Foster care is no place for Black children.
The April police shooting of 16-year-old Ma’Khia Bryant was an absolute tragedy. By now, we have all become aware of the scene that played out moments before Ma’Khia was shot dead: Bryant was approached by “grown girls” who threatened her. Police were called. Upon arriving at the scene, police shot Bryant four times, killing her, a Black girl who was defending herself with a knife.
We now understand that Ma’Khia Bryant’s was a Black teenager in foster care and try to contextualize the situation that led to her death. But to truly understand the modern-day child welfare system, Dorothy E. Roberts, J.D., a professor of law, Africana Studies and sociology at the University of Pennsylvania says that we must examine chattel slavery in the United States.
“I start by going all the way back to slavery and the enslavement of Black families in the United States, because during that system, white enslavers put themselves in the position of being in control of the entire plantation family, which included Black parents and children.”
Roberts, who is also the author of Shattered Bonds: The Color of Child Welfare, says the fact that Black families were seen as property enabled slave owners to rip them apart with no remorse.
Fast forward to the present, and the child welfare system and foster care still breaks families apart. In fact, Black children are disproportionately represented in the foster care system in the United States.
Bryant’s death is due to many failures in the American system—from policing to the racist ideologies that cause Bryant (and other Black girls, for that matter) to be perceived as a threat: “less innocent and more adult-like” than white girls. But the child welfare system is indeed broken.
See the entire episode of Unpack That with author, attorney and professor Dorothy E. Roberts above.