If We Would Think

Sometimes, I wonder what the world would be like if people would just stop and think.

There is such a “rush to judgment” when it comes to minority kids, especially black and brown kids. The overall, prevailing attitude of most whites and many blacks is that black and brown kids are just bad seeds, kids who are to be expected to be behavior problems. That same attitude presupposes that black and brown kids are not as intelligent, not as capable as white kids. Never mind the conditions of their schools, or the environments they live in. In fact, that prevailing attitude kind of blames the victims for their conditions.

The powers that be put those opinions out and the world buys into them. Michelle Alexander, in her book, The New Jim Crow, explains how the Reagan-initiated “War on Drugs” helped legitimize that attitude as cops swept into black and brown neighborhoods and began arresting and imprisoning young men for drug possession and use – while ignoring drug possession and use in white neighborhoods. Ah, that steady stream of black youth going to jail for being “bad” kids, using drugs, helped feed the opinions about them that were already in existence.

But I digress. What if people stopped and thought, for just a moment, leaving the propensity to judge aside and considering some things that few consider?

Today I learned about a little black kid who has been diagnosed as having autism. He is fortunate in that he has parents who realized that something was wrong and who had the resources to take their child to get tested. But it occurs to me that so many poor black and brown kids who are labeled “bad,” and who are channeled into what Marian Wright Edelman has called the “Cradle to Prison” pipeline, are really kids with physical and perhaps emotional issues that never get treated.

When I think about how many white kids, or kids whose parents have resources, are diagnosed as having seeing problems or hearing problems or metabolic problems, and who must be treated for those maladies, I shudder, because it is clear to me that just as many black and brown kids have the same conditions but never get diagnosed or treated. What happens to a kid who is having strokes because he or she has sickle cell anemia? What happens to the child who cannot hear, or who has a heart condition? Kids cannot often explain what is wrong; they act out, but it hits me that when these kids, many of whom are in need of medical attention, act out, they are labeled as bad, are sent to the principal’s office, and after that, probably ignored. What happens to the kid who has a bad tooth but cannot afford to go to the dentist? Have you ever had a toothache? How does a child handle a pain that not only will not go away, but gets worse?

If we would stop and think…I wonder what this world would be like? I wonder how many kids who grow up angry and sick would grow up better adjusted and well and more equipped to handle this world. Maybe if we could think past our preconceptions, we could also think our way to solutions so that these kids would have a fighting chance at a decent life.

Just a candid observation.

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