In January of 2020 a 5 year old child broke a computer, hit a fellow student with a clipboard, and fled from the school. As staff are not able to restrain him or intervene in any way physically, they could not prevent the child from running out into traffic where this story could have ended tragically.
As per protocol, one staff member followed the child while the police were contacted to intervene and return the child to the school. What followed as viewed on the bodycam of one of the police officers, was a 51 minute introduction of the world of 2021 to a culture they were unprepared to see.
I grew up poor and inner city. My family was so impoverished that at times we filled our stomachs with water before bed to stave off pangs of hunger. This is an unintelligible concept to many of the people I know and, when I try to tell stories about it, eyes just glaze over. Poverty is a foreign land to many, a place where a strange people speak a different language and whose customs are just not worth learning or recognizing. Write a check, serve on a board with other like-minded people, pat each other on the back, and call it a good day.
After college I became a classroom teacher, then a social worker for child protective services, and finally an attorney representing children and families involved in various court systems for decades. I did this because I was one of them, a child of circumstance and poverty, someone who understood it was not just the system that was stacked against you, it was the culture of poverty that made it worse. I wanted to make a difference.
The 51-minute video was not only unsurprising to me, it was, quite frankly, fairly typical and run of the mill. There was nothing I saw in it that I haven’t seen play out in front of me hundreds of times over decades. Quite frankly, I couldn’t believe that people were so surprised by its contents.
But that is culture clash – when you are so inculcated by your own culture that any other culture seems foreign and wrong. In our age of wokeness, where we have the free time and opportunity to discuss the correlation of hair color and sexual identity, we forget that there are those not so fortunate. Who struggle to survive on daily basis and what that type of struggle does to someone. Particularly when they are in an environment of others who are struggling just as hard.
And suddenly, like a truck hitting the side of a starbucks in the middle of our order, that different culture invaded our lives. And immediately the instinct to fight it, hate it, call it wrong, and make it stop because it was so different from our culture. But you can’t stop poverty with words, or a lawsuit, or donations to charity. It’s a culture and it has to be accepted as such. Because when you can measure the culture, not in decades, but in centuries, it is not something that will be rooted out overnight. I struggled with making this video, not because it isn’t important, but because it further exposes a small child to the world.