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people for the conservation of limited amounts of indignation

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my thoughts of class and education, let me show you them
When my son was a little under a year old, me and my mom forgot him in the car for five entire seconds, or to translate this into motion, three steps from the car and the length of time it took to recognize that we could hear the sounds of nature around us and not the glorious descant of his unhappiness.

For those who know me, I considered leaving him there because of the effort required to retrieve him, but as he survived with only a few nightmares about being abandoned to die in a van, I'm pretty sure he's gotten over it, and what time does not cure, I daresay a therapist can fix. This brings me to the question that hits me every summer when children are left in cars and die. As this is not even uncommon, which in a variety of ways freaks me out and I can't talk about in any sensible fashion.

This is why I am thinking about this.

Raise your hand if you did not see that verdict coming.

Now granted, people who do social work for long periods of time tend to go either extremist or go numb; there's middle ground, but at least at the casework level, I've met very few of them. Anyone who reads here knows my virulent loathing of classism (and my own part in perpetuating it) isn't something I'm hot to hide.

So my bias is showing; my first reaction on any case is to check the job and class when something in the general family of child negligence occurs, because fairly often I can make a decent prediction based on that how the case will be handled. I usually don't need to dig for race--if they aren't white, the article will mention it, and you'd be amazed at the sudden intersection of race and class how accurate the prediction gets.

This bothered me because denying the racial aspect is kind of like denying Ike is coming down the Gulf. And it bothered me because I'm looking thoughtfully at the Dr before her name and wondering about bias when she faces her social and class peers--two lawyers, one judge, all of whom share that level of higher education. It's not like this is new--we've been not-talking about class bias forever, but I'm not sure anyone's gotten around to a crosscheck on education bias; they look a lot alike. And yet I don't think they are the same thing. And I could be convinced that they look a lot less alike than we think, simply because class and education can overlap so heavily that we can be looking at one and mistake it for the other.


In the past, Deters has said that he would have to prove that Edwards left her daughter in the minivan purposefully and that truly forgetting is not a crime.

You have got to be fucking with me.

I feel--well, I don't feel better. But I have more coffee.

Eight HOURS?! How can you NOT KNOW for EIGHT HOURS?! How is that not actionable? How is that an accident? I don't know anyone with a child that age that doesn't spare a thought, and more likely, a phone call or e-mail, for what they're currently up to and who is with them.

It's none of my business, but I don't get how she wasn't contacted by the persons or place that the baby was supposed to be, rather than in the minivan...

I was wondering about that, too, especially since when my son and my niece were in daycare, they *did* call so they would know if they could give that slot to a walk-in.

I'm shocky on that. I mean, that's--I don't know. I really don't.

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To be fair, tinted windows or the fact that Im not sure security really looks *inside* cars. THey'd be more focused on checking to make sure no one is breaking into them from the outside to look inside all that clearly.

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Seriously, for eight hours nobody thought was anything wrong? And my first thought was also why the childcare providers for the kid not call her and ask what happened.

(Seriously, eight hours?)

Not a parent here, but honestly, how does anyone forget about their kid for that long? I know people with pets who seem to spare more thought throughout their working day for their animals than this woman seems to have for her daughter.

Also, this speaks volumes to community responsibility too. People must have seen that kid alone in the van and yet no-one did anything to alert the authorities???

I can see, vaguely, the forgetting. It's the same as the pool or the bathtub or any other type of negligence that occurs when either routine is broken or attention is broken.

But yeah, eight hours. Jeez.

For the car--honestly, I can say I almost never look in cars in a parking lot. Usually I'm either handling Child or Niece or carrying bags and talking to friends--unless something specific on the exterior called my attention to it, I can't see myself looking inside it in a parking lot.

There was a case just a couple of weeks ago of a man who had done the weekend shopping and put the baby carrier in the trunk with the merchandise. He forgot to take the baby out and it died during the 30 minute drive back to his home.

You know, I can maybe understand that. Maybe. I can see how someone, if they were insanely busy, checking three things at once, and not being the usual care taker of the child in question - I can see how it's possible for someone like that to forget.

But the mother leaving her child in the parking lot - that I just don't understand. I mean, what was she supposed to have done with the kid? If she should have brought it somewhere else, wouldn't that place notice? If she'd always taken the kid up with her, wouldn't she realize something was missing? What kind of situation would even make something like this possible? I don't think forgetting, genuinely not remembering, is an option, psychologically speaking.

Early-onset dementia? That's all I can think of.

This is Cincinnati, granted, so my bet is that race really did have a fairly massive amount to do with this decision. The prosecutor probably felt he simply could not get a conviction.

OTOH, shouldn't there be a relatively simple solution here? Like, say, a chime that goes off (akin to the ones that go off when you get in the car and need to fasten your seat belt) when you latch in a car seat and open the driver's side door? It certainly has more elegance than the ultra low-tech solution: a note on the dashboard that reads 'Got Kid?'

Yes, there's a $35 alarm that can be attached to a car seat that goes off if the driver's door opens and a certain amount of time has passed without the car seat being unlocked.

I don't consider it murder, but it's criminal (involuntary manslaughter? I'm no lawyer).

And if this had been a black woman (even a black woman with a Ph.D. and a university job), *or* a white woman who left the baby in the car when she went in to work her shift at the Piggly Wiggly, instead of a well-to-do professional, you *know* they would have been found guilty. And that's what sickens me.

I mean, even more than the thought of how that poor child must have suffered sickens me.

I'm not sure a lower-class white woman would have been let off easily (though if she weren't, I'd bet it would be lighter than lower-class or possibly even middle-class non-white), though you're spot on the race from lower to upper-middle.

Dying like that is sickening. And for a child--I cannot imagine.

I know this is tangential to your main post (please add my cries of what the ever-loving fuck, because five seconds I can both imagine and accept, maybe even close to a half an hour due to extreme frazzlement and immediate repentance and freaking out; this? Not so much, no) but I have always been fascinated by classism and how it relates to education, and whether a lot of classism is really based on education -- or maybe even education access -- because it's very difficult to separate those two concepts out, even though they are clearly different.

And I wish I was smart enough to tease out the similarities and difference.

Classism versus Education do fascinate me, because I think, at least as far a the extended middle class goes, education stratifies harder than income within that class. I would like a study done to correlate how often income has less meaning in how people are treated/perceived/classified compared to their job and professed education, because I'm betting there's a massive disconnect going on in how much they make versus how far they went in school.

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OOOh, interesting point. I hadn't really considered that as much as I should have.

I started to get off on a tangent on the recent conviction of a mother for microwaving her baby -- although the death occurred on a night when the kid had been with a babysitter and a witness had reported a kid wandering into the apartment that same night who shouldn't have been there, the reportage on the piece I'd initially read had been leaning very heavily on the presumption of guilt -- and guess what color the mother was in the case in question, but then while refreshing my memory on the details I ran across BBC reportage which brought up both the mother's confession and that yet another witness had said the defense witness referred to had in fact been nowhere near the apartment to see the purported alternate suspect...

Anyway. Shifting gears to the class / education bias, I'm reminded of something that came up in an HP meta discussion about the British phenomenon of boarding schools, and how much they were set up to deliberately remove children from their birth surroundings and in effect prepare them to blend into an upper class as though born to it. Allow education and class to be more directly equated, and ensure that one really could tell just by looking at / speaking to someone what level of training they'd been given.

Oh yes, I remember that case. The reports between different stations were ridiculously conflicted, but yes, I remember the first ones were just short of saying "DEATH NOW MURDERER".

Makes me think this is the new "overlaying"

Slow suffocation in a locked car in 90 degree weather isn't something I'd wish on my worst enemy. How anyone could do that to their baby is beyond any level I could possibly hope to understand. I can't even leave my puppy ten minutes while I run into Walgreens. Jesus.

What about the other people parked in the parking lot? Couldn't they have seen her? Heard her crying? What about during lunch, when they were in and out? Security guard? Something?

Edited to add: Check this out: Child Minder System.

Edited at 2008-09-11 06:31 pm (UTC)

I'm disgusted, honestly. I don't think there is any excuse to forgetting a kid in a car for any long amount of time. 5 minutes, 10 minutes if I stretch my limits, I could maybe understand. God, I've gotten to the doors of a store before going "Oh My God!" and running back to the car. Before 8 hours had come around, there should have been some kind of lightbulb going off.

These cases come up every so often, it's horrible. And then it's disgusting that there have been black woman charged and lower class white woman charged with the same exact thing here in Texas.

And forgetting is not criminal? Bullshit when it concerns a child who is dependent on you remembering them. If I said "Well, I forgot to feed my kid but I didn't mean to forget" would that cut it? Hell no.

Class, Education and race all overlap and yet also have their special little things. Man, I loved my sociology class.

I have very mixed feelings about it. I mean, yeah, I wonder about the mental state of the woman. Had she been drinking? Taking sleeping pills? Illegal drugs? Other, legal medications that affect attention (really, anything from anti-histamines to benzodiazapines)? I'm kinda ADHD, and I forget important things sometimes, I can understand arriving at work and having forgotten to drop a baby off at daycare. I guess, potentially, if you couldn't see the whole carseat, and the child was asleep... Well. I can see it happening. And the time - well, if she never went out to the garage all day, it's not like she'd necessarily have any reminders. Personally, when I babysit or watch kids, I'm pretty hyper-aware of kids, even when it was my own siblings.
Heck, any time I'm in the car or house with anyone else I tend to be peripherally aware of where they are. Which, again, makes me wonder as to the mental state of the mother.

Here's the thing, I don't think the time is relevant past maybe the first five minutes. You get out of the car, you're reminded that oh hey, why isn't my kid screaming, or you glance in the rearview mirror, and you see the kid. But there might not be any cues past that time. Which is what makes it so frightening to a parent.

Time is relevant if the parent was planning on leaving the kid in the car, in which case, yes, 10 minutes is very different than an hour, unless you're in a very hot or very cold environment where it should never, ever happen. Not that it really should anyway, but yeah, it's 73 degrees here in central PA, and really, 10 minutes... chances are, it would be fine.

The real question becomes, is inadvertent child abuse still child abuse. If you honestly forget to feed your child, is it still bad? Well, yeah. I think the car issue is so touchy because it's a one-time slip. Someone could be a great parent, but have 5 minutes of absent mindedness... and that's it. We all like to think it couldn't happen to us, but is it really true? I don't know. Maybe in the perfect storm of being late to work, having a child seat in a place I didn't see it when I was getting out of work, and then having a busy day where I never had time to think... I don't know. I really don't know.

Ok, and this is where I wish I could edit comments, but alas, I cannot. I think you're right, and child negligence should have argued here. I stand by my earlier comments though. I think it could happen, by accident.

And it always looks better when a highly employed woman does it, if only because we imagine her going off to dutifully do her impressive job, not off to work at McDonalds, or off to the Walmart. They're identical lapses, but for the highly employed woman, we imagine that it must have been a one time thing, though we don't know that.