"the nexus of various intersecting social realities of privilege"
December 14, 2019 3:27 PM   Subscribe

In 2014, Patrick Blanchfield took a deep look at the report of the Connecticut Office of the Child Advocate (OCA) on the killing of 20 schoolchildren and 6 adults at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut: Sandy Hook, “White-on-White Crime,” and How Privilege Kills

"The OCA report fills in many of the gaps in previous analyses of what led up to events that December day, and merits close attention – I will turn to it shortly. But reading this report, it’s impossible not to think, too, about what else has been happening since Sandy Hook. I’m referring not just to the escalating number of school shootings that have occurred since Newtown, but also to the ongoing protests over the deaths of Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, John Crawford, and the scores of other young black men and women killed by police. It’s impossible not to think about these deaths while reading the OCA report, because, if any one thing leaps from its pages, it’s the fact that what Adam Lanza did at Sandy Hook would not have been possible without the enabling forces of white privilege, white wealth, and white impunity. Indeed, with pundits cynically trying to derail discussions of structural racism and police brutality by speciously concern-trolling about so-called “black-on-black crime,” it’s time to talk about Sandy Hook in a different way: not just as an act of “white-on-white” crime, but as an event that is inseparable from the white supremacy that helped produce it.

At just under a hundred and twenty pages in length, the OCA report reveals that what happened at Sandy Hook would have been utterly unthinkable if not for the selective attentiveness, determined along racial lines, of multiple American institutions – from our schools to social services to the prison-industrial complex. Before turning to the report itself, it’s important to stipulate the reality of how these institutions function when it comes to dealing with black youth, whether or not they suffer from psychiatric problems, and particularly when they do.
"

from twitter:
@PatBlanchfield
Today is the anniversary of Sandy Hook. I'm re-sharing this, from five years back: my close-reading of CT state reports on Adam Lanza's institutional history, which reveal how the massacre fundamentally implicates white supremacy and class inequality.
...
@PatBlanchfield
Those last reports were heavily redacted, but they contain one detail, at once explosive yet also - if you're familiar with these things - unsurprising. Four years *before* the massacre, cops were informed that Adam was going to "kill his mother and shoot children at Sandy Hook."
posted by the man of twists and turns (13 comments total) 45 users marked this as a favorite
 
At just under a hundred and twenty pages in length, the OCA report reveals that what happened at Sandy Hook would have been utterly unthinkable if not for the selective attentiveness, determined along racial lines, of multiple American institutions – from our schools to social services to the prison-industrial complex.

This is a good and important essay.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 3:49 PM on December 14, 2019 [13 favorites]


Well worth reading.
posted by CCBC at 3:53 PM on December 14, 2019 [1 favorite]


. . . Nancy Lanza existed at the nexus of various intersecting social realities of privilege that allowed her to look the other way as her son deteriorated, that let her throw money at the problem as though that alone could fix it, and that ultimately enabled her son to commit an unspeakable crime. The OCA report itself is not blind to this issue. As its authors ask:
“Would a similar family from a different race or lower socio-economic status in the community have been given the same benefit of the doubt that AL’s family was given? Is the community more reluctant to intervene and more likely to provide deference to the parental judgment and decision-making of white, affluent parents than those caregivers who are poor or minority? Would AL’s caregivers’ reluctance to maintain him in school or a treatment program have gone under the radar if he were a child of color?”
The questions here may be rhetorical, but, by this point, we should have no hesitation in answering: “No, no, and no.”


"Allowed her to look away" is a phrase that can't be ignored . . . BIPOC parents who see mental health or anti-social issues in their children do not have this luxury because they are highly aware of the danger the system presents to the child's life. Of course, the horrible irony outlined in the piece is that even as they're forced into that awareness they're also not given the access to resources and consideration from professionals that were turned down by Nancy Lanza.
posted by schroedinger at 4:27 PM on December 14, 2019 [11 favorites]


I’m just a couple of paragraphs in, but how is a ‘preschool suspension’ even a thing?
posted by not_that_epiphanius at 4:44 PM on December 14, 2019 [5 favorites]


We discussed the OCA Report when it came out. And I'm completely convinced by Blanchfield's take on it.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 5:21 PM on December 14, 2019 [2 favorites]


Blanchfield's views would not have done well in that thread.
posted by MillMan at 7:34 PM on December 14, 2019 [4 favorites]


Gun control would obviously have made the result a lot better, but other than that, I'm sad that I don't know a policy that would do a better job of taking care of Adam Lanza without over-intervening in a bunch of other kids' lives against the better judgment of their parents.
posted by value of information at 10:29 PM on December 14, 2019 [4 favorites]


I think the response to that statement is that we need gun control.
posted by fnerg at 12:19 AM on December 15, 2019 [2 favorites]


I don't know a policy that would do a better job of taking care of Adam Lanza without over-intervening in a bunch of other kids' lives against the better judgment of their parents.

I'm someone who grew up under conditions that would have had all of us kids removed if our mother hadn't presented as white and upper class. (She is white, but I was the only child in my class who was literally hungry, every day). I often wished the authorities would someday magically see through it. They didn't, and specially my little sister grew up under terrible conditions, after my brother and I left. I can't see it would have been over-intervention if they had done their jobs.
posted by mumimor at 2:43 AM on December 15, 2019 [10 favorites]


As the parent of a kid who's been identified by a teacher as possibly on the spectrum, I found this piece incredibly uncomfortable to read. I don't know that there was going to be a happy ending for Adam Lanza regardless; that's a long list of psychiatric/neurodevelopmental issues and it's not obvious to me that they're things you can generally fix with therapy. Perhaps his mother had been through enough therapists whose ideas didn't help, and enough educators who had no idea what to do, that she was skeptical that anybody was going to know better than her. I can empathize with this, honestly. I mean, I'm not there myself, but it's easy to see how someone singlehandedly raising a kid with a medical dictionary's worth of intractable problems would get to that point.

I can't explain the guns, though. That's just fucking nuts.
posted by eirias at 6:02 AM on December 15, 2019 [9 favorites]


I work with adults with disabilities and I work a lot with people diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders. What I've found is that there is just such a huge range of variability among the people I work with that it's incredibly hard to generalize about autism related disorders (and Down's Syndrome, and low IQ, and...). I noticed that many of my people are actually highly social, have great memories for names, faces, etc, can display a wide range of emotional variability and empathy. I have one person who is a pretty smart guy and is great at talking to people, is very social, has 5,000 friends on Facebook, etc, but is also (IMHO) kind of a dick- like, he told me once that he didn't like his manager at his job and wished she would get in a car accident. On the other hand, I have people who express love, care, concern, and warmth towards those around them and wouldn't dream of even saying such a thing; many of these people are less outwardly social.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that autism isn't a predicator for sociopathy. I suspect his doctors caught on to something about Adam that wasn't solely/specifically tied to his spectrum disorder/s. They were doing their professional duties in trying to intervene for his sake. I would also disagree that therapy can't help people with autism spectrum disorders. I have worked with people who I have seen grow tremendously as a result of consistent supportive social interactions, whether it be among peers, coworkers, social services, or healthcare professionals like therapists. The thing is, these services have to be set into place with purpose, structure, and clarity in ways that my people wouldn't be able to execute alone. Like it takes a village. I mean, having an autism related disorder doesn't make them not-people. It makes them people whose needs must be attended to with a bit more deliberation and intention than those without such diagnosis. And as people, of course they would benefit from therapy. Perhaps the "a-ha" moments would present differently, but I'm not even sure about that.
posted by erattacorrige at 12:50 PM on December 15, 2019 [8 favorites]


I guess what I'm trying to say is that autism isn't a predicator for sociopathy
Oh my goodness no! Reading the article as if it were would be a huge mistake, but I suppose there are people out there who would do just that.
For some reason, I have three friends with children on the autism spectrum, and all of them have struggled to get the right care, and have their children acknowledged as people in their own right. I can understand if a parent is frustrated and maybe even that she would try doing it her own way, though I wouldn't recommend it. But the guns...
And from an authority point of view, they should have recognized that she was not able to deal with the situation because of her own vulnerabilities.
posted by mumimor at 3:13 PM on December 15, 2019


This piece has haunted me since I saw this post. Whatever happened to Adam, that's one thing. But by providing guns, his mother just.....sealed the doom of so many, including those little tiny kids who barely had a chance to experience their own lives. And then all the A. Jones and related bullshit and hounding of the victims' families, and on and on and on. It's like wishing for time travel so you could go back in time and take out Hitler. The pointless desire to want to stop something before it happens even though it has already happened is so strong.
posted by 41swans at 8:32 AM on December 17, 2019 [1 favorite]


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