FRIDAY, MAY 14, 2021
Who killed Davey Moore? It's routinely amazing to see the things which appear in the New York Times.
We're struck today by the cosmic indifference reflected in one line of Sarah Vowell's opinion column—the line in which Vowell blithely declares that Bozeman, Montana is blessed with "good schools."
We'll discuss that blithe claim below. We were also struck by this passage from a letter on today's letters page:
LETTER TO THE NEW YORK TIMES (5/14/21):With respect to my own decision not to get the vaccine, I had Covid in February, and therefore almost certainly am immune to infection.
According to the letter writer, she had Covid in February. For that reason, she doesn't need to get vaccinated.
Blithely, the New York Times put that assessment in print, furthering that understanding. But is that understanding well founded?
We can't necessarily answer that question. Luckily, one major newspaper already has.
That newspaper is the New York Times. In February, the Times devoted an analysis piece to that very question. The Times report started like this:
MANDAVILLI (2/20/21): Nearly 30 million people in the United States—and probably many others whose illnesses were never diagnosed—have been infected with the coronavirus so far. Should these people still be vaccinated?
Two new studies answer that question with an emphatic yes.
Who knows? Maybe the science has changed since that time. That said, the Times report was "updated [on] April 22" and that emphatic judgment remained.
Maybe that letter is expressing sound science. But does anyone actually think that the editor who put that letter in print gave as much as a second of thought to that obvious question? Also this:
Vowell says that Bozeman boasts "good schools." That certainly could be true.
That said, what she actually means—most likely, all she actually knows—is most likely something like this:
Bozeman's student population is almost entirely white and Asian-American. Presumably, a healthy dose of that student population is connected to highly educated parents who work at Montana State University in the small city Vowell describes as "my beloved college town."
Almost surely in part for those reasons, Bozeman's test scores exceed average scores across the state of Montana. To the dilettantes who control Our Town, this sort of thing has always been taken as a marker of "good schools."
Full and complete total stop. In fact, these people don't care.
Such judgments betray a gruesome indifference to the question of where test scores come from. This gruesome indifference has always been screamingly evident in the way the Hamptons-based New York Times reports on the public schools.
The truth is, the Times doesn't care about the kids who attend our public schools; almost surely, the Times never will.
Above-average test scores = "good schools" has long been the watchword of those people in Our Town who simply don't care to give such matters a single thought. Such people dominate the major news orgs which drive the prevailing dumbness here in Our Town.
The Times is routinely uncaring about such matters as this. This observation brings us to a related question—a question concerning the late Ma'Khia Bryant, age 16 at the time ofher death, and the upbringing and the fate of her three younger siblings.
On Sunday morning. above the fold, the Times turned one of its kid reporters loose to address that important question. He opened with a passage right out of Storyline.
"Who killed Davey Moore?" the observer known as Bob Dylan once asked. In this case, the Times' "diaper dandy" pointed his finger at the state of Ohio's foster care system. His analysis went like this:
BOGEL-BURROUGHS ET AL (5/9/21): Ms. Bryant’s tragic death was also preceded by a turbulent journey through the foster care system, which had cycled Ma’Khia through at least five placements in two years—after her own mother was found to be negligent—despite efforts by their grandmother to reunite the family.
Ohio places children in foster care at a rate 10 percent higher than the national average, and child welfare officials here are considerably less likely than in the country as a whole to place children with their relatives. Black children, like Ma’Khia and her sister, account for nearly a third of children removed from homes—nearly twice their proportion in the population.
A review of Ma’Khia’s pathway through foster care shows that it failed her in critical ways.
Research has demonstrated that children fare far better when they remain with family members, a practice known as kinship care. It also shows that each successive placement causes additional trauma, further setting back a child in crisis.
“Everybody knows and the research has proven over and over and over again that the best placement for children is with their kin,” said Ronald R. Browder, the president and chief executive of the Ohio Federation for Health Equity and Social Justice. “But the focus has always been on foster care.”
Those were paragraphs 7-12 of the Times' 81-paragraph front-page report. Right off the bat, Times readers were told this:
Her grandmother had tried to reunite the family. But the Ohio foster care system failed the late Ma'Khia Bryant in various ways.
That indictment could be true, of course. Unfortunately, because we read this lengthy report in the New York Times, we have no real way of knowing.
Is there really something wrong with the rate at which Ohio banishes kids to foster care? As we noted yesterday, nothing in this young fellow's report gives a reader any way of making such an assessment.
Does Ohio consign too many kids to the Hell of foster care? We don't know how to answer that question. As we noted yesterday, judging from appearances, neither does Bogel-Burroughs.
That said, the claim that Bryant was failed by Ohio's foster care system suits modern Storyline. Rather, it allowed the Times to slide away from a more obvious source of the inadequate care which led to this young person's death.
Was Ma'Khia Bryant, age 16, failed by the gummint bureaucrats of the state of Ohio? Everything is possible! But to identify someone who plainly failed this teenaged girl, let's consider something we're finally told very late in the dandy's report.
While we're at it, let's consider an obvious question—a question which went unasked and unanswered in the diaper dandy's report.
The question which went unasked
A violent fight was underway when Ma'Khia Bryant was shot and killed in Columbus, Ohio. Her younger sister, Ja'Niah Bryant, was present at the scene, in front of the house where the two had been living in foster care.
A violent fight was underway. Early in Sunday's report, Bogel-Burroughs briefly describes it:
BOGEL-BURROUGHS ET AL: [On April 20], Ja’Niah called 911 again, telling the police that she and her older sister were being threatened by two young women who used to live at the house. Officers arrived in the middle of a melee outside the house, and one of them fatally shot Ja’Niah’s 16-year-old sister, Ma’Khia Bryant, who was lunging at one of the women, brandishing a steak knife.
Judging from the bodycam tape, the fatal shooting of Ma'Khia Bryant may have saved the life of the young woman at whom she was lunging with that knife.
For that reason, it's been hard to blame the police officer in the case of this fatal shooting. The Ohio foster care system was quickly subbed in by the Times.
Much, much later in his report, Bogel-Burroughs adds a bit of detail to his account of that deeply unfortunate fight. Included are the names of the two young women with whom Bryant was involved in the fight.
As best we can tell, Ma'Khia Bryant never received sufficient help in the course of her young life. In the highlighted sentence, we finally get the answer to one question about that fight—the answer to a question which has largely been avoided:
BOGEL-BURROUGHS ET AL: A police officer stepped out of his car and walked toward the driveway just as Ma’Khia turned her attention to Ms. Craig-Watkins and could be heard on a video from a neighbor’s surveillance camera threatening to stab her.
As Ma’Khia charged, Ms. Craig-Watkins tumbled to the ground, and Ma’Khia’s father tried to kick her. Ma’Khia turned to Ms. Bonner and backed her up against a car.
Ma’Khia raised a knife, and Officer Nicholas Reardon, a white 23-year-old who was the first officer to approach the scene, shot four times at Ma’Khia, who slumped down.
As Ma’Khia’s body lay on the ground, police officers led Ja’Niah inside Ms. Moore’s house, along with her father’s young son.
Ja’Niah turned on the television to find some cartoons for her younger [half-]brother to watch...
That passage describes the death of a teenage girl who had perhaps been failed by the people around her. In the highlighted sentence, we learn that the man who is seen kicking, or attempting to kick, that one young woman in the head was, in fact, Ma'Khia's father, Myron Hammonds, who had been called to the scene of the dispute.
Who killed Davey Moore? Let's restate the question like this:
Was Myron Hammonds, Ma'Khia's father, the family member to whom the foster care system should have assigned the Bryant sisters and their two younger siblings?
In fact, he was the father of the four Bryant kids. But as Bogel-Burroughs had mentioned in passing, "Mr. Hammonds, Ma’Khia’s father, did not live with the family and [the children's mother] described herself as raising the children largely on her own."
Was the foster care system supposed to assign the four Bryant kids to their father? When he was called for help that day (apparently by the children's grandmother), he came to the house with a younger son and proceeded to help matters out by kicking a young woman in the head as she lay on the ground.
Was the Ohio foster care system supposed to assign the four Bryant children to him? Were they supposed to continue to assign them to the paternal grandmother, to whom they'd initially been assigned?
Repeat! Initially, protective services had assigned the children to their grandmother. Later, as Bogel-Burroughs reports, she had become homeless, living at times in her car. At that point, the Bryant children went into foster care.
Was the foster care system supposed to tell the four Bryant kids to report to their grandmother's car? Was that the assignment which would have let the siblings "fare far better?"
These children were in the child protective system in the first place because their mother had placed them there. When the mother appeared on CNN's disgraceful Chris Cuomo show, it seemed fairly clear to us that she was intellectually or emotionally challenged in some way.
That doesn't mean that she's a bad person. But was the Ohio system supposed to send the kids back to her?
How about the showboating cousin—the city council member in Mansfield, Ohio who kept telling the world what a fabulous kid Ma'Khia had been?
At that time, we asked why Ma'Khia Bryant hadn't been living with him. Should Ohio's foster care system have called on this high-achieving, showboating cousin?
The Times report doesn't mention this guy. Did reporters bother to ask whether he had been willing to help?
"Who killed Davey Moore?" Bob Dylan once asked. In his song, he offered a list of people, all of whom said, "Not I."
Today, we ask a similar question:
Who failed to help Ma'Khia Bryant in the course of her sixteen years?
There seems to be a fairly obvious initial answer to that question, if the Times feels it has to be asked. It looks like the four Bryant kids didn't get the kind of help all children deserve to get, where possible, from their immediate family.
This may not have been anyone's "fault." The mother and the paternal grandmother may have done the best they could—and the problems with which they may have been struggling may reach all the way back into our nation's brutal history.
Ma'Khia's mother and her paternal grandmother may have done the best they could. But how about the New York Times? Did they do the best they could?
At the Times, they quickly fingered the foster cares system, suggesting that the Bryant kids would have "fared far better" had they remained in the care of family members. In fact, the protective system had placed them in their grandmother's care, until the grandmother turned ended up homeless.
At that point, they went into foster care. But also, imagine this:
At no point did the Times' diaper dandy ask, or answer, an obvious question! That question would be this:
When the four children's grandmother no longer could provide care, why didn't their father step in? Why didn't the Bryant kids' father take in one or all of his kids?
As the New York Times flayed the foster care system, that question went unasked. The Times aggressively implied that the kids should have stayed in family care. But the New York Times' diaper dandy never pointed a finger at him.
It may well be that Ma'Khia's father was doing the best he could. Based on what he did on the day she died, his best doesn't look especially good. Should Ohio's foster care system should tried to rely on him?
In fact, the cub reporters at the Times were working from preferred Storyline. In the current environment, we don't discuss the shortcomings and the misbehaviors of black decedents in cases like this. We don't even discuss the shortcomings of their families.
Instead, Our Town's favorite stars go on TV and misstate basic facts about these fatal incidents. And a bright young kid one year out of college puffs himself up and blames the Ohio foster care system, based on the flimsiest possible type of analysis.
The children would have fared far better had they been assigned to family members! That's what this vastly inexperienced kid said as the start of his piece, with the permission of his slumbering editors.
Bogel-Burroughs didn't assign himself the task of composing this unintelligent takedown. If there were such a thing as very bad people—we don't think that's a helpful way to view the world—we would say that this high-achieving diaper dandy was badly failed by his elders, a bit like Ma'Khia before him.
Who killed Davey Moore? At the routinely gruesome Times, arrows of blame had to be aimed at public servants first. The people who struggle with family situations like this don't live in the Hamptons, after all—nor are they the wretched of the earth, about whom the New York Times is now pretending to care.