Apathy and Media Bias Harms Children of Color in Crisis

Do you have benevolence bias? The media decides which children are worthy of exposure. The bias in deciding which children’s plights are worthy of highlighting leaves thousands of children in harm’s way.

Apathy and Media Bias Harms Children of Color in Crisis
Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

U.S. Foster Children Are Sleeping In Hotels and Child Welfare Offices

Foster children in the United States are being removed from their parents’ homes, and being placed in hotels and child welfare offices with “chaperones” and social workers due to the lack of placement options.

Where’s the national media coverage?

Our children, who are here legally, are also being “ripped apart” from their families, and the citizenry are silent. There are nearly 500,000 kids in this nation’s foster care system according to the most recent U.S. Health and Human Service’s Children’s Bureau child welfare statistics. Nearly 45% of those children are White, 23% of those children are African American, and 21% are Hispanic.

If you care about the kids at the border, you should also care about the foster care crisis too. Migrant children that are not reunited with their parents will be in state and federal care all over this country.

It’s highly likely some of those migrant children will never be reconnected with their families, ending up in hotels and in facilities inappropriate for rearing child victims who have experienced trauma.

It is unclear exactly how many children in foster care are currently placed in hotels and child welfare offices, because there are no state or national databases to tracking such data.

Foster Kids vs. Migrant Kids

All eyes are on the Mexican border right now.

I realize there has been a lot of fuss lately about illegal migrant families being separated from their parents and placed in camps/group homes as a part of the Trump Administration’s zero tolerance policy on illegal immigration. It’s sad, but it’s certainly not anything new here in America. This nation’s government has a history of separating families. It keeps happening, because we keep forgetting. We get complacent.

What about the U.S. foster children? This nation’s foster care system is severely broken, but there is no national platform to highlight it in the same manner the mainstream media is promoting plights of migrants this year. I’m sure it’s politically motivated, but children, regardless of ethnicity or citizenship status, shouldn’t be used as political pawns.

America is seizing more children than they can place. It’s costing taxpayers a lot of money, and inflicting more trauma on children placed in our state and federal child welfare systems.

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Selective Compassion: The Mainstream Media

Why isn’t the media looking deeper into this foster care crisis? Where are the journalist who have the ability to view problems systemically, not politically? I can’t trust our media to tell a story without a bias or slant. Children being detained improperly by state and federal governments is a systemic problem! Foster care or detention center, both deserve the same look under the microscope.

Reporters are camped out at facilities where migrant children are being kept during the migrant separation process, but none are traveling across the nation highlighting the plights of foster children.

Photo by Michael Mims on Unsplash

Who Determines Which Children’s Traumas Matter?

Talking heads in the media are discussing the trauma and needs of migrant children as if trauma and needs of U.S. foster children are not important. The impact of untreated trauma, regardless of a child’s citizenship status, can negatively interfere with normal child development. This nation has had a foster care placement crisis since 2013. It’s come to a head over the past 2–3 years, with no end in sight now that migrant children are silently being placed into these systems.

Our federal and state governments keep snatching kids away from their families, with no place to put them. Foster children placed in hotels and offices are enduring the same traumas. Why aren’t their traumas validated?

Photo by delfi de la Rua on Unsplash

America’s Ugly History of Splitting Up Immigrants & Families of Color

America has an ugly history with splitting up families. I laugh as I watch politicians and journalists talk as if this has never happened in America before. It’s a lie, it has. Separating migrant children from their parents is not “unprecedented.” In fact, it’s happened a lot throughout this nation’s history. There is nothing new under the sun, and separating children of color and immigrants is nothing new. Let me give you a quick run down about how America has split families.

Remember slavery? Slave owners split families and sold individuals, including babies right here in America. It’s the reason many African Americans don’t know their ancestry. Many slaves never saw their family members again. Just last week, Romans 13, a scripture from the Bible, was used to defend the Trump Administration’s policy of forced separation of migrant children detained at the border. Romans 13 has been cited by Nazi sympathizers and apartheid-enforcers, slave owners and loyalists opposed to the American Revolution.

This same scripture was used to justify slavery in America, allowing slave hunters to return runaway slaves to their owners and to pull slave children away from their mothers. This nation has developed a pattern of taking children and splitting families.

Next, it was Native American families who had children seized and placed in Boarding Schools. The United States government forced Native American families to send their children to government or church-run boarding schools. Children were forced to assimilate by wearing non-Native clothing, cutting their hair and speaking English. Native children were beaten, raped, and mistreated at these boarding schools. These schools were not closed until the 70’s and 80’s. The trauma from life at those schools still impact survivors. It was a terrible time in this nation’s history (again). Are you seeing a theme here?

Next, primarily poor Native American, Hispanic and Black families who were separated from their children by local and state authorities. This was the beginning of the American social welfare systems, which includes initiatives, policies, and practices on dealing with poor people, especially children of color. Children were placed in orphanages by child welfare workers in the early 1900’s, and often used for their labor. Orphanages developed as indentured servitude declined. Removing poor children from their parents ensured there was always free labor. Oftentimes, these children were abused (physically, emotionally and sexually) by those responsible for caring for them, including clergy.

Other immigrants have experienced similar plights such as Italians, Haitians, and the Irish. Starting to see the pattern now?

Next, there were the Japanese Interment Camps. In the 1940’s, there was a massive detention of at least 120,000 persons of Japanese decent living on the West Coast. Most of whom were U.S. citizens or legal permanent resident aliens. The Japanese detained included infants, small children and children under the age of 18. America has a rich history of splitting up families and detaining persons of color (POCs).

It’s 2018 and nothing has changed.

So if you think this migrant separation policy is something new, a moral dilemma, or a blemish on America, you don’t know anything about American history.

Who Decides Which Children Are Important

Who decides which children’s issues are important? White people decide, in particular, White women. When it’s important to them, it gets publicity. People of color can cry out on television all day, every day (and twice on Sundays) about the same issues related to children in crisis, yet it’s not deemed important until a White person gets outraged. POCs literally have to wait for Rachel Maddow, Stephanie Ruhle, Mika Brzezinski, Ann Coulter, Ainsley Earhardt, etc. to be offended before the word gets out there’s a problem in their communities. There are no media personalities crying about foster kids sleeping in hotels on the internet. They probably won’t be either.

These celebrity news anchors’ jobs are to get clicks, likes, and hits on stories to market more stuff to us (including political ads) and generate revenue for media outlets. Selling crises is good business.

So don’t be fooled!

The media tells the people on what, or in this case who, is important. They tell us how we should react. People telling the stories often forget to provide historical context for those of us unwilling to do our own research.

We here in the U.S. are all roweled up about migrant kids taken away from their parents in detention centers, but not this nation’s foster kids living in hotels and on child welfare office floors who have been doing so for years.

Don’t allow the media to remember certain children, while forgetting others. Don’t allow the mainstream media to manufacture a crisis this year (an election year), when the crisis of government interventions have been failing for centuries.

Kids in foster care are living in some of the same conditions as the children in the “Tender Age” facilities meant to detain migrant children. Why is it Americans don’t know about these children? It’s because no one has spoon fed them the information yet. If a stranger left their children at your home with your children, would you feed, clothe, and teach those children before your own? No you wouldn’t. You would care for your own kids first, then extend your hand to help others. When you cry for other kids fleeing danger from other countries but not pissed when American kids are held hostage in hotels, you have a problem.

How Do We Resolve This?

Cry if you need to, talk about your own kids, make those passionate pleas you do so well, and go make a case for displaced U.S. foster kids. It’s an election year, maybe we can get people outraged about it! If you’re not outraged about foster children undergoing the same situations as migrant children (i.e. separated from families, fleeing harm, poverty, rape, human trafficking, sleeping in uncaring/unsafe environments, being detained by the state and local governments in undisclosed locations, etc.), then you are involuntarily aiding further traumatizing young children. Your silence is consent.

Where is your outrage?

Thank you for reading.

Marley K is a former foster child, child advocate, grant writer, researcher, and independent consultant working to make communities stronger (on her good days). She enjoys shedding light on problems not discussed in the mainstream media.