Original URL: http://www.alligator.org/opinion/editorials/article_6230f9d2-c89b-11e5-ba62-f328619170d1.html
Editorial: Dozier represents US at its worst
As journalists, it is our obligation to maintain a cool head when parsing through information and drafting a story. Although we in the Opinions section are not held to the
same standards of objectivity as the rest of the paper, it is still up to us to collect and pore over as much information as possible; whether our findings align with our
worldview, it remains our job to share and dissect what we may stumble upon in a comprehensive manner.
But every once in awhile, a story or issue comes along that is so transparently awful, so blatantly offensive and nauseating, that any pretense of a calm, reassuring
authorial voice has no choice but to be thrown out the window.
We would venture to guess when asked what an oppressive, inhumane prison looks like, the average American would most likely conjure up stereotypes of the Gulag in
the mid-20th century Soviet Union or perhaps those seen in Hollywood blockbusters: Torture and dehumanization are dished out wantonly, with no regard for a prisoner’
s physical or mental state; the structure itself is looming and bare, serving no purpose other than to house horrors and inspire fear in those imprisoned.
For many Americans, the associations carried with institutions of that sort are so far removed from their daily lives it is utterly impossible to imagine such atrocities
happening in the land of the free. However, not only have these happened here and continue to happen, but for over a century the punishments deemed fit for fictional
action heroes were committed against Florida’s children under the auspices of the state itself.
It was reported last week that state legislators Sen. Arthenia Joyner and Rep. Ed Narain had drafted legislation to compensate families for the burial expenses of those
who had died at the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys. For those unaware, the Dozier School for Boys, situated in Marianna, Florida, was ostensibly meant to serve as a
correctional facility for young, troubled men. However, rather than rehabilitating and healing, Dozier inflicted only pain and suffering.
An investigation by anthropologists and archaeologists from the University of South Florida in 2013 has only contributed to the fear and loathing that hang over the
school, having found scores of bodies in paupers’ graves across the school’s grounds.
Beyond the stunning fact that Dozier was a state-sanctioned horror, its very existence is a testament to the troubling and haunting realities Americans seem frightened or
unwilling to acknowledge: Our government, whether in ways insidious or overt, is capable of great evil. Those who resided at Dozier prior to its eventual close — poor,
lower-class young men, both black and white — remain on the fringes of American society. Look no further at the willful negligence and disinterest that led to the crisis in
Flint to see a modern manifestation of the sensibilities that allowed Dozier to even exist. Now, as it was then, those on the fringes of American society continue to be
marginalized in social, economic and physical fashion; we sincerely doubt that $7,500 in funeral expenses can heal the knowledge for families where the state, not
circumstance, was directly responsible for each child’s early passing.