Sunday, 03 Dec 2023

Police stopped a Black couple in Tennessee and took their children

Police stopped a Black couple in Tennessee and took their children

Police stopped a Black couple in Tennessee  and took their children

Nearly a month ago, Bianca Clayborne, Deonte Williams, and their five children were on their way from Georgia to Chicago for Clayborne's uncle's funeral when a highway patrol officer stopped them in Manchester, Tennessee.

That moment - about 60 miles outside Nashville - has since upended their lives as Clayborne and Williams try to regain custody of their children after they say state authorities "kidnapped" them on account of a minuscule amount of marijuana in the car, the Tennessee Lookout first reported.

The separation described by Clayborne and Williams fits into a historical pattern of US child welfare services dividing poor, Black and Indigenous families in particular on the grounds of alleged neglect and abuse, fueling disparities in who gets to remain a family and who doesn't.

"I just have to believe if my clients looked different or had a different background, they would have just been given a citation and told you just keep this stuff away from the kids while you're in this state and they'd be on their way," said Jamaal Boykin, one of the family's attorneys, according to the Tennessee Lookout.

In her damning book, Torn Apart: How the Child Welfare System Destroys Black Families - and How Abolition Can Build a Safer World, University of Pennsylvania law professor Dorothy E Roberts described how the US child welfare system historically punished families - especially Black ones - for living through poverty as they face accusations of neglect or being unable to meet children's housing, healthcare and other basic needs.

Roberts argues that racist stereotyping influences the way child welfare workers and policymakers approach the investigations of families of color, finding that one in 10 Black children are forcibly removed from their families and put into foster care by the time they are adults. She wrote in an excerpt that more than half of US Black children would face some form of a child welfare investigation by the time they are 18 while fewer than a third of white children would.

In Clayborne and Williams's case, the trooper stopped their car on 17 February for having dark tinted windows and driving in the left lane without actively passing, according to citations reviewed by the Lookout. The officer searched their car and found five grams of marijuana, a misdemeanor offense. He arrested Williams and took him to a local jail. Clayborne followed, as her kids cried.

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