Draconian child support laws killed Walter Scott

Note: This article is also available in Spanish.

“It’s no fun – being on the run,
Because they got me – Public Enemy number one…”
-Chuck D

The recent shooting death of Walter Scott by (now former) policeman Michael Slager in North Charleston, SC, earlier this month is being viewed by many in the country, particularly those in the Black American community, as yet another example of racially inspired police brutality run amok, and on this point they would have a good one – the evidence in favor of such a position is indeed quite compelling. However, upon closer inspection, one finds that what played a powerful role in Mr. Scott’s demise was the utterly draconian child support laws which disproportionately affect Black American men.

As Citizen Journo Mr. Tommy Sotomayor notes in his excellent video presentation on YouTube, nearly 15% – one eighth of all inmates currently in the Palmetto State’s prisons – are there due to being in arrears for child support payments. We know that Black men in particular tend to be disproportionately represented in the prison population overall in this country. And Mr. Sotomayor argues that Black women themselves have a role to play in this current state of affairs – one that has, even if indirectly, played a role in at least one Black man that we are aware of, winding up dead.

While some may see this as yet another misogynistic dig at (Black) women on the part of Sotomayor or indeed, the writing and editorial staff here at A Voice For Men, his argument is not without precedent. Nearly two years ago, keyed to the release of her book “Doing The Best I Can: Fatherhood In The Inner City”, Johns Hopkins University professor Kathryn Edin published an interview in the Philadelphia Weekly newspaper which discusses the book’s premise and why she and her co-author, fellow scholar Timothy Nelson, felt it was important to delve into this rarely examined side of the “family values” debate. Edin, who co-authored the critically acclaimed “Promises I Can Keep: Why Poor Women Put Motherhood Before Marriage” a decade ago, argues that our elected officials and governments at all levels, got it completely wrong about poor and minority dads – that far from the stereotypes of being “deadbeats” and “hit and run” guys, these were men who desperately wanted to father, to be there for their kids – but they faced formidable, sometimes insurmountable obstacles to make that happen. One of those obstacles, was the child support system that hounds rather than helps them in their quest to be there for their kids.

From all that we can gather, Mr. Scott was on good terms with his kids, so there were no problems there. The only problem was that, according to the Wikipedia entry on him, he was arrested ten times for contempt of court charges related to his inability to pay child support. Some reports showed that he had earned only $800 USD monthly – hardly enough for a single adult grown man to live on in the current economy, let alone pay the anywhere from $7,000-$18,000 USD arrears in child support that he owed (depending on which news source you choose to believe). As a result, Scott rightly feared that he would be put back in prison on that fateful morning earlier this month when he was pulled over in a routine traffic stop. To avoid capture and yet another arrest, he chose to flee.

Sadly, his story in this regard is by no means unique – indeed, it is a lot more common than we’re willing to admit, as Alice Goffman, another (White!) academic, notes in her work “On The Run: Fugitive Life In An American City”, and Charles Murray documents in his excellent tome “Coming Apart: The State Of White America, 1960-2010”. Both of these works detail the lengths to which poor and inner city men, Black, White and Latino, go to avoid the police for a whole range of “offenses” – which include child support arrears. All three of these works were written about and based in my home town of Philadelphia, and I can tell anyone reading this that the Family Court building on 11th St. between Market and Chestnut is the stuff of urban legend – you can and will be locked up by the Sheriff’s Department on the spot if you are so much as a few bucks in the red on child support payments. Not only that, but as Goffman notes in “On The Run”, it is not at all unusual for people in the hood – in this case Black women – to use the system to “get back” at their baby daddies.

Back here at the ranch, AVFM colleague Mr. Ty Henry, recently wrote an equally excellent piece covering the Scott shooting, giving yet more damning evidence of the carnage our nation’s wrong-headed and draconian child support laws are doing to Black and poor men:

“David Pate, associate professor of social work at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, stated in the International Business Times that most arrests of black men in arrears come during traffic stops.

“Black men live in constant fear, period. And I think the fear that Mr. Scott had was on different levels,” said Pate. “There needs to be more uncovering of how the child support system works and whether it helps families who are really poor. For families that are making less than $10,000 [a year], is it helping those children be in a better place when they know their parents are under constant stress of being locked up?”

Black men have the highest rate of non-payment, due to high unemployment, said Pate.”

Yet, with these facts well known and academically documented, the Social Justice Warriors among us refuse to deal honestly with them – or they ignore them altogether, as we can see in the recent column written by perennial Manosphere nemesis, David Futrelle of We Hunted The Mammoth infamy:

“Over on men’s rights hate site A Voice for Men, Attila Vinczer has found the true villain in the case of Walter Scott, the black man shot in the back after he ran from a white cop: Don’t blame the cop for shooting and killing a man who was no danger to him whatsoever; blame the ex-wife who simply wanted Scott to pay the child support he owed…”

Please note that nowhere in his entire spiel does he address what Mr. Henry actually wrote – and chances are very high that if he gets wind of this column, he won’t address the facts contained herein either. Note how he only puts up strawmen to knock them down – going to comments made by readers over at men’s rights discussion groups on Reddit and so forth.

But at least Futrelle is saying something; the Black Feminist Brigades don’t even do that.

None of the most prominent among them – Feminista Jones, Brittney Cooper, Kimberly Foster, Jamilah Lemieux, Mikki Kendall – have addressed the 500 lb. gorilla in the middle of the room. All of them talk about the shooting itself, but don’t say a mumbling word about the root causes – which I find utterly ironic, since that is the mantra that SJWs, Black and White, always go to when anything racial comes up. This is hugely important, since we are constantly being bludgeoned over the head with claims that Black feminists are fighting the good fight not just for Black women, but for Black men like Walter Scott, too. Given their icy silence on the matter, please pardon me when I say that I can’t tell.

In a sane world, the murder of Walter Scott would force a national dialogue about child support and family court system, especially in a time when we claim to be redefining what man and fatherhood means; but, as we Red Pillers know all too well, one should never listen to what people say; we should watch what they do. In the end, however, our ever-increasing Matriarchy is just fine with keeping the old rules about man and fatherhood in play, especially when it suits them to do so.

No matter how many poor and Black men get caught in the undertow.

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