Terrified, 7 years old: Terrible things happen to children.
They drown in the Mediterranean, with their parents, trying to get to Europe. They see their parents killed by bombs as part of ill-conceived wars.
Some are raised by loving parents; others may be less lucky. In this country, who takes you home from the hospital after your birth? It's the ultimate luck of the draw.
In Monday's report, we posted a young woman's account of the trauma she experienced during her childhood and youth. "By the time I was 16, I had already experienced a lifetime of trauma," he had written in 2015. Her account proceeded from there.
She was 22 when she wrote the essay in question. It had been published by the Hartford Courant, directed at the operation of a certain Connecticut state agency.
As she told it her essay, that young person's story of trauma didn't have a racial or ethnic component. A report which had a baldly racial component did appear in yesterday's New York Times.
The Times report takes us back to the summer of '75. Had we been advising the victimized children in question, we would have advised them to view their experienced through this lens:
The Heartbreaking Dumbness of OthersIn this case, the others were a bunch of kids who had been told they were white. They'd also been told that they shouldn't like other kids who were black.
An utterly sad event ensued; it was captured on film or on tape. One year later, Bill Moyers broadcast a PBS program about it.
To watch a chunk of that deeply instructive tape, you can just click here. A longer chunk of videotape is provided within the Times report.
For our money, the faces of the "black" kids in question can teach you more than anything which appears in the Times report. We don't offer that as a criticism of the Times. We offer that as a remark on the power of human faces.
Those kids learned a very sad lesson that day concerning, among other things, the spectacular dumbness of others. It's a recurrent part of the lives of others, and not just in the former East Germany.
The kids who were offended against that day expressed themselves with great eloquence about what they had seen and heard. We especially recommend the eloquence of the girl who describes the parade they had stopped to watch as a "gathering." For a youngster of her age, she offered a nice choice of words.
Did trauma result from what happened that day? No such claim is made in the Times report, except at one point, in passing. Regarding what can be sen on the tape, we'd guess that some of the black kids had received a lot of "good home training" within their various homes.
By way of contrast, some of the spectacularly horrible white kids had plainly been poorly served. That doesn't mean that they're horrible today, but they certainly were back then.
We mention this because we recently read about a 7-year-old boy who was described as "terrified" and who said he wants to leave the United States. The essay in question appeared in Slate. The essay started like this:
MCDONALD (6/15/20): I was 14 when Rodney King was brutally beaten by Los Angeles Police Department officers. I had no thoughts of kids, or how a parent protects them. But in households around the country, Black parents were having “The Talk” with their children: an intense, high-stakes training on the realities of racism designed to inoculate them against disproportionate police targeting and brutality.In that passage, we read about a 7-year-old who is said to be "terrified"—possibly by what he's seen on TV, but most directly by what he's been told by his mother. When their conversation ends, he says he wants to leave the United States.
My oldest child is now 7. A few nights ago, I was the one giving The Talk. We discussed George Floyd’s death. Even with my high-level, simplistic explanation, he understood and was brought to tears. He thought at first that I was speaking of the past, and I could see the fear on his face when I explained that this wasn’t “back then.” He asked a lot of tough questions about hate and racism, and ended by telling me he wants to leave the United States. He was terrified.
Like my son, I am deeply afraid—and it’s based on a lifetime of experience...
The parent in this conversation is a substantial person. She holds a bachelor's degree from Stanford, plus master's degrees from both Northwestern and Harvard.
She loves her children; she's a good decent person. But these are tumultuous, revolutionary times, and a person could wonder if she exercised good judgment in holding that conversation.
No one has perfect judgment. Beyond that, everyone's judgment may be affected at times as fraught as these—or in the wake of an event as astonishing as the videotaped killing of the late George Floyd.
No one has perfect judgment. When this mother spoke to her son, she says she "shared ways he could appear less threatening to cops and other people."
Do 7-year-olds need to learn how to be less threatening to cops? Do they need to be told such things to the point where they're terrified?
There's no ultimate answer to those questions, except for the familiar answer with which we're currently scripted, in which all parents of a certain type always know what's best and what's right.
Absent some future explanation, the videotape of George Floyd's death records an act of astonishing hostility and misconduct. For ourselves, we're still waiting to hear about Derek Chauvin's previous conduct on the Minneapolis police force—about the possibility that he should have been removed from the force long ago.
So far, we've seen no such reporting. Anthropologists have warned us that we shouldn't be completely surprised if it turns out that no one within the upper-end press corps actually seems to care about this question.
That said, the essay from Slate was one of several we've read in recent weeks involving reactions to that videotape. More specifically, these essays involve reactions which may bear the signs of something resembling trauma—trauma past, present or future.
Tomorrow, we'll look at two essays in the New York Times in which highly intelligent people seem to draw peculiar conclusions about the danger they may be in. On Friday, we'll return to the various lives of children, discussing a remarkable 19-year-old UVa student who was described by Theresa Vargas in this recent column in the Washington Post.
The kids who were assailed back in 1975 are substantial adults today. We hope the same is true of the absurdly horrible kids by whom they were assailed.
Those Gotham kids weren't terrified that day. They were variously offended, angry, amazed, deeply disappointed.
Next week, we'll start to review the highest-profile sources of current extreme reactions. We'll start with the testimony of Zyahna Bryant, the impressive college student featured by Vargas, who is quoted saying that she "truly lost hope in the systems that continue to fail Black and Brown people" when she was 12 years old.
Should 7-year-olds be terrified? Should 12-year-olds truly lose hope?
There's no "scientific" answer to those questions. But there are many things which can be said about the way the mainstream press has reported some major events. We refer to the major high-profile events which define the current consensus.
Tomorrow: Dangerous friends, he says