OPINION: While we are committed to the work of Tallapoosa County Ranch, we would not ignore the systematic disenfranchisement of black and brown children
The recent tragedy in Tallapoosa County, Alabama rang depressing bells across the country. What is reported as an unfortunate multiple car accident on Autobahn 65 that claimed the lives of 10 people, including nine young children aged nine months to 18 years. Eight of the victims lived on the Tallapoosa County Ranch, a non-profit organization dedicated to caring for needy, neglected, or abused children.
This terribly unfortunate incident reminds us of the fragility of life, and if we can understand the severity of such loss, we must also ensure that lives are systematically protected and valued. Too often, however, the tragedy for blacks and browns is made worse by a double tragedy. In this case, not only were precious children’s lives lost, but, like so many black and brown children, they were most likely victims of a minority of America’s broken and racially biased welfare system.
Given the intersection of race, poverty and the welfare system, we simply cannot ignore a much deeper and systemic problem. In an American society created to maintain white power, all facets of that system are inherently flawed. Unfortunately, even our youngest and most innocent are not immune.
According to datacare.com, black and brown children are disproportionately represented in the American care system compared to white children. In addition, historical racial and poverty biases exacerbate this problem by making these children more likely to experience abuse, neglect, victimization, and negative educational outcomes.
This photo, taken on Sunday, June 20, 2021, shows the Alabama Sheriff’s Girls Ranch in Camp Hill, Alabama, which was killed in a multiple vehicle accident on Saturday, June 19, 2021, in which eight people died in the van about life. (AP photo / Vasha hunt)
The poverty and demographic makeup of Camp Hill, Alabama, where Tallapoosa County Girls Ranch is located and is a centralized area of Tallapoosa County, has a total population of 1,101 people. In this area, 91.4% of the population in the Camp Hill area are black and the city has an average poverty rate of 43.9%. For example, Tallapoosa County has a total population of about 40,000 people and a poverty rate of 20%. Simply put, the ranch is in a small area within the county made up of poor minority people.
The story goes on
These statistics underscore that the ranch is a home for minority children in the area who are affected by the severe poverty rate plummeting through the Camp Hill area. In general, black and brown children are disproportionately affected by poverty compared to white children. American Progress reports that while children of color made up less than half of the total U.S. child population, in 2019 minorities made up 69.1 percent of children living below the poverty line.
Because the social system is so underpinned by socio-economic status, it creates a devastating and traumatic predicament for black and brown children, who often do not receive the same comprehensive services as white children.
This is unfortunate, but not surprising given the history of children living in poverty. Children affected by poverty tend to experience more trauma, suffering and disadvantage. According to The Children’s Defense, impoverished children are more likely to underperform, drop out of school, become unemployed in adulthood, experience economic hardship and become embroiled in the criminal justice system.
While we can thank the ranch for helping reduce the number of children exposed to these statistics, we can’t overlook the cheek that is being turned away from the black and brown children who suffer in America’s system – one that is not set up to their advantage.
While we are committed to the work of the ranch, we would be carelessly ignoring the systematic disenfranchisement that is brewing beneath the surface and which is causing these groups of black and brown children to fail. As we mourn the loss of these young victims, reflect on their pre-accident lives – and what could be done to reduce systemic racism and minority poverty statistics, the undercurrent of which heighten social inequality.
Now is the time to uproot the vicious and unjust systemic basis of inequality that ravages black and brown communities. Only if we question the power structures will colored children be given access to a fulfilling life.
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The car accident in Greenville, Alabama that killed 10 people underscores America’s broken child welfare system, which first appeared on TheGrio.