Such a Sad Story

What Women Really Think
Aug. 17 2010 1:15 PM

Such a Sad Story

Is there any sympathy to be had for Shaquan Duley, who the New York Times says has admitted to smothering her 18-month-old and 2-year-old sons with her bare hands before letting her car roll into a lake with their bodies inside to hide her crime? Speaking in that stilted press conference lingo, the local sherriff said, baldly, "She was a mother that was unemployed. She had no way of taking care of her children." Was she a struggling woman in a struggling community, where even in 2000, a quarter of the population lived below the poverty line and the average family wasn't doing much better? But the sherriff continued. "She was fed up with her mother telling her that she couldn’t take care of the children or wasn’t taking care of the children. She just wanted to be free."

Desperate, unemployed, and without anywhere to turn, or fed up and ready to be free? Susan Smith (accused of drowning her kids rather than giving her ex-husband custody so that she would be wholly free for another man) or Andrea Yates (diagnosed with mental illness, poorly treated, left alone by a husband who many felt had ample opportunity to help her or prevent her actions)? Murderer, or murderous victim of circumstance?

Advertisement

Will we want to know? Our fascination with the cases of Smith and Yates wasn't necessarily pretty; it's been called prurient, voyeuristic, and a whole host of other unpleasant names, but it was real. Throughout the investigations, throughout the trials, the media fed our interest. We were enthralled by their motives even as we were replused by their actions, and we didn't just watch; we argued, reasoned, compared. We examined ourselves, as a society, to see what those murders said about us. We considered the lives of those children and their promise, cut off. Will we do the same with the case of Shaquan Duley?

Here's a hint: Have you ever heard of Banita Jacks? She was convicted of killing her four daughters in 2009. It was a horrible crime: The girls' bodies were found decomposing in Jacks' home months after their death. But there were no Law and Order episodes "based on a true story" about Jacks, no films, no songs referencing the case. Like Duley, Jacks was a black, single, unemployed mother of many, on public assistance and depending on the help of others to get by. Jacks was already on the outskirts of much of society, and her case was relegated to the outskirts as well. If the same can be said of Duley-if a year from now, we've forgotten her name-our collective lack of interest will suggest an ugly truth about where our societal attention lies. Too often, when it comes to mothers and children struggling on the margins, we've already written them off. As neighbor Ramona Milhouse said as she watched Duley's car being pulled from the water, "It's such a sad story."

TODAY IN SLATE

History

The Self-Made Man

The story of America’s most pliable, pernicious, irrepressible myth.

Michigan’s Tradition of Football “Toughness” Needs to Go—Starting With Coach Hoke

Does Your Child Have “Sluggish Cognitive Tempo”? Or Is That Just a Disorder Made Up to Scare You?

The First Case of Ebola in America Has Been Diagnosed in Dallas

Windows 8 Was So Bad That Microsoft Will Skip Straight to Windows 10

Politics

Mad About Modi


Why the controversial Indian prime minister drew 19,000 cheering fans to Madison Square Garden.


Building a Better Workplace

You Deserve a Pre-cation

The smartest job perk you’ve never heard of.

Don’t Panic! The U.S. Already Stops Ebola and Similar Diseases From Spreading. Here’s How.

Parents, Get Your Teenage Daughters the IUD

The XX Factor
Sept. 30 2014 12:34 PM Parents, Get Your Teenage Daughters the IUD
  News & Politics
Politics
Sept. 30 2014 9:33 PM Political Theater With a Purpose Darrell Issa’s public shaming of the head of the Secret Service was congressional grandstanding at its best.
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 30 2014 7:02 PM At Long Last, eBay Sets PayPal Free
  Life
Gaming
Sept. 30 2014 7:35 PM Who Owns Scrabble’s Word List? Hasbro says the list of playable words belongs to the company. Players beg to differ.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 30 2014 12:34 PM Parents, Get Your Teenage Daughters the IUD
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Sept. 30 2014 3:21 PM Meet Jordan Weissmann Five questions with Slate’s senior business and economics correspondent.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 30 2014 8:54 PM Bette Davis Talks Gender Roles in a Delightful, Animated Interview From 1963
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 30 2014 7:00 PM There’s Going to Be a Live-Action Tetris Movie for Some Reason
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 30 2014 6:44 PM Ebola Was Already Here How the United States contains deadly hemorrhagic fevers.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 30 2014 5:54 PM Goodbye, Tough Guy It’s time for Michigan to fire its toughness-obsessed coach, Brady Hoke.