7-Year Old Boy Handcuffed after a Temper Tantrum
by Dr. Boyce Watkins, Your Black World – Scholarship in Action
A 7-year old special ed student became upset while decorating an easter egg, and ended up being handcuffed by the NYPD as a result. Joseph Anderson, a first-grader, was taken to the hospital in metal handcuffs by the police, in spite of the fact that his mother said she was on her way to pick him up.
"He was crying and saying, ‘I want Mommy,’" said his mother, Jessica Anderson. "Why handcuff him? Why get the cops involved? He’s only 7."
According to his mother, Joseph has been wetting himself and vomiting since the incident, which took place on April 13.
"If he hears an ambulance, he runs under the bed and screams, ‘They’re going to get me,’" said his mother. "He’s really traumatized. I don’t let him watch the news anymore, because if he sees cops, he cries."
City Education Department officials claim that they handcuffed the boy to protect his classmates.
"The school tried to defuse the situation and then called for outside assistance when there was a concern the child would harm himself or others," said department spokeswoman Marge Feinberg.
Apparently, the boy became upset because his easter egg didn’t come out the color that he wanted. That’s when he began to get upset, calling for his mother. He was then cuffed and taken to the hospital.
"I was crying. I broke down," she said. "They know that my son is special ed. It’s like they’re trying to get rid of him, and it worked because I’m not sending him back there."
The NYPD has argued that the boy was “acting in a threatening manner,” and another source said that he was waving scissors.
"He was a danger to himself and others in the classroom," according to an NYPD spokesman. "He started spitting and cursing at the officers. The handcuffs were used to restrain the child because of his behavior. He was a danger to himself."
My thoughts on the Joseph Anderson case are the following:
1) How often do we hear about white kids being handcuffed at the age of seven? Perhaps it is the dehumanization of black males which leads us to believe that somehow we are less innocent during our childhood or that we are somehow accustomed to the trauma of being handled by the police at an early age. Much of the racism that exists in America could be mitigated if the world would simply realize that black boys are human too.
2) Are we expected to believe that a police officer couldn’t handle a child without cuffing him? I presume that most police officers are stronger than children, so one might expect that after calming the child down, they could have taken him to the hospital without using handcuffs.
3) This story can’t be disconnected from the bigger picture. The United States incarcerates more of its citizens than any country in the world. The citizens subject to this incarceration are disproportionately African American males. This institutionalization of black boys starts at an early age, when far too many of us (including myself) are diagnosed as having hyperactive attention deficit disorder, placed in special classes and then taken away in handcuffs when we get into a fight or argue with the teacher. It all starts at an early age, and this episode represents society’s goal of turning 7-year old Joseph Anderson into a statistic.
We should all be repulsed by this incident.
Dr. Boyce Watkins is a Professor at Syracuse University and founder of the Your Black World Coalition. To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here.