Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The parents of the year and bad English

A few weeks ago there was a girl raped in Arizona. An 8-year-old girl, raped by 4 boys aged 14, 13, 10 and 9. All the participants were from Liberia.

This is quite a newsworthy event in and of itself, but it made really big news when the parents of the girl disowned her for dishonoring the family. They also said that they don't think anything should be done to the boys.

Now the parents are denying it, saying that they were misunderstood because of their poor English. I think they are lying, because the girl's older sister said pretty much the same thing, two different police investigators said it was not a misunderstanding, and various Liberian powers-that-be behaved like it was an unfortunate cultural feature, rather than shocking news.

If the family tried to avoid whatever shame having a raped daughter brings in Liberia, it didn't work. If the parents of the year had at least pretended to be real parents, the story might have never gone far beyond Arizona. Now even the Liberian president got to comment on it, so at least all Liberia knows what happened and probably who they are. Hope the child protection services find the child some better parents. Also hope that at least some Liberian parents - I am not holding breath for these particular ones - drew sensible conclusions from the event.

Anyway: the whole bunch of fuckers is suddenly unable to speak English. The parents, who say they came to the US 5 years ago, also claim thet they thought that "it's her fault" and "take her, I don't want her" actually meant "we love our dear girl and want to help her". Steven Tuopeh, the 14-year-old who is being tried as an adult, has come to the US in 2005 and "has limited understanding of English". The uncle of the two youngest boys, aged 9 and 10 (in some sources, 9 and 9) says that they came to the US 6 years ago and speak very limited English.

What the fuck is wrong with these people? I went to high school in the US; everyone who'd been there for 2 years understood English well and spoke it tolerably, regardless of whether they were from Russia, Iran, Israel, a Cambodian refugee camp, someplace unpronounceable in China, or Texas. And those were older kids (14+), for whom learning a new language is an effort. How the hell do you get a 9-year-old who'd lived in the country for 6 years and doesn't speak the language?

I understand that something like that might happen in a sufficiently big town where everyone around speaks the kids' native language. But we are not talking about Spanish-speaking kids in the most Spanish-speaking parts of El Paso. We are talking about Liberians in Phoenix, Arizona, a 1000-2000-person community in a city of 1.5 million. Not to mention that English is in fact the official language of Liberia, even though only a minority speaks it as their native language.

On a related note: there were a few discussions on IRC of whether the family was Muslim. They are not; they are Christian.

On a somewhat-related note: Liberia's ex-president Charles Taylor is on trial for rape, murder, mutilation and cannibalism. Maybe those Liberian boys just want to grow up to be like the president.

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