The 16-year old Black girl who was trounced upon by a sheriff’s deputy at Spring Valley High School in Columbia, South Carolina is anonymous, but we are learning much more about how she has suffered and what she continues to endure—not only as a police brutality victim, but as an orphan as well.
According to her attorney, Todd Rutherford, the girl, who was attacked and assaulted by now-former officer Ben Fields, has sustained injuries on her face, neck and arm, as reported by Shaun King of the New York Daily News. Further, in addition to her physical injuries, she is suffering from trauma and emotional devastation as a victim of police brutality, but also as a recent orphan who lost her mother and grandmother. Now, her foster mother is trying to protect her. And certainly Spring Valley High did not protect this Black girl, in a nation that shows contempt and callousness towards Black children, and regards them not as children at all.
Throughout the news media and online social networks, white conservatives and white supremacists– quick to find fault with the Black community and citing a lack of morals, values and discipline, poor upbringing and “no respect for authority”—scapegoated this traumatized, brutalized, grief-stricken girl and called her everything but a child of God. She was dismissed as a “bad girl” and “problem child” by those who know nothing about her or her situation. They said she deserved everything that came to her because she failed to comply with the master’s—or rather the deputy’s–orders.
These are the devastating consequences when Black children do not receive the benefit of the doubt—and far too often they do not. This is particularly in the case of the callous judgment of white America, though some Black people, so used to operating under white supremacy by remote control, have internalized the racism to the extent that they, too find fault with this young Black girl for her own victimization. Moreover, this applies not only to Black orphans such as this girl, but children whose families are ensnared in a cycle of poverty, hard times or homelessness, those who come from broken homes, or who grow up traumatized by violence.
As Ricky Jones, chair of Pan-African Studies at the University of Louisville, noted in the Courier-Journal, various negative stereotypes are heaped upon Black people, such as “criminal-minded, lazy, unintelligent, violent, irresponsible, untrustworthy, whorish.”
One attribute not mentioned, Jones notes, is Black forgiveness, which is being sorely tested in the wake of this assault, one that once again highlights the violence against Black bodies. The labels whites have used against Blacks since the 1600s, all pointing to Blacks as animals, was absolutely necessary for a nation built on racial violence and marginalization of Black folks, Jones argues. After all, how else could the white American mind justify the savage treatment inherent in the institution of slavery.
“Humans simply could not treat other humans so brutally in good conscience,” he said. “Therefore, blacks had to be seen as something ‘other than’ or ‘less than’ human.”
In the eyes of the greater society, then, and now, Black people, but also Black children, are meant to be beaten. And we see this mentality in the white American psyche today, with every new case of a Black woman, man or child found dead or wounded in police custody. There is a respect for the bully mentality, a rush to protect the abuser, the police officer involved, and to render the Black victim a beast, a miscreant, a criminal who was up to no good and ultimately, deserved to lose his or her life, or suffer from the physical injuries.
As Malcolm X said, “once the white public is convinced that most of the Negro community is a criminal element, then this automatically paves the way for the police to move into the Negro community exercising Gestapo tactics, stopping any black man who is on the sidewalk, whether he is guilty or whether he is innocent. As long as he is black and a member of the Negro community the white public thinks that the white policeman is justified in going in there and trampling on that man’s civil rights and on that man’s human rights.”
In the meantime, schools are supposed to uplift and inspire our children to the greatness within them, not dehumanize, humiliate or physically harm them. But with police thugs and all the trappings of a penitentiary, our public schools are preparing students for nothing but a future of incarceration and violence.
So, a Black girl at Spring Vale High is suffering through layers of trauma–as a Black child growing up in a racist society that plots and plans for her failure, and a victim of police violence who also lost her family and is living in the foster care system.
What Deputy Ben Fields did to this young girl should not happen to any child at all, and yet we know it happens to Black girls time and time again. And this generally does not happen to white girls in America because it would not be tolerated. This absence of compassion comes because they do not view her, view Blacks, as human.