Ma’Khia Bryant was in foster care. Her death happened outside of her foster home. Though the facts of the altercation leading to the police response are in question, the cause of Ma’Khia’s death is in plain view. The State of Ohio, Ma’Khia’s custodian, by way of its police officer, shot and killed one of its own children in the light of day. We join the legions of child advocates in outrage and despair at the irony of this dark and painful truth.
Children in foster care are exposed to and experience a number of well-documented vulnerabilities. The trauma experienced prior to entering foster care is often compounded when the child is separated from her parents. This trauma can be exacerbated by educational instability, insufficient mental health services, and health disparities. Children in foster care are disproportionately children of color, and a disproportionate number of them are Black, exposing them to stigma, bias and racism from birth and throughout their young lives.
On April 20, 2021, these vulnerabilities also exposed 16-year-old Ma’Khia Bryant to the deadly force used against her by the Columbus Division of Police during an incident that rapidly escalated. At the UCLA Pritzker Center, we recommit ourselves and our resources to the work of dismantling systemic racism, especially where children and families are concerned. In a moment where Derek Chauvin was facing his fate for murdering George Floyd, Ma’Khia Bryant was face down in the street, having died a Black child in foster care at the hands of the state charged with her protection.
May her memory raise our voices for all the children like Ma’Khia.