By Dr. Stacey Patton
Creator of SpareTheKids.com
I am irate and heartbroken because yet another black child was robbed of the chance to grow up by his own mother.
I just read news coverage on the death of Jamar Johnson, a 5-year-old boy from the Bronx who was beaten to death for breaking the TV while playing with his Nintendo game system. An autopsy revealed that he suffered an infection to his lacerated pancreas and intestine.
Last Friday, police found Jamar unresponsive in his family’s apartment. His mother, Kim Crawford, 21, was arrested and confessed to police that on June 13 she hit her son on his back and stomach “harder than I ever hit him.”
“Harder than I ever hit him.”
That statement alone is disturbing on so many levels. What it reveals is how a moment of parental anger and physical punishment can turn lethal. Crawford’s words remind me of my adoptive father’s frequent warnings to my abusive adoptive mother –“One day, you’re gonna get mad and hit her the wrong way. Then what?”
My then what moment never came because I eventually ran away from home. But little Jamar wasn’t so fortunate.
According to investigators, after hitting her son, Crawford watched him vomit and complain of agonizing pain for five days as his internal injuries got worse. She never took him to the hospital because she feared getting arrested.
“I was worried they’d see the bruises and I’d get in trouble,” she told police.
Defense attorney Camille Abate told the Daily News that her client should not have been charged with murder because “the facts do not establish at all that this mother tried to kill her child. I have no idea whether hitting someone with their hand causes these kinds of injuries.”
I don’t know what kind of skewed reality Abate is living in. But it doesn’t matter whether or not Crawford intentionally tried to kill her son or not. He’s dead as a result of her violent assault on his body. Crawford ought to get the maximum sentence for this heinous crime.
As horrible and tragic as this story is, I’m not the least bit shocked that it happened. I often witness parents, usually black mothers, popping, smacking and spanking their children for accidently breaking things. I suffered through the same kinds of torment during my own childhood. My adoptive mother reasoned that a “good butt whupping” would teach me the value of certain objects in our home. Every time she beat me and then made me pick up the broken pieces, I felt like the thing I had broken had more value to her than me.
In these moments of anger, parents must learn to step back, breathe and tell themselves, “It’s just a thing.”
Objects can be replaced, but a dead child can’t.