Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Jail-Themed Playground in NYC Public Housing & It's Potential Effect on Children

From the files of "we cannot make this stuff up" comes the story about a playground in the Tompkins Houses housing project in Bedford-Stuyvesant (BedStuy) Brooklyn. A picture is truly worth a thousand words, so I give you the photo in all of it's unadulterated shame...

While some will say that it is just an homage to kids playing "Cops & Robbers" as they have done for decades, I wholeheartedly disagree. Number one, kids don't really play that game on playgrounds anymore, and most black parents teach their pre-school aged boys not even make a gun out of their fingers for fear that some over-zealous officer will shoot first and ask questions later citing, "He had a weapon! It looked like a weapon and I was in fear for my life" and beat both the criminal and civil cases.

I live in a suburban area (code for mostly white) and the playgrounds in my neighborhood have jungle gyms (as we used to call them) fashioned after castles, airplanes, cars and even a stagecoach. Naturally, these structures are designed to nurture a child's imagination while they climb, swing and jump or simply turn the steering wheel, spin the propeller, etc. So, it would seem that while little Molly and Jake are inspired to imagine being a princess or a pilot, little Imani and DeShawn are encouraged to imagine being in jail.

It got me thinking about how other toys and games might have a similarly insidious effect on black and hispanic children, so I pondered some of the toys and games from my youth in the 1970s:

The Easy Bake Oven would now be the "Easy Crack Oven." Complete with measuring spoons for just-the-right-cut of baking soda, syringes and even the handy-handle to eliminate those pesky burns on the kids' hands that too often spark annoying visits from CPS/DYFS and cause entire batches to be flushed down toilets or swallowed to avoid mandatory jail time.

Hot Wheels cars will still be known as Hot Wheels, but now come with one tire that is slightly less inflated than the others so it warrants being pulled over repeatedly. Also included is a choice of a bag of incriminating evidence such as drug paraphernalia or a "slim jim" and various warrants for minority children who play with the cars.
CHiPs Action Figures still feature "Ponch" and "Jon," but their uniforms will be updated to include Tasers as well as more durable "billy clubs" for use during prolonged beatdowns of minority men who have been pulled over with the aforementioned Hot Wheels. Collectible packages will also include flashlights and plungers to be used at the officers' discretion to sodomize any innocent-until-proven-guilty suspects they might harass, torment or arrest. 
Slinky toys will continue to walk down stairs alone or in pairs and make a slinkity sound in white neighborhoods. They will, however, be used in lieu of "flexi-cuffs" for use in subduing minority suspects. They can be used to secure hands and feet and also are useful in implementing illegal chokeholds. They are currently being tested for use in sodomizing suspects as well.

Interconnecting LEGO blocks, designed to foster imagination and creativity in future architects and engineers, will be used in the ghetto to inspire young black children to adopt threatening facial expressions and attach guns to their hands. It seems that the only black LEGO character to be found was this one (I never really thought about it as a child, but ALL of our LEGO sets came with yellow people with detachable hair that emulated a "bowl cut" for men and a flip, bob or ponytail for women). Law enforcement officers will study the LEGO figure and carry a copy of a photo of it at all times so that black men will always "fit the description" of one suspect or another.

Finally, the Game of Life will add brown pegs and the game will include technology that allows any cars carrying the brown pegs to bypass college and marriage and head directly to the welfare or unemployment office. After a few lost turns there, brown pieces will proceed to jail where the Game of Life will either end in physical death or the death of their spirit and hope. Any brown pegs released from jail will be doomed to continue playing with Hot Wheels, CHiPS dolls and Slinkys and repeat the incarceration portion of Life as there is plenty of funding for incarceration, but very little for education and rehabilitation.
*Note: Life will also detect when two pink or two blue pegs occupy the same car and detour them away from church and marriage, while allowing them access to education.


  1. This is some funny stuff Rachel! :)

  2. Yes, her commentary and pictures are funny but the subject is far from funny. I hope all can see just how serious this really is. I posted the photo to allow other's to see what exactly things like a jail park actually do to our and our children's psyche and just how irresponsible it really is. Rachel added the humor which appropriate for someone like myself who can really get serious about these topics. We can not allow these thing to happen in our neighborhoods and think that it was done for "play cops and robbers" and forget that our children are victims in institutional racism.

    Tara Frowner