Almost everything that is wrong with the Times’ sensationalized front page story, “Girl in the Shadows,” (12/9/13) is foretold by the explanatory caption in the passive voice: “As New York has been reborn, children like Dasani have been left behind.” The implication is that we New Yorkers, under the spell of our old imperial mayor, have cruelly abandoned the poor children of our city.
A more accurate caption would have read: Unemployed, irresponsible, selfish and drug-addicted parents spawn 8 children at taxpayers’ expense.
The reporter implies that the problems of this mega-family are related to their living in a homeless shelter, 10 in one room: “the family’s room is the scene of debilitating chaos: stacks of dirty laundry, shoes stuffed under a mattress, bicycles and coats piled high…” Bicycles? There is also a flat-screen t.v. and later in this 4 and 1/2 page saga, we discover that Dasani’s 35 year old stepfather, Supreme, is about to redeem his gold teeth with his monthly welfare check. He also has a pre-paid cell phone courtesy of New York taxpayers.
Two people who married and blended into a 4 child family, 2 of whom were emotionally or physically disabled, proceeded to have 4 more children within 9 years. The arithmetic alone tells the story of this family’s problems but the reporter insists on presenting it not as a cautionary tale of drug addicts with unlimited freedom to procreate while on the public dole, but as a drama of the haves and have-nots:
“But when that monthly check arrives, Supreme and Chanel do not think about abstractions like ‘responsibility and ’self-reliance.’ ….They feel the sudden, exquisite release of wearing those gold fonts again - of appearing like a person who has rather than a person who lacks.” But it’s not abstractions that they need to think about - it’s the very tangible bodies of their eight children; and they are not people who lack - they are people who chose to HAVE those 8 children.
There are no magic bullets to solve the problems of 11 year old Dasani and her 7 siblings. One thing that is certain is that she attends a school where she is an honor student despite her inabillity to master basic English grammar.
Her speech immediately identifies her as a member of the underclass and will continue to do so if she isn’t required to learn something to help her climb out of that station instead of getting rewarded with hollow honors.
The only way out of the spiral of poverty is education and Dasani may be bright enough to take advantage of that but it won’t happen in a system riddled with the lies of diminished expectations.
Perhaps the kindest thing that our society could to rescue the victims of malignant parents would be to create boarding schools where children are removed from their destructive environments for most of the school year.
As long as they remain under the care of people like Chanel and Supreme, any money spent on palliative measures is wasted. The reporter refers to the family as “dysfunctional,” much too kind a term.
It took many years for these parents to produce 8 children along with their prison records and self-indulgences - the results have been indelibly imprinted on their innocent progeny. The tragedy of Dansani and her siblings is not the condition of their homeless-ness; it is that we are too weak to remove them from their “home.”
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