States, according to data from The Washington Post’s “Fatal Force” police shooting database. During that same period, 2,389 Black children were killed by their parents as a result of maltreatment, according to annual data published by the Children’s Bureau. Not that the police murders are at all justified. But we can’t ignore the fact that 2,345 more Black children were killed by their parents than by police. This is an issue that we must face.”
I have to wonder though how many of the parents of the children were killed by biological parents? Stepparents? foster parents? and adoptive parents? Congress really should define family so that we are all on the same page. I think of family as a biological unit but many do not and include complete strangers in the definition of family, often by referring to complete strangers in foster homes and adoptive settings where courts are increasingly forcing children to live.
Did Gloria Williams adopt the children? Was she a foster parent? Or are the children her biological children? I have asked several people investigating the case and none seem to know. Brian Coulter is always mentioned as the “mother’s boyfriend” whom she lived with, 15 minutes away from where the three children with their 8-year-old brother Kendrick Lee rotting in a closet were found.
Stacey continues to look for answers and try to connect the dots, but unforntunately child abuse never makes sense. “Child abuse is becoming more normalized as digital content featuring children being humiliated, shamed, verbally and physically abused spreads via social media. Like this recent video of a Black mother treating her son like a prison inmate. She has him stock shelves with his favorite junk food snacks, shown with price tags she has created, saying that he must pay for his “commissary” with good behavior until he is off punishment”, Stacey adds.
“Or this viral video of a mother saying, So you have a disturbed son, a very bad-ass child who don’t like to listen and don’t think that you can send them to jail? You bring the jail to your home. Stacey goes on to say that “She (the woman in the video) shows her young child sitting on a mattress that’s wedged into a closet. Inmate Johnson, what is your number? The woman demands, as the clearly terrified child boys responds by reciting a number and the rules of his imprisonment.”
“I realize that these mothers might be parenting with the only tools available to them, based on how they were parented, and on the realities of their environments. But these approaches—and the compulsion to share them publicly—is a sad reminder that this country’s racist system has too many Black people on cruise control, doing its dirty multigenerational trauma work for it. These mothers are grooming their sons to feed them straight into the belly of the beast. If their own mothers are convinced that they are inherently criminal, destined for life behind bars, what chances do these children have to thrive? To grow into healthy adults? Why are their own mothers criminalizing them?”
And Stacey is probably right. The mothers in those videos could have been raised in juvenile detentions, group homes, or foster and adoptive placements where that kind of parenting is acceptable and all that some children will ever experience, and then when they grow up and have children of their own they have no idea of what parenting should look like or what it takes to raise a child. Social services child protection workers usually step in to take those children and place them in the broken systems too. The family never heals. They never get the chance.
Stacey makes many good points about today’s parenting culture, but Stacey goes on to blame the problem on “Black parenting”, when the real issue is that the system has broken so many family ties and caused so much trauma that many young people today do not even know who their family is or where they belong, much less what parenting should look like, or even the chance to know what it is like to be loved and cared for by people.
Stacey Patton Spare the Kids #NoHittingChallenge….