|The Oregon Sate Capitol in Salem|
How is it possible that so many politicians, and so many journalists, have accepted without question a fundamentally racist narrative about child welfare and COVID-19? The narrative is the one filled with breathless claims to the effect of: Now that fewer mostly white middle class professionals have their “eyes” constantly on overwhelmingly poor disproportionately nonwhite children, their parents will unleash upon their children a “pandemic of child abuse”?
The myth persists in part because racism goes far deeper
than a lot of us white people will acknowledge, especially those of us on the
political Left (which, sadly, has been the source of much of this mythology). But also it’s because a whole “child
advocacy” industry has spent decades spreading hype and hysteria to the point
where most people may well believe that most other people are child abusers (at least if the “other” is not the
same race or class). For a master class
in how to distort data and leave this kind of misimpression check out
how Garrett Therolf did it last week in The
New York Times.
Actually we DO need to “quibble about numbers.”
Where did the one-in-seven number come from? (Now we know. See the UPDATE at the top of this post)
It appears that, in a single year, roughly one in seven Oregon children will endure the trauma of a child abuse investigation – compared with between one in nine and one in ten children nationwide. So how many will endure it over the course of their childhoods? One study estimates that nationwide, one-third of all children and more than half of Black children will endure it. In Oregon the numbers probably are worse.
How do we break the cycle? How do we spare children this trauma – and redirect resources to finding the few children in real danger who really need to be rescued? For starters, journalists could begin questioning absurd misuse of data – and holding the fearmongers to account.