Maleah Davis could be a poster child for the struggle happening within the Black family in America. The precious four-year-old has captured the hearts and minds of the Houston community as she has been missing since May 4. She is presumed to be dead. The Houston Police Department has charged the mother’s boyfriend, 26-year-old Derion Vence, in connection with the child’s disappearance.
After police found traces of blood evidence linked to Maleah in a bathroom and hallway of the apartment he shared with Brittany Bowens and her daughter Maleah, Mr. Vence was charged with tampering with evidence of a human corpse. According to police, spots where blood had been cleaned up were also found.
Her remains have not been recovered.
As balloons in her memory go up and events in her honor are organized, what is not reported is the conundrum Black people, in particular, and families often find themselves in. Nothing in America works fully for their benefit.
Then her case, in some ways, seemed overshadowed as a police officer shot a Black woman to death May 13 in Baytown, Texas, about 25 miles east of Houston. Pamela Turner, who was unarmed and who family members say was non-violent, was killed as an officer tried to arrest her.
Student Minister Abdul Haleem Muhammad, the Houston-based Southwestern regional representative for the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan, said in a telephone interview, “There are too many unanswered questions in this case. There is suspicion not only on the boyfriend but also the mother in terms of what happened to little Maleah. Most importantly, the bigger picture for us is that we must find a way to protect our children and our women.”“According to the Honorable Elijah Muhammad and what he taught, you do not leave your daughter home alone with your husband or boyfriend,” he said. “The case is disheartening, and there is a whole lot of stuff going on behind the scenes. Take, for instance, the role of Child Protective Services (CPS) in the family. They have a history of taking our children at a higher rate for lesser reasons. Then on the flip side, if the system fails, we are left pointing the finger. We can’t have it both ways. Really, separation is the answer.” “None of these systems work for us—criminal justice, child welfare, medical system, educational system—nothing is working for us as a people. At the forefront is the destruction of our families. Our families are not strong. They are not strong for any number of reasons. Now anything goes. We have accepted the norms and customs of our oppressors and suffered consequences as a result. If their families are dysfunctional, you can bet ours are double theirs. Violence against children only follows this pattern,” the astute student minister concluded. In terms of violence against Black children, what he said was exactly correct. A study published in the JAMA Pediatrics found: “ ‘In the United States, many disparities that occur … are examples of how the history of racism can lead to disparate outcomes among groups,’ Hedwig Lee says, pointing out that overwhelmed parents of color are much less likely to have access to support such as comprehensive health care, lactation consultants, therapists, nannies, and the like.” “When we think of racial disparities, it’s not necessarily bias among CPS, but more about the large problems of social disparities. In many cases, parents are overwhelmed and not receiving enough support. That’s a social and economic problem,” Ms. Lee, one of the study’s authors, states. In other words, Black folk remain behind the eight ball, hamstrung like a camel in the desert. The National Center for the Victims of Crime found, compared with other segments of the population, victimization rates for Black children and youth are even higher. Evidence suggests that Black youth ages 12 to 19 are victims of violent crimes at significantly higher rates than their White peers. Black youth are three times more likely to be victims of reported child abuse or neglect, three times more likely to be victims of robbery, and five times more likely to be victims of homicide.
Murder is the leading cause of death among Black youth ages 15 to 24. The Black Child Legacy Campaign astonishingly reports in California child abuse and neglect homicides were the third highest disproportionate cause of death from 1990-2009: “30 percent of decedents were African American children but only comprised 11 percent of the child population.” Their study also looked at child abuse and neglect homicide (a homicide where the perpetrator is the primary caregiver; a death in which a child is killed, either directly, or indirectly, by his/her caregiver). Seventy-seven percent of the child abuse and neglect homicides of Black children occurred in children 0 to 5 years of age. Sixty-one percent of the perpetrators of Black victims of child abuse and neglect homicides were the biological parents. This includes the mother or father acting alone, or both parents acting together.