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The McKinney, Texas pool party: More proof that ‘black children don’t get to be children’

The Post's Jonathan Capehart was reminded of a provocative headline as he watched the video from the McKinney, Tex., pool party. (Video: Tom LeGro/The Washington Post)

Eric Casebolt did something right: He resigned from the McKinney, Tx., police force four days after a Texas pool party in a Dallas suburb became the latest red dot of racial tension on the national map. Not that he really had any choice. His reprehensible and, according to the McKinney police chief, “indefensible” treatment of a bikini-clad 15-year-old African American girl was caught on video.

But after watching the full seven-minute video of Casebolt’s horrific treatment of Dejerria Becton, the headline on a powerful and important November 2014 opinion piece by Stacey Patton for The Post summed up my feelings perfectly: “In America, black children don’t get to be children.”

Lord knows what really happened to spark the chaos. Tatiana Rhodes said it was two white women who uttered racial insults to her and her pool guests. an altercation between two adults. Benét Embry said it was “a pool party run amok” by teens who didn’t live in the Craig Ranch suburb north of Dallas scaling the fence to get to the community pool. To be honest, I don’t quite care. Calling the cops was fine. What they did once they got there is what’s at issue. And what we watched Casebolt do to Dajerra was unconscionable.

A McKinney, Texas police officer has been suspended after pulling his gun on a group of teenagers at a pool party. (Video: Brandon Brooks)

The list of horribles in this video is lengthy.Dejerria and friends walk away after Casebolt yells, “Get out of here. I already told you. Leave!” Seconds later, he grabs Dejerria and slings her around like a rag doll. Casebolt pulls his gun on two other teens. He restrains a half-naked and crying Becton, who continually pleads for her mother to be called, face down in the grass. Throughout the encounter, he can be heard hurling expletives at the kids like candy.

The disturbing video was made by Brandon Brooks, a white 15-year-old who told CNN, “I was one of the only white people in the area when that was happening.” He continued, “You can see in part of the video where he tells us to sit down, and he kinda like skips over me and tells all my African-American friends to go sit down.”

The killing of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman in 2012 awakened the nation to “the talk” black parents at every socioeconomic level have had with their children for decades. The one about how society views them with suspicion and how they must behave in public, including the do’s and don’ts of interacting with police. And the heartbreaking lecture includes a warning that following those rules might not be enough to save their lives from a police officer or a civilian armed with subconscious bias and a baton or an itchy trigger finger.

Also note, the people of the Craig Ranch neighborhood of McKinney, Tex., are not the economically devastated people of West Baltimore or the repressed people Ferguson. According to, Craig Ranch has a median household income in more than $109,000. That’s almost $30,000 more than the city of McKinney and almost twice that of the entire state of Texas. According to the Census Bureau, the African American population of McKinney is about 11 percent, which is on par with the state of Texas as a whole.

But what links Craig Ranch to Baltimore to Cleveland to Ferguson is the plaintive question from a Baltimore mother during an interview with Lester Holt of NBC News last month. “How do you tell your child how to behave,” Latish Walker asked, “when they are not doing anything wrong in the first place?” Unfortunately, there is no answer, which is why there will be no end to the wearying videos of African Americans children in soul-crushing confrontations with police.

Follow Jonathan on Twitter: @Capehartj