Thursday, January 17, 2008

Oh. My. God.

You may remember reading about Nixzmary Brown in the past couple years, the seven-year-old who was starved and beaten to death at age seven, allegedly by her mother and stepfather in Bed-Stuy. Coverage of the horrifying case continues today. The reporter doesn't even bother pretending to be objective.

The lawyer for the stepfather is trying to cast the girl, who only weighed 36 pounds, as a little monster who needed all the harsh discipline possible. The fatal beating came after Nixzmary was caught with a "forbidden" carton of yogurt.

Mr. Schwartz [the lawyer] said, “It’s easy to say, ‘Aw, he killed the kid and beat her because of yogurt.’ Many of us don’t have yogurt problems” — here he gestured to his own well-fed midsection — “but when you’re poor and you can’t afford unlimited amounts of food and you have six children, you have to make sure that everyone gets what they’re entitled to get, so that you can ensure that everyone stays healthy.”
Is that not the sickest spin in history?

She was seven, and she was starving -- half the size a kid her age should have been. She had younger siblings that were not mistreated, or at least not to a prosecuting degree. Her brief life of physical and psychic pain must have been a horror-show beyond most people's realm of imagination.

Nixzmary's school reported suspected (visible burn marks and bruises...) abuse to the Administration for Child Services -- twice -- but they dropped the ball. It's tough to make any bureaucracy run smoothly, but when ACS messes up, children die. All the cases they get right don't make the news, but they should have little room to err. It would make sense to pour resources into child welfare agencies, because taking good care of underprivileged children would help minimize the number of undereducated, impoverished adults, and maybe even create a contingent of people in a perfect position to give back to their city. (I need to learn more about this stuff so I can argue with more solid evidential backup.)

“It’s one thing to say, ‘Cesar Rodriguez was beating up this little 36-pound, 7-year-old girl,’ ” Mr. Schwartz said. “But think about it — all the other kids were younger and smaller.”

How many behavioral options does a severely malnourished child bound to a chair have?

Read up on the case history here.

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