Last summer I enrolled my son in robotics camp. Though we live in an almost exclusively black neighborhood in a city with a predominately black population, he was one of only two black children at the camp, a fact that made me apprehensive to say the least. When I went to pick him up on the last day of the first week, one of the counselors asked to speak to me. She told me that my baby had gotten into a little shoving match with one of the other children. “Because he’s a big boy we want him to be mindful that he could hurt others easily, especially kids who are smaller than him.”
Now my son was just shy of his 7th birthday at the time. Because of the birthdate, grade and age requirements, I was positive that he was one of the youngest, if not the youngest child there. I asked her if she knew how the shoving match started and found out that the other boy had pushed my son because my son had refused to give him a Lego he wanted. Fuming, I replied, “The fact that my baby is bigger and possibly stronger than him should have been a fact the other child considered before turning violent. I’m 5’11 and my son’s father is 6’3. My son is tall because of genetics. He won’t be penalized for that. Special expectations for my 6-year-old based on DNA won’t happen.” That was the last day my son ever went to that camp.
As the mother of a black child, I am hypervigilant about my son being perceived as an adult prematurely. A recent study which found that on average, black children were perceived to be more than four years older than they actually were only reaffirmed what I already knew first hand: Black children are afforded abbreviated childhoods at best. Couple that unfortunate phenomenon with research proving that white people believe that black people experience less pain, or at least have a higher threshold, and the results are detrimental — often fatal — for black children. And through a strategic mix of propaganda touted as scientifically-sound research, fear-mongering, and historical brainwashing, black people have been billed as some hybrid of human physiology and mystical strength, having the effect of branding us simultaneously sub and super human.
So when a Presidential candidate has promoted a devastating stereotype, the people damaged by her rhetoric have no duty to forgive.
During a now infamous speech at Keene State, Hillary Clinton championed the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act stating, “They are not just gangs of kids anymore. They are often the kinds of kids that are called ‘super-predators.’ No conscience, no empathy. We can talk about why they ended up that way, but first we have to bring them to heel.”Despite her skillful employment of the political strategy of using ambiguous language, Clinton’s message was crystal clear for her intended audience. The “they” Mrs. Clinton alluded to were black boys.
When Princeton political scientist John I. DuLulio, Jr. published “The Coming of the Super-Predators” in 1995, his language was anything but ambiguous. The article was a catastrophic cocktail of pseudoscience, racism and religious dogma warning society that a new brand of marauders was emerging. After declaring that the “surge in violent youth crime has been most acute among black inner-city males,” DuLulio went on to explain how “the demographic bulge of the next l0 years will unleash an army of young male predatory street criminals who will make even the leaders of the Bloods and Crips — known as O.G.s, for ‘original gangsters’ — look tame by comparison.”
With such seemingly Hollywood-script inspired narratives, DuLulio provided a citable source for Americans already primed to fear black boys — the purse-clutching, door-locking, “Hello, police, there’s a suspicious looking man in my neighborhood type — to validate their fears. The article not only confirmed that black boys were as violent and morally-bankrupt as white America believed, but that birth rates and aging ensured these boys without conscience or compassion would grow to men more dangerous and ruthless than we’d ever seen, whilst boys then in preschool entered adolescence and began their descent into violent predators. That was the unspoken understanding the then First Lady relied upon.
In the twenty years between the day she uttered these words back in January of 1996 and when a protestor confronted her about her violent rhetoric at a Fundraiser this past February, Clinton has never denounced the fiber of her statement. And for all her backtracking and convenient regret, the fact remains that Hillary Clinton used the thinly-veiled phrasing to brand black children. When called out for her use of the shameful term, Clinton responded, “Looking back, I shouldn’t have used those words, and I wouldn’t use them today.” Even with her campaign in full swing when her entire mission is to secure votes, including the votes of the black people she sacrificed with her recklessness, she still didn’t apologize and condemn her actions. Expression of regret for the way you said it doesn’t equate to an apology for the sentiment.
The societal impact of the belief that black people are anything other than human cannot be overstated. The theory that black people possess super strength goes back centuries. Enslaved black people were tortured medically under the frighteningly faulty logic that lacked the ability to have the complex range of feelings and emotions that comprise pain while possessing a similar enough genetic structure to white people – true humans – to make us ideal subjects for horrific experimentation. Black people have been sacrificed, healthy bodies literally cut open without even the benefit of anesthesia. Black people have been made guinea pigs without their knowledge as they were purposely infected with life-threatening diseases so that the effects of such diseases could be studied on the human body. Black people have been deliberately exposed to fatal levels of radiation because of endorsements and permissions granted by powerful political figures like Hillary Clinton. So her opportune remorse could never be enough.
As First Lady, Mrs. Clinton had no problem capitalizing on the fear the myth of the super-predator provoked. Support for her husband’s Crime Bill was buttressed by those words she shouldn’t have used. Those words helped convince the public that the criminals the bill targeted were unprecedented in their potential damage because they were of a different breed. Such monstrously irresponsible language has disastrous penalties for its subjects, as a society already trained to “other” black people continues to cling to the idea that we are naturally aggressors and thus, excessive, unusual and deadly force is not only justifiable but expected. This kind of thinking puts targets on the backs of black people, most relevantly black children.
Jordan Davis was a super-predator to Michael Dunn. A 17-year-old boy sitting unarmed in the backseat of a vehicle posed such a threat that a grown man fired into the vehicle blindly. Jordan and his friends were “not just gangs of kids” and Dunn was emboldened to “bring them to heel.”
Darren Wilson’s testimony to the Grand Jury in the case of 18-year-old Mike Brown echoes of the super-predator reference introduced to America by DuLulio and served up by Hillary Clinton. Describing his deadly encounter with the 6’4 nearly 300-pound teen Wilson recounted that after retreating, Brown “made like a grunting, like aggravated sound” and came back toward Wilson. Brown’s killer continued, “At this point it looked like he was almost bulking up to run through the shots, like it was making him mad that I’m shooting at him. And the face that he had was looking straight through me, like I wasn’t even there. I wasn’t even anything in his way.” Wilson’s testimony paints Brown as not merely a threat, but a force outside of human capability. Brown wore “the most intense aggressive face,” one Wilson could only describe as “likea demon.” Mike Brown could only be brought to heel with a hail of bullets.
My son is just 7-years-old. He now stands 4’11 and weighs more than 100 pounds. He’s already been marked. So forgive me if I don’t view Hillary Clinton’s weaponized jargon as a simple slip of the tongue. Where my baby’s life is literally at stake, I can’t afford it.