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Everything We Know About Ma’Khia Bryant: How A Community Failed Her

Did Ma'Khia's community fail her? I think so.

Her Voice

If you don't want your family member to go to jail or an officer-involved shooting, deal with your family issues without the police. Once the police are involved, you no longer have control.

What we saw was another young Black life taken away too soon. What we saw was a 16-year-old girl who was loved by many gunned down by another White police officer again. And we called it systemic racism, police brutality, and all the things. We said the system failed her again. We blamed the police, and we blamed the system. But when did we stop to examine what was going on with this adolescent in the home? With the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement, we can easily categorize this tragic death as systemic racism, but some beg to differ. I beg to differ.


This incident is multi-layered with complex issues. I see how the foster system failed this teenage girl. And with that being said, I see how family dynamics played a role in this particular incident too.

What I mean by this is, we have a young teenage girl growing up in a broken home with (as far as we know) parents that couldn't care for their children. Then, we have relatives stepping up to care for said children but do not have the capability or means. Next, we have an overburdened foster system placing kids in overburden foster homes with foster parents who cannot provide the proper attention and care.

And I see how a young police officer made a split-second choice when he could have made other choices based on his training to diffuse the situation. Ma'Khia Bryant didn't have to die. But when a police officer is called to a scene where a deadly weapon is involved, he or she is forced to stop any threat with minimal to no attention to situational information. The officer has to try to save lives while immediately stopping a perceived threat.

All of this leads me to question: Did Ma'Khia's community fail her?

All of this makes me wonder what the real issue is. Let's look at some known facts.

Ma'Khia Bryant’s Family Dynamics

Ma'Khia Bryant was a daughter, sister, granddaughter, friend, and honor roll student. She was also a foster child. In two years, Ma'Khia was placed in five different homes. Due to confidentiality reasons, we may never know why Ma'Khia and her sister were placed in foster care, but multiple dysfunctional homes did play a role in this incident. According to an article by city-journal.org, she and her sister were removed from the care of their mother in March 2018. Police responded to an incident at the Bryant residence with clear evidence of abuse and unsupervised children.

As any grandmother would, Ma'Khia's grandmother took temporary custody of her grandchildren. But because their mother failed to comply with court-ordered mental health counseling and visitation orders, Bryant's grandmother was then forced to return her grandchildren to foster care. Fast forward to foster care. CNN reported police records show multiple 911 calls in the last three years to all of the foster homes Ma'Khia lived in.

Now, can you see the level of dysfunction and emotional chaos Ma'Khia had to live with? For roughly two years, she may have felt unsafe, unwanted, and unprotected with the lack of stability in the home. As a result, this may have caused Bryant to engage in violent behaviors like pulling out a deadly weapon to survive, given the events that led to her death.

America’s Foster Care System Failed Ma'Khia Bryant

In an article by The Grio, American journalist and author, Dr. Stacey Patton, shares her personal experience in the foster care system. Patton calls the American foster care system traumatizing; being placed in foster care can cause stress and additional trauma to a child based on the type of home or agency the child is placed in. She states statistics regarding Black children and foster care.

"According to federal data, Black children are placed into foster care at twice the rate of white children. They are more likely to be placed into foster care than receive in-home services even when they have the same problems as white children. Black children stay in foster care longer, receive fewer services, are more likely to be given psychotropic medications to control their behaviors, and increasing numbers are being funneled through the foster-care-to-prison pipeline."
"This is not a system that is designed to heal, empower, or prepare children to become healthy, thriving and productive adults. When Black families and communities fail their children, they are placed at risk for an entire ecosystem of negative outcomes."

What people don't know about the foster care system is that it can be very damaging to a child. According to the New Jersey Herald, it was Ma'Khia's parents and the foster care system that created a girl so mad she wanted to kill someone. Bryant wasn't born angry, they teamed up to put the knife in her hand. Did you know that according to the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform (NCCPR) foster care is considered unsafe for children? This same agency has reported the rate of sexual abuse to occur four times higher than the rate in the general population. In group homes, there was more than ten times the rate of physical abuse and more than 28 times the rate of sexual abuse as in the general population.

Now, can you see the type of environment Ma'Khia Bryant may have been living in? Can you see how a system neglected this child? If you ask me, a social worker should have been called to the scene too. Maybe then, the police officers called to the scene would have made an informed decision as opposed to reacting to a perceived threat. Then maybe more than one life would have been saved that day.

But based on laws, Ma'Khia still may have been arrested for a criminal act and placed in the juvenile justice system. There was only one victim that day and it was not her.

Ohio’s Foster Care System Failed Too

It has also been said that families and children fall through the cracks when people are not performing their job adequately. To be a civil servant is to protect and serve. The assistant director, Scott Britton, of the Public Children Services Association of Ohio, disclosed Ohio's foster care system struggled to help families with a high turnover rate or loss of caseworkers in recent years. It wasn't until recently Ohio State created an advisory panel to find ways to improve their foster care system which included recommendations of additional support and oversight.

In addition to system racism or police brutality in shooting deaths like Ma'Khia Bryant, we must also examine the home.

Accountability starts and ends in the home.

Featured image by Stephen Zenner/Getty Images

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