A 6-Year-Old Black Boy Arrested for Picking a Tulip Proves We Need Criminal Justice Reform Now
Systemic racism robs children of their innocence
In North Carolina, officers arrested a six-year-old Black boy for picking a tulip near his bus stop. The aftermath of this flower-picking incident shows racism can blossom at any time. Inequality doesn’t wait until a Black person reaches a particular age or milestone. Rather, systemic racism starts impacting children at a young age and never stops. It seems Black innocence is like petals, lost to the wind.
Currently, America doesn’t have a federal law that protects children as young as six from arrest. Each state decides at what age a person can stand trial. To me, this lack of a federal policy is problematic, especially for Black children already overrepresented in the criminal justice system.
Just because North Carolina law permitted officers to arrest a six-year-old doesn’t mean we should accept it within our society. Accepting unjust laws cradles an unjust system. We need to start evaluating how apathy impacts children. Surely future generations will judge us on how we protect or neglect our most vulnerable population.
As people debate this case, they should consider the mental and psychological consequences of incarcerating a child. Unlike adults, children are mentally and physically underdeveloped. Their bodies grow taller and stronger as they age. Also, their decision-making abilities improve as they grow from a toddler to a child and progress up to preteen years, teenage years, and then young adulthood.
It seems Black innocence is like petals, lost to the wind.
Picking a tulip is a natural childhood desire regardless of where the flowers are located. That’s because children do not understand our complex legal system of property ownership. They attend kindergarten and first-grade classes where themes like “sharing” and “caring” are pumped into their psyche.
Imagine being told that everyone shares, cares, and works together only to learn that picking a flower can land you in the criminal justice system.