Saturday, August 16, 2008

The White Woman Knows Best

I've wanted to write about this story since I first saw it, but the gods of late payments intervened. So if it has already been written about in the blogosphere, forgive me.

Rhonda Tavey, a white woman from Houston, took in the kids of a Katrina survivor while their mother tried to get her life back on track. When the mother, Erica Alphonse, decided that she wanted to go home to New Orleans instead of staying in Houston, Tavey kidnapped the children. See, Tavey is a good white lady who had enough sense not to lose everything in a giant natural disaster. She obviously knows better than their poor black mother what is good for these kids. Can't you see that? I mean their mother is black after all, and she has 5 kids. And she's poor. Obviously a middle class white lady would be a better mother than a poor black one. Obviously she has more right to claim these children as her property, she's white after all.

Since the dawn of colonization, white people have been stealing the children of black or brown women on the basis of "improving" the lives of the children. In this country we sent Native kids to schools far from home where any sense of their own history and value was beaten out of them. And now women of color are much more likely to have their kids placed in state custody than white women are. For the good of the children, you know.

The extremes are shocking. I was a foster kid. And I had been trying to get out of my mother's house for years before anything was done about it. Abuse didn't get me out of her clutches. Neglect didn't do it. I wasn't taken out of the house until she spent a good 6 months threatening to commit suicide while I hid the kitchen knives. I only escaped because she was hospitalized. But she was white, as long as she was physically in the house then she must not be that bad, right? If she had been brown, I probably would have been taken away much sooner for much smaller offenses. The first time she left me at school and didn't pick me up might have done it. The first time she threw me out of the house might have done it. Any number of horrible things might have done it. But in the end it was the locking doors of a mental hospital that got me out, but only for a little while.

We take the children of WOC when all they really need to be a successful family is financial help, a safe house, an education, medical treatment for the crushing depression that comes from a life of poverty, transportation and a good job. We leave white children in places where they are kept in closets full of filth and excrement. Think about that the next time someone says we are in a post racial society. The white is right attitude that still permeates our country does actual physical damage to fragile kids of all colors.It leaves white children in dangerous situations and crushes families of black children that could be fixed with a little money and help.

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