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The Public Shaming of Justin Ross Harris

“Black folk don’t get lice. That’s something nasty white folk who don’t wash and live in trailers get.” – Some African American woman I met once when I was a kid living in Labone.

And yet there I was: a Black child, in Africa, with lice. I had caught lice from a cousin who’d gone away to boarding school and spread it to us at home. If not for her, I would never had experienced lice, and would be inclined to agree with the large, sweating Afro-American visiting my house.

This is one of the earliest conversations I can recollect around the theme of judgment. I don’t even know if it’s fair to call this course of thinking “judgment”. If there is a singular word for ‘a lack of empathy that displays itself through and makes utterances predicated on presumed superiority’, then that’s what behavior is. I find that when tragedy strikes, many American’s aren’t ‘judgmental’ per se, they do whatever this unnamed rhyme and dance is.

I have already stated my unwavering support for Justin Harris, and until a prosecutor can prove beyond reasonable doubt that he intended to murder his child, that is not going to change. Did Justin’s actions lead to the death of his child? Yes. No one can dispute that. The question that is before us now is did he purposefully do so.

First of all, let me say that I am not naïve about what the likely outcome of this case will be. The Cobb County judge will likely find him guilty, because he doesn’t want to be seen as soft or wants to avoid the same criticism the judge in the Casey Anthony case did. It’s just easier this way: to lock Justin up for 20 years and forget him like a bad memory. However, we will all find in the end that doing this will not be that simple. This case interests me as I’ve said before because:

1)      I’m a parent

2)      I’m married and

3)      I’m educated

Just like the Supreme Court ruling in the Hobby Lobby case, the outcome of this case has implications for us all. Now that’s they’ve ruled that Hobby Lobby does not have to cover certain medical expenses because of religious beliefs, what is the ricochet effect of that? What else can a company decide not to cover because of their beliefs or mores? Your answer may be: “Well, just don’t go work at a Christian company.” Life, as we know, is never that simple. I know many a church girl who has ended up on the pole because she needed to make ends meet.

I’m going to discuss a few areas that are particularly troubling to me as regards to this case, starting with

The Media

Media treatment of this tragedy has been absolutely and shockingly shameful. From the beginning, they have sought to find Just Harris guilty in the court of public opinion before he’s properly been to trial. The two areas they have focused on are his search history and now his alleged sexting. Reports have indicated that he was sexting during the hours his son lay dying in the car. They have also said he and his wife searched on how long it takes an animal and/or a child to die in a hot car. What they have released is WHEN these searches took place. Was while his wife was pregnant? Was it the day the baby was born? Was it a few hours before he left his child in the car? Why can’t they say when? So you know when he was sexting, but can’t say when these searches took place? Sounds fishy to me…

Internet Searches

Critics of the Harris couple have proposed that they are both guilty of killing their son because they both did a search on kids in hot cars (at some point, again we don’t know when), and have sought to implicate his wife in this tragedy. Now, as someone who is married – and is married to a web developer – this could be troublesome should any tragedy befall us in our home. Again, let me tell on myself.

We have 3 tablets, 3 laptops, 3 smartphones and 2 desktop computers in our home. Once in a while my husband and I tweet or Facebook each other while we are in bed. Together. There have been numerous occasions where I have said “Hey babe! When you get a chance, Google xyz on your laptop.” And you know what? We’re not the only crazy couple in America who does this. Yes, yes…I know all you perfect couples gather ‘round the fire at night and commune in order to share the chronicles of your day while sipping hot cider, but we don’t. We share links and text each other.

Under what circumstances did this married couple search the same topic? How does that implicate intent to murder a child? Furthermore, what OTHER topics (like schools, vacation spots, poison control, etc) have they collectively searched? Do they have a pattern of doing so?

Note to MX5: Don’t send me anymore links to anymore crazy stories and then ask me to research them for our coffee chats. Just looking up information could implicate our guilt a tragedy!


Justin uses ‘Big Words’, therefore he’s Guilty

A police officer testified that when Justin Harris was informed that he was being charged with murdering his son, his objected incredulously by saying “But there was no malicious intent!”

That had people fuming.

“Who says that?” one internet user spat. “Who says ‘malicious intent’? You don’t say that if you’re innocent…you start crying!

Really lady? You sound really stupid. Whether he said “But I didn’t mean it!” or “But it wasn’t intentional!” or “But Gawd knowed it weren’t my desire to do dis to muh baby!”, there is something about the word “murder” that triggered the use of the verbiage “malicious intent”.

Part of that has to do with your exposure and your educational standard. Not every blokes response to duress is to cry. I’m sorry, but I have to throw out the Dumbass Card on that one.

The Rear Facing Car Seat

Out of ALL the nonsensical reasons I’ve heard people say points to evidence that Justin Ross intended to murder his child is the recent purchase of the rear facing car seat for his toddler son, Cooper.

Jesus be a leather glove so I can slap somebody.

When Aya was around 18-20 months, we had a scheduled pediatric visit for what seemed like quarterly shots. They went down a checklist of items we have in our home.

Do you have any fire arms?

Do you use tobacco products?

Is her car seat rear or forward facing.

I remember I was especially excited that her seat was forward facing, because now I could see her face and pass her crackers and milk with more ease.

“Is it a 3-point harness or 5-point harness?” Aya’s doctor asked.

I replied it was a 3-point harness. Why did she want to know?

“Because federal guidelines state that it has to be a 5-point harness,” she in replied. When I objected, saying I had JUST bought the 3-point harness car seat and whined about how much it was going to cost to get a new one, she said she understood, but I still needed to get it.

And being that parent, the one who wants to do everything right for her kids, I decimated my entire shoe fund and went out and spent it all on a new car seat to replace the new car seat.

So I ask: Why did the Harris’ buy a new car seat? And could it be that the reasons aren’t as sinister as the conspiracy theorists and pseudo-Sherlocks would have us all think?

Sexting as Evidence of Guilt

sexting-nation-fiDo you know how much Americans spent on porn last year? TEN BILLION DOLLARS. That’s more than the NBA, NFL and NHL combined. And so while everyone is ‘shocked’ that Justin Harris was sexting while he left his child in his car, they should not be. You don’t build a $10 billion industry because no one is consuming that product/service.

I used to work with this guy at a recruiting firm years ago that was heavy into internet porn. He was our only sales guy, but he never made any calls. He would just sit in his office and watch porn all day long. I never had much dealing with him, but the other recruiters said it was like he was in a trance when he was back there alone. He just couldn’t break free of it! I walked into his office to deliver something (I was the office admin, fresh out of college) and stood there for an eternity before he even realized I was there…and that was only after I clapped my hands and said:

“Hey. Chris! These came for you!”

Chris was married to a *good* woman named Alexis. She came into the office every so often. Alexis was super sweet, very educated, and probably made a good home for she and Chris (they didn’t have kids). But she was absolutely not a freak, and her husband –like millions of other men in America – had acquired freakish appetites that happened to include internet porn. Justin Harris had acquired a taste for sexting and was doing so while he was on his way into work – and if his attention span is anything like my old co-worker Chris’ – I can completely see how he walked away and forgot his son in his car. Porn and sex demand your complete and total attention.

There are not many Americans who have the moral right to judge Justin Harris as an intentional murderer because of this consumption of sexual fare. Shoot, I write for Adventures From the Bedrooms of African Women. All we talk about is sex. If (heaven forbid!) a tragedy befalls my kids, are the headlines going to scream “Sex blogger murders child while she creates sexually explicit content in her home!!!”

Possibly, and that’s why this Justin Harris’ case is troubling to me. Because now, according to public opinion and the banana court of law, I could be Justin Harris in a split second. Nothing about my life is perfect. I don’t always cry when loved ones die. I use language in certain situations that typical 8th grade leavers do not. I research a lot on the internet. Add the fact that my home is constantly in a state of disarray and we’re packed in like sardines, I am the perfect candidate for the negligent Black mother if ANYTHING should befall my kids!

So again, I do not believe Justin Harris intentionally murdered his son. I believe he was negligent and he slipped in the moment. He might be what I call a Gomer Pyle Personality, and have a history of slips, but none with results as tragic and fatal as this… and I’m sure with the public eye trained on him so severely, we’ll eventually find out everything. Why? Because people in society today lust information and relish at the thought of ‘judging’ someone else in order to make themselves feel more superior.

Don’t forget…Black people never get lice.


This article has 16 comments

  1. Nana Ama

    Thank you for a very humane take on a very tragic story. And thanks for the reminder that all God’s children sure do get lice!

  2. A-Dub

    Still wondering why the daycare didn’t call them…. any news on that?

    • Malaka

      No news on that yet. I have been wondering the same thing. In large daycares like that, I thought they had a policy on calling for attendance. It’s a mess. 🙁

  3. CH

    You’re fucking cracked. Supporting a baby killer makes you no better. Disgusting piece of trash.

    • Malaka

      And this is how superior and supposedly “sober” people talk to perfect strangers? Thanks for stopping by. Now excuse me while I continue to smoke crack with my better mannered buddies.

  4. Nancy Tannenbaum

    Thank you! I don’t believe Mr. Harris deliberately murdered his child. I do believe the media, the police, the judge, and the public have already convicted the man. He will never get a fair trial. And that is a tragedy.

  5. akumbu

    You are a good friend, Malaka. I pray you always have people fighting in your corner when things are tough.

  6. ChimpDetective

    Thanks for such an intelligent read. I’ve been glued to this story for some reason. And I’ve lost my breath at so many commenters saying basically “Lynch them!” I wondered if I had woken up in a third world country. One correction from my knowledge is that he wasn’t texting or on phone while driving past daycare. It was at work that he did that.

    The verdict is far from in, but I’ll add that if innocent of allegations, we as a culture need to ask ourselves, what has us so distracted- what are we racing to that we can lose sight of the most important things in our lives. And all of us are racing. Many don’t pause long enough to ask ourselves where to.

    • Malaka

      Thanks for clarification on the events.

      And you’re right: regardless of the outcome we as a culture need to ask ourselves some serious questions.

      It’s interesting that you mention that Americans are behaving as though this is a Third World country with this lynch mentality. I believe that if you pull back of the veneer just a little bit, America is a third world country. There are barrios, ghettos, trailer parks and so many levels of poverty in this industrialized nation. Oddly, it’s the people with access to technology that are calling for a lynching…presumedly the more “enlightened” of us. The instinct to lynch something is deeply embedded in the American psyche.

  7. Chase in CA


    I agree with everything you said. And frankly, it frightens me that people want to assume first that someone is evil instead of accepting that tragic horrible things happen to ordinary well-intentioned people. I think people don’t want to imagine that this sort of event could happen unless there is someone evil to blame it on, not just tragic circumstances like a forgetful father. He will have to live this down the rest of his days, and I am sure that is pure torture.

  8. David S.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the very same people who are ready to lynch the man before all the evidence is in were only a few months ago screaming for George Zimmerman to be given every benefit of the doubt that the facts would allow and even some that the facts wouldn’t allow.

    • Malaka

      You know what David? I didn’t want to be the one to say it, but I’m so glad you did!

      I don’t know if you all caught the story about the mom who left her 2 kids in a hot car so she could go get a hair cut? Passers by heard then crying. The kids couldn’t get out because she had the child lock enabled. After they smashed her windows, and freed her kids, she came outside and pleaded with the crowd not to call the police.
      And guess what the people involved it? They. Did. Not. Call. The. Police!

      But someone recorded the entire event on their cell phone (yippee). What kind of sick world we live in where mom intentionally leaves her kids in the car and it doesn’t even get reported? But then you have Ross Harris who according to eyewitnesses looked sincerely distraught over the death of his child and we lock him up for murder?

  9. Reba Gaddy

    I have felt, as you, that the media has already has tried him. I am glad that God did not give me that job of judging others. I do not believe that he intentionally murdered his child. I think it was a bad judgement call, on his part, one that he will be paying for the rest of his life. When my children were smaller, I left my little girl at Church one Sunday night. We were having people over to our home and I simply forgot her. some of the people who were coming brought her home. Now, if someone had wanted to, I would be in the same boat. Let he that is without sin cast the first stone. Since we have not had our lives put on TV, we can be pious and proud but if someone did, would we pass the test. I feel he is innocent until proven guilty by a court of law. I pray God’s blessings on this entire family!

    • Malaka

      Amen! And thank you for being so open in sharing the type of mistake so many parents make DAILY. It’s so easy to crucify someone else when you think your mistakes and sins are protected and concealed by darkness. I wonder if all these people casting judgement would be so quick to do so if EVERY aspect of their lives were broadcast?
      I look forward to him getting his day in court, hopefully in front of an impartial jury. I feel so sad for his family.

  10. He is Family

    I can not thank you enough for writing such a thoughtful article. Your kindness and common sense are refreshing.

    • Malaka

      You’re very welcome. I’m not making this about race, but knowing the sort of knee jerk reaction American society has when someone is perceived as guilty compels me to have compassion for him. And as I stated, my husband was on the same team as Ross. If he was truly malicious, we’d all know it by now.

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