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Drugs and alcohol aren’t the problem, and blaming isn’t the solution

By Rep. Darrio Melton“I’m so sorry for your loss.”

That’s what Governor Bentley should have said when he learned of the death of 8-year-old Hiawayi Robinson.

“I’m so sorry for your loss, and I know my words can’t ease your suffering. It’s hard to understand when a child is taken from us, but I hope your family finds peace, and that law enforcement finds the person responsible for this terrible act.”

Instead of offering heartfelt condolences, Governor Bentley gave his two-cents to reporters, blaming the problem on potential drug or alcohol problems within the family.

“There are things that happen we just don’t understand. There are difficulties in families. You never know, it may be drug related, it may be alcohol related. It may be family problems. We just don’t know what the situation is,” Bentley said.

Let us not forget, Governor, that there are family problems everywhere there are families–from Madison and Mountain Brook to Prichard and Bessemer.

Drug and alcohol problems aren’t limited–they span the range of racial, economic and cultural backgrounds.

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But family problems are no excuse for a child to get hurt, and it’s certainly not a reason to rationalize it.

Last week, we talked about Ray Rice and Judge Mark Fuller, two men in the news for domestic violence. Ray Rice is a 27-year-old Black man from New York, who plays football for the Baltimore Ravens. Judge Fuller is a 56-year-old white man from Alabama, who sits as a Federal Judge. These are two very different men, but their problems are the same, and their actions are both inexcusable.

Similarly, Adrian Peterson has made the news for beating his 4-year-old son with a switch. Stories similar to this one–detailing physical or sexual abuse of a child–line our newspapers every week.

The only common thread in all of these stories is that there is a child who has been hurt and pain that needs to be eased.

For the governor to jump to conclusions about the death of this child shows how out of touch he is with Alabama families. It shows he views her death as another product of an impoverished community, not as a child whose future was robbed.

We have to work together to look for the warning signs and keep children and families safe. After all, it takes a village to raise a child. We can end the violence together.

And next time there’s a tragedy, Governor, try sticking to “I’m sorry for your loss.”

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Darrio Melton is a Democrat from Selma. He was elected to the Alabama House of Representatives in 2010.

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