June 9, 2015

Raising Victims

My friend Kerrcarto used to have a profile picture in which he had photo-shopped steam coming out of his ears.  I often think of that photo when I read crap like this:
Trinecia Blacklock needs wheels to get around but that's never kept a smile off her face, until last Tuesday.
"We were just extremely excited," said Tonisha McCowan, Trinecia's mother. "We were waiting to see her graduate everybody was there to yell, scream, but we got shut down completely."
At Blacklock's fifth grade graduation ceremony, administrators at Link Elementary forgot she was there.
"They closed up the ceremony and then forgot to call my name," said Blacklock.
While her classmates walked up to get their certificates, Blacklock didn't.
"How they missed her sitting there by herself down there in a wheelchair, I don't know," said McCowan.
Only after her parents alerted administrators did the principal call her name. She never got a chance to cross the stage like everyone else.
"I wish I would have gone across the stage, but they have no ramp, nothing but stairs," said Blacklock.
Now she has her certificate. Her family even bought her a cake and had her pose for photos but the memories tied to that day she can't forget.
"It was just all very humiliating," said McCowan. "Her joy from that day was stripped from right under her."
No, I am not mad that they accidentally skipped this child at her fifth grade graduation ceremony, I am incensed at parents, media, and a society that ignores the dozens of things they could have done to preempt little Trinecia's presumed humiliation.  Sure, the school screwed up, but, why in the hell didn't someone else try to head it off?
Last week I sat through an ass numbing award ceremony at my children's school.  The ceremony began with the awarding of various cords that the seniors had earned to wear with their graduation robes.  They announced what a cord was, and then read off the list of seniors that had earned the privilege of wearing it.  Halfway through the ceremony I observed a student quietly pulling aside a teacher, whispering back and forth for a few seconds, and after the next round of cord announcing was complete, they backtracked and announced an award they had apparently missed earlier. That is how utterly simple it is to make sure someone's feelings don't get hurt when their name is skipped.

Why didn't Trinecia's family, teachers, or friends speak up for her?  When the Blacklock family arrived in the school gym and saw the stage set up, did they not see that it might present some difficulty for their wheelchair-bound child?  Why didn't they advocate for their child and pro-actively seek out information that would have alerted someone to the fact that there was no way for a wheelchair to cross the stage?
And, let's assume that this ceremony was like Every Other School Award Ceremony In The World.  They likely called names alphabetically.  Blacklock would have been at the top of the list, and that would have left twenty-four more letter's worth of names, and time, for someone to walk up to an administrator and mention that they skipped over a kid.  Once they had called the kids sitting on either side of her, did no one watching stop and think that maybe they had forgotten her?
If they had indeed "closed up the ceremony" before someone alerted them to the omission, then every single person in that school gymnasium is to blame for not saying something on behalf of that child.  And, quite frankly, someone should teach that child to speak up for herself, or, as it may sometimes be difficult for her, she should also know to ask others to assist her.  Everyone I know that has a mobility issue knows to survey their surroundings and plan for whatever is coming.  Why didn't this girl ask a teacher what the plan was for getting her to the stage to accept her certificate?  
There are thousands of words that could be written about the ridiculousness of a fifth grade graduation ceremony, the artificial inflation of the importance of the day, and the cruelty of a family that is guaranteeing that this child won't ever forget what happened, because they made it a front page story.  None of those words will fix what happened in this situation - but they would highlight the fact that if we didn't make mountains out of molehills, we would all be better for it.  

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