According to the Federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act, child abuse is "an act or failure to act which presents imminent harm," such as emotional and/or physical abuse. Every state, excluding Georgia and Washington, consider emotional manipulation abuse. Nearly 22 states, the District of Columbia, the Northern Mariana Islands, and Puerto Rico define child abuse as also involving mental abuse categorized as “injury to the psychological capacity or emotional stability of a child as evidenced by an observable or substantial change in behavior, emotional response, or cognition,” which can be displayed as “aggressive behavior".
Usually, when thinking of child mental abuse, one imagines a parent referring to his/her child as “stupid,” “ugly,” "fat," and/or “worthless” on a consistent basis. Yet, child mental abuse involves so much more than just name-calling. Child mental abuse involves manipulation and can be manifested as cult- or clan-like behavior. Children, mainly during early developmental stages, are very impressionable, as they absorb everything within their environment. Children often emulate their parents due to admiration, and because parents are the primary source, from which children learn. Since children look to parents for acceptance and justification, they often appease their parents through actions. If a parent instructs a child to think or behave in a certain manner, whether it yields positive or negative results, the child will most likely comply, especially when involving young children. After years of constant manipulation and the inability to think independently, the child’s capacity to rationalize and be autonomous weakens. The child, who faces constant manipulation, may eventually become a "follower," often relying on others to think and/or act.
In a state intolerable of child abuse, children are removed from their abusive parents’ home, ultimately becoming wards of the state. There have been instances where children have been removed from their parents' home due to mental or emotional harm. When concerning racism and its effects, many forms of abuse are directed toward children of color. Children of color have been and continue to be harassed, beaten, and/or killed by racists. People who commit such crimes are obviously abusing children, but has anyone ever considered the racist parent who also indoctrinates his/her child with prejudiced cult- or clan-like ideology? Should this be considered child abuse? If so, should children be removed from their parents’ home and placed under state supervision?
Americans hate other countries for the same practices
Many Americans criticize Muslims for indoctrinating their children with the belief women are second-rate citizens. Infuriated by such conditions, Americans inveigh against Muslims who execute this practice, believing Muslim children endure abuse through parents supporting such systemic beliefs. Americans believe this way of life inhibits development and is harmful to children’s futures. Yet, in the same breath, Americans indoctrinate their children with racist and/or sexist systemic beliefs, voluntarily or involuntarily. Still, no one cries “child abuse," demanding children residing within such homes be removed. So, where should the line be drawn?
Why should it be outlawed for Muslim parents to indoctrinate their children with systemic beliefs that women are second-rate citizens, yet in America, parents are allowed to indoctrinate their children with racist, sexist, and religious-biased systemic beliefs? Of course, some will say in Muslim countries, females are mutilated and/or murdered for something as simple as attaining an education. Yet, in America, girls are raped, murdered, and viewed as sexual objects. Furthermore, girls are not encouraged to excel in subjects which later present some of the most high-paying careers or jobs in America.
It is in America where black children have been mutilated, hanged, burned, and beaten due to racist doctrines transmitted from parents to children. It is in America where children of color receive substandard education because they live in underserved communities, and quality education is too high-priced to receive. Certain systemic practices as these, along with others, should be outlawed because they help parents justify their prejudiced thinking, with which they indoctrinate their children. So, I ask, again: Why do Americans not yell “child abuse” when parents indoctrinate their children with hate, which ultimately causes aggressive behavior, such as hate crimes?
A case study: America and abroad
In June 2008, a couple from the province of Manitoba, Canada lost custody of their seven-year-old girl and two-year-old boy when government officials discovered the couple had indoctrinated them with Nazi ideology. After the court ruled in favor of the government authorities, which removed the children from their parents' home to preserve their emotional well-being, the children were placed in the care of the local Child and Family Services.
The couple were scrutinized after their seven-year-old daughter appeared in school with a swastika sign and Nazi marking “14/88” on both her arms and one leg. The numbers 14/88 is a Nazi symbol referring to the 14-word slogan: “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children,” while 88 refers to “Heil Hitler”. After thoroughly investigating, the court discovered the stepfather had previously participated in hate crimes against minorities in 2005. The children’s stepfather identified himself as a skinhead and the mother a "white nationalist". Hence, the two were labeled as "unfit" for parenting.
This occurrence is quite similar to that of Lynx and Lamb Gaede-- the sisters who formed Prussian Blue, the white-nationalist folk-teen duo formed in early 2003. According to a 2005 ABC interview, Lynx and Lamb were home schooled by their mother, April Gaede, because she only wanted the twins to learn neo-Nazi doctrines. April serves as an activist and writer for National Vanguard, a white nationalist organization based in Charlottesville, VA. The twin’s grandfather was identified as believing in Nazi ideology, and along with the twins' mother, indoctrinated Lynx and Lamb with racist theories. Eventually, April relocated her family from Bakersfield, California to Kalispell, Montana because according to April, Bakersfield "was not white enough".
During this ABC interview, the twins expressed some disturbing views. The twins praised Adolf Hitler's eugenic criteria and incentives to “improve” the genetic quality of German people. They view the Holocaust as being exaggerated, and during the Hurricane Katrina crisis, they only wanted white victims to receive their donations. The twins express their hate in songs, such as “Ocean of Warriors,” which is dedicated to white participants in the 2005 Sydney, Australia race riot and the 2005 Civil unrest in France. Another song, "Sacrifice," dedicated to Nazi Rudolph Hess, Hitler's deputy Führer, refers to Hess as "being a man of peace who wouldn't give up".
Clearly, as with the Canada case, Lynx and Lamb express their mother's beliefs. Twenty-two states have defined child mental abuse as being a “substantial change in behavior, emotional response, or cognition” and is evidenced as “aggressive” behavior. When a parent indoctrinates his/her child with prejudiced beliefs, there is a change in the child’s behavior. Children are not born racist; they use every element of their environment, both objects and persons, to understand how their environment works, and ultimately their place within it. When parents teach children to hate during early developmental stages on a frequent basis, the child's growth is hindered, as they are denied the essentials to naturally flourish.
When an individual's "liberty" to freely exist is violated, the state must intervene, at least according to John Stuart Mill's, "On Liberty". Mill argues a state is to interfere when one’s liberty is at stake and the harm principle is employed: “That principle is, that the sole end for which mankind are warranted, individually or collectively, in interfering with the liberty of action of any of their number, is self-protection. That the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others.” Quite similar to cults/clans, which are deemed unlawful, parents' indoctrination of children with prejudiced beliefs, not only presents imminent harm to others, but also the indoctrinated child. According to Merriam Webster, liberty is defined as “the quality or state of being free; freedom from arbitrary or despotic control; the positive enjoyment of various social, political, or economic rights and privileges; or, the power of choice". If we were to consider Mill's definition of when the state is to interfere in the presence of harm or abuse, indoctrinating children with racist beliefs falls right into place. If a child lacks power of choice and is prohibited to socialize and learn from others, he/she is being manipulated and therefore, under despotic control. In this case, the parent is using the "harm principle" to prohibit the natural functionality of children as free thinkers.
"The Moral Limits of the Criminal Law,” by Joel Friedberg, examines Mill's "harm principle" in more depth, defining it as a wrongful harm in setting back of an individual's interest. Mental child abuse is executed when acts are performed against a child through manipulation of a superior and the results are harmful. When a parent indoctrinates his/her child with hate, the child's interests are impeded. Children were not born bigots and to segregate children, rather than allowing them to act naturally, exploring all of their surroundings and understanding all persons and objects within their environment, is a wrongful harm of setting back interests.
A closer lens: cults and child exploitation
Not only do parents belonging to neo-Nazi cults commit child abuse through indoctrination, but also through physically abusing children. There are of course, instances where children may question the validation of theories imposed upon them; however, to ensure children follow their doctrines, they use force and abuse, such as sex and violence.
Whether the basis to power is rooted in religious belief, sexual desire, or power, many cults provide unlimited access to children and have protection from criminal prosecution since they are clandestine, going to extreme lengths to hide criminal activity. Essentially, cults consists of narrow-minded adults who use rituals, drugs, and elaborate manipulative techniques evidenced as sadistic physical and sexual abuse on children. It is through these mind controlling, manipulative techniques such groups as neo-Nazis are able to program, dominate, and indoctrinate children. Schools and daycares often serve as a cover-up to infect children’s minds with neo-Nazi ideology.
Additionally, it is important to note many organized cults often fund themselves by engaging in a wide range of criminal activity, including child exploitation. For example, the University of Colorado at Boulder, conducted a study on former children who had been forced into cult- or clan-like behavior through sexual abuse. Seventy percent of child abuse survivors surveyed revealed they had been forced to participate in child pornography to help fund their cult’s mission. An additional 58 percent were used in child prostitution, while 9 percent were used in the trafficking of drugs. Other money-making schemes cults have created include insurance and computer fraud (such as the case with the KKK creating false donation sites for Hurricane Katrina victims), the trafficking of children and weapons, and the use of blackmail.
In January 2007, Kevin Alfred Strom, founder of National Vanguard and major neo-Nazi leader for nearly 20 years, was arrested and charged with child pornography. Strom had a strong interest in young white girls, often “admiring” their beauty through photography sessions and campaigns he formed. He even constructed a Web site, which his ex-wife, Kirsten Kaiser, described as having “some National Socialist stuff, but it also had all these pictures of girls who were about 12,” she told the Intelligence Report. Kaiser also said how Strom requested that she wear ponytails to make her appear as a young girl.
There have been many instances where neo-Nazi leaders have committed child sexual abuse. Also, in January 2007, 41-year-old Gordon Creal Young, imperial wizard of the Maryland-based World Knights (Ku Klux Klan), was arrested and charged with seven criminal counts for allegedly forcing an underage girl to perform oral sex on him on two occasions in October 2006. Young told the underage girl Klan members always strip females who are to join the Klan to search their bodies for flaws. When confiding in her pastor after the event, the young girl had revealed Young then began to touch her inappropriately after his comment, and forced her to perform several sexual acts.
The idea of child indoctrination can pose a problem, due to the constitutional guarantee of freedom of speech. Nonetheless, the courts in such cases are forced to draw a line, separating freedom of speech from abuse or violation. Yet, the rights of children are not defined and are oftentimes, neglected. Unfortunately, many laws are still based on the old English Common Law, under which children were considered parents' “property” and essentially had no rights. Furthermore, it is a prevailing attitude a child is better off with his/her own parents, even when parents are considered irresponsible or abusive. In 2006, April Gaede was challenged by Kris Richard Lingelser, the father of Lynx and Lamb, as he sought sole custody over his daughters, arguing under April's supervision, the twins had been "brainwashed" and "associate with dangerous people". Yet, he was denied and lost his case, due to his past demons of domestic violence against April and his drug addiction. However, knowing the harm April has caused her daughters, the court still never thought to take away April's children and place them under state supervision.
In a world that has operated off centuries of oppression and prejudice, it will be difficult to dismantle racism or sexism and all groups, such as neo-Nazis, who perpetuate hate, especially since governmental and/or institutional systems support prejudices. Yet, to take away children from parents involved in neo-Nazi and other hate groups could be the beginning to the end of the biggest mental illness that exists: racism.