Tuesday, July 01, 2008


As some of you know, this bitch is a crime buff. I am fascinated with the motivations behind crime, society’s response to crime and America’s epidemic of homicide and murder.

Like many of y’all, I struggle with how to balance individual rights with the need to curb the damage done through violence. I had planned to write about the Supreme Court ruling on hand guns, but then a certain Richard sent a bitch an email about the Madeleine McCann case reportedly being dropped due to a lack of evidence. My thoughts shifted and I’ve decided to share them with all y’all today.

My interest in crime began in 1979 when I was a wee bitch and black children in Atlanta who had been reported missing were being found dead. My mother, who spent her childhood in pre-Civil Rights era Mississippi, watched a report on the missing and murdered children of Atlanta and immediately suspected the Klan. She sat my sister and this bitch down, explained that black children were being snatched and killed then warned us that, should we be foolish enough to get snatched and murdered, she’d find us and kill us again.

Somehow that made sense.

So, we played in the backyard within eye sight…no longer rode our bikes beyond our block…and stayed awake fearing the racist stranger who may be lurking in the night.

Just when I had begun to resent this new fear planted by my mother…Atlanta, after all, was someplace else and summer begged my child-based self to get about the bitness of exploration and trouble making…news broke that the police had captured the culprit on a bridge under which a body later washed up. My mother remained skeptical and she didn’t relax the outside rules, but I was comforted by the notion that all was well...

...until the discovery of the body of a decapitated young black girl in the basement of an abandoned building on February 28, 1983 in north St. Louis city.

We were around the same age…between 8 and 11 years old…and her body was discovered just 6 days after my birthday. Someone abused her, killed her, mutilated her and then discarded her.

To this day we do not know her name or who harmed her.

No one came forward and the case went cold.

But I have never forgotten her, not because she died in my hometown but because she lived.

Where was she born? Where did she learn to walk? Did she suck her thumb like I did? Did she laugh and play and dance with youthful abandon or was her life a never ending horror up to and including the end?

I couldn’t get past the fact that no one came forward for her. No school called to report a missing girl around that age and no terrified parents made the horrible journey over to the morgue to identify their child’s body.

She remains unknown but not forgotten.

Today, when I read the news that the Madeleine McCann case was coming to an end, I thought of that unidentified sister.

I thought of the press attention that portrayed her as a symbol of the depraved violence of the inner city…even though St. Louis city residents were as horrified as anyone else and feared for their children’s safety after the murder.

I thought of the hours upon hours of police investigation put into her case…and of a child killer who has gone unpunished for this crime.

And I thought of the role expectations play…of those who society is shocked to see facing the disappearance and/or murder of a child and of those who we expect to see face drama, violence and exploitation.

It is not that I don’t weep for little Madeleine McCann…or that I don’t hope and pray that she is found alive and returned to her family.

It’s that I’m not sure who weeps for that little girl who was murdered and left to rot in a basement of an abandoned building in a poor neighborhood in St. Louis city.

It’s all of those questions that made my mother skeptical that the Atlanta child murders were solved with a single arrest.

It’s our tradition of passing laws to incarcerate criminals coupled with our reluctance to examine the society from which they emerge.

It was my child’s heart that ached for the joy stolen from another child…my child’s mind that pondered who would search for my name, my family or my killer if our places had been reversed and it was me who was black and missing in America...but it is my grown soul that is still shaken by a crime now 25 years unsolved.

And may God have mercy...


woodsba said...

Sadly unsolved murders have occured over the years in this country and many of them against children. I'm 59 years old and very well remember a young girl about my age (8) being murdered in an alley not 5 blocks away from my house in south St. Louis. You have to remember or for you youngsters, understand that murder was not a daily news item in 'the day' and particularly against children. It has never been solved but brought our neighborhood to a sobering truth...gone were the days of unlocked doors,windows and allowing children to ride bikes anywhere in the city. An older friend from HS was murdered along with her cousin in St. Charles while her husband was in Vietnam. Again, unsolved.

While these individuals were white, does it really matter? The fact that a human being was brutally murdered by another is all that should matter.

I don't know what the answer is, but crime is a major issue which no one seems to be able to remedy and sadly, so many accept as part of 'modern' living.

Unknown said...

I never felt comfortable with that single arrest for the Atlanta child murders..

This is a gut-wrenching post Shark Fu.

Shark-Fu said...

Oh I understand unsolved and unresolved violence all too well.

But my exploration was of how all too often race, class and location make the difference between life and death...responses & changes or shrugs followed by historical references and statistical measurements.

For many missing children, race means the difference between extensive
media coverage that could save a life or limited coverage because of assumed behavior.

Does it matter?


The question is whether it should matter and what we can do to change that shit.

Mo said...

Its a shame because those murders showed the value black hold (and still hold) in America.

Dare I say....had the race of those children been different, would the outcome have been as well?

Anonymous said...

Ah, yes. I recall Atlanta very well, because everyone in Detroit thought the animal who killed those children had practiced up here before he (and there is no doubt it was a "he") headed South. Remember, Atlanta and Detroit were sister cities in the 1970s, with strong bonds... and what became shared grief.

1977/78 was a hell of a winter to be a kid in Detroit. He was dubbed "The Oakland County Child Killer" which wasn't particularly catchy, but flash wasn't required. I'd have to look up how many children were found dead (8, I think) - all white, all just south of teenagers, killed with a fascinating array of methods. Jill Robinson was found in a ditch with her head blown off by a shotgun. Dental records were sketchy thanks to the trauma, so they used xrays to compare an old fracture in one of her arms. She was 12. She was my friend. She rode out on her bike three days before Christmas and never rode home. I don't know if the candy-cane lip gloss she wanted so badly waited under the Christmas Tree until her parents - What do you do with gifts for a child who will never come home? I know her death haunted me, haunted all of us. We obsessed over details of the case - the blue AMC gremlin spotted nearby, whether she was alive or already dead when the shotgun was used, what we would do in her place. Would we fight? Would we scream? Would it hurt? How much?

No suspects were ever arrested. And then as Atlanta started, after Detroit stopped. Black kids this time, about the same age, also killed without pattern. Also never solved to anyone's satisfaction.

My own opinion? I truly don't know. Within the next few years will we have a deathbed confession from some unprepossessing man who turns out to be the monster? Did someone kill him, before he could finish blazing his path of destruction? I don't think he would have stopped on his own.

But of course, it hasn't stopped. 30 years gone, with children still dying. There is not a place in Hell hot enough, cold enough, deep enough, or painful enough for whomever did this. I am usually all for forgiveness, but my own personal Godhood has a nice big load of wrath to unleash for this.

Sorry, Little Sister - you touched a bit of a nerve....


Hey there Shark-Fu! {waves}

This is not my first visit at your blog but I haven't dropped by in a while and I saw that you received an award from Hagar's Daughters Blogspot so I wanted to drop in and congratulate you!!

I also wanted to catch up with all that you have been writing and to of COURSE extend a hearty and warm welcome to you to visit my house (blog) whenever you'd like to!!

This post was very, very deep....I remember all of the theories about the Atlanta child murders that were swirling...

To think that someone's child would be missing and that NO ONE would claim the child is just horrific...but there are many black children who are abandoned by drug-addicted parents and no one ever calls the authorities for them... children just living in squalor down the street and no one ever notices that they haven't seen the parents in a week...or a MONTH!

It happens more often than the media reports on...because black children are not important to the white media...I remember when a missing white girl on the cover of People magazine!! This never ever happens when a black child is missing...

My heart grieves for all of our missing children...but you have also brought forth the issue that we just do not want to protest loudly about...

Thanks for blowing your trumpet!

Peace, blessings and DUNAMIS!

Anonymous said...

This post touch a raw nerve for me as a mother. I have two young boys and I fear in my heart that if the worst ever happened to them the police would not do their best to find them. We are not rich and we are not white and that would work against them even though they are so precious to me.

Anonymous said...

I agree it is a common occurrence in KC...any black child gets maybe 2 days,except for Precious Doe who stayed in the news thanks to the black community leaders...while others come/go. While the lighter kids are constantly in the news for follow-up. Yet another painful reminder of the double standards! This is so sad and until the world see all children as important it will remain the same!

Carpe Diem said...

"...warned us that, should we be foolish enough to get snatched and murdered, she’d find us and kill us again."

We had the same mother.

Did you ever see this movie?

Unknown said...

"Does it matter?


The question is whether it should matter and what we can do to change that shit."

It shouldn't matter, but I agree that it does and something needs to be done. Watching the news you would think that middle class blonde children and women are the only ones who ever go missing. The poor and the brown do not get potentially life saving coverage. As for what we can do about it? Beyond linking to and actively supporting sites like Black and Missing and doing what your mom did - looking out for our kids, I'm not sure. But if you think of anything please share because I'm ready to help.

SagaciousHillbilly said...

Yes, something was just never quite right about the Atlanta outcome.

"It’s our tradition of passing laws to incarcerate criminals coupled with our reluctance to examine the society from which they emerge."

That's where you nailed it. . . as you so often do so well.

It's such a nice day outside today. Hope you enjoy it!

Sarah G said...

This reminds me of the JonBenet Ramsey case. On the same night (Christmas Eve, 1996) a young black girl was raped and left for dead in the stairwell of her apartment building. No national news, no national search for a killer, no pictures of an innocent young (black) girl in the days and weeks before her horrific murder.

And the saddest part- The details remain a mystery to me. I heard the story on NPR a few weeks after the murders, and it has stuck with me nearly 12 years later. Yet, I can't remember the city, and the name of the child was never mentioned.

Anonymous said...

Reminds me of the 7-year-old South Philly black girl named Erica Pratt who chewed through the duct tape and escaped from the basement prison her kidnappers kept her in.

Unlike Elizabeth Smart (whose photo being plastered all over America ultimately led to her being returned to her family), Erika's brave escape put her in in the headlines.

Her disappearance never would have.

woodsba said...

To Shark Fu. My apologies for my bumbling response to your views. I absolutely agree with you and was making an attempt to do so.

Over the years it's become obvious that a persons race plays a major role in the press coverage of that individuals murder or disappearance. All to often, if anything it's a small blip in the media. I've often wondered if media coverage was a projection of the institutional racism in this country and an attempt to portray people of color as uncaring to what happens to their children....or less caring than white families.

Our media and police departments often play into that stereotype as you know.

Again, my apologies.

roslynholcomb said...

A while back in Huntsville AL, there was an Amber Alert for a 6yo black boy. Interestingly enough, there was intensive media coverage and they even kept his picture up on the tv screen throughout the whole broadcast day. They did a huge search with helicopters, the whole nine. I was pleasantly surprised, of course.

Unfortunately it turned out to be a fraud. The boy had been murdered by mom's boyfriend and they came up with an elaborate car-jacking scheme. Obviously, I was heart-broken over the death of the child, but I was additionally pissed that media attention had been wasted in this manner.

Knowing how black people are always seen as a collective, I wonder how many little missing black boys will be ignored because a reporter has this story in the back of their minds? No, it's not right, but it is reality.

Anonymous said...

What an excellent post. And, I love your mother!


seitzk said...

Leaving Atlanta, by Tayari Jones, is about the Atlanta child murders and it's GREAT. I highly recommend it!

Thanks for this post, too. It makes me furious and incredibly sad, the disparity between coverage of white murder victims and victims of color.

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