Incareration Nation

The Case of Shanesha Taylor

Why are we sending mothers to jail for being unable to afford daycare?

By Yolanda Spivey

The case of Shanesha Taylor received national attention. If you’ll recall, she’s the 35-year-old homeless woman from Arizona who was arrested after leaving her two young children in her Dodge Durango while she went to a job interview. As a mother, this case struck me to the core, because I have a confession: I am Shanesha Taylor.

No, I’ve never left my child in a car while I went to a job interview, but I have done some things out of desperation that will leave some to question my parenting skills. For instance, when my child was first born, I couldn’t afford childcare, so I would sneak him into my office and sit him under my desk for the full seven hours while I was at work. I did that for a week until I was able to get enough money to put a deposit down on a place for him at a local childcare facility. And when he turned three, he spent the last semester with me at college. That’s right, I took him to virtually every class that I had to take in order to graduate.

The fortunate thing about my situation was my kid was a well-behaved child and hardly cried. So it was easy for me to sneak him into the office. My boss was hardly ever there. When at school, my classmates were so enamored by his presence, they welcomed him. My professors seemed not to mind—I guess they knew my situation and never questioned my actions.

Like Shanesha Taylor, there was no village for me, so I had to what I had to do.

The village has left millions of women to fend for themselves. Back in the day, grandparents, aunts and cousins all lent a hand when it came to helping out with childcare. If they weren’t available, there was always a neighborhood lady, (I’ll call her Ms. Rosemary), who would watch all the neighborhood children while mothers went out to work or run errands.

Today, families live further away from each other or are simply just not there. Also, there are no more Ms. Rosemarys, and if there are any left, you have to be careful that they don’t have someone in their home that could potentially harm your child.

Our society has grown quite alienated from one another—it’s no wonder why Shanesha Taylor had no one to care for her young ones. It’s also no wonder why she was homeless, living in her Dodge Durango. Sometimes, help isn’t there.

I know I’m going to face a lot of criticism in writing this article. Some would say, “well if you can’t take care of your children, then why have them at all.” But that’s not the question that should be asked. The question we should ask is, should Shanesha Taylor and other women who are put in desperate situations be thrown in jail for making the only decision they saw fit at the time? Should they lose their children in the process too?

What’s even more disparaging are the comments I’ve read on my Facebook page from friends and acquaintances. While some sympathized with Shanesha Taylor, others berated her for her decision. People are so quick to judge until they are faced with the very same situation.

In my opinion, all Shanesha Taylor is guilty of is being a poor single mother in America. Not only has she lost her children, she has also lost her freedom and now has a bigger battle to fight.

Maybe Shanesha Taylor saw that job interview as a way out of that Dodge Durango—so she took a chance and made a decision that would change her life forever.

It makes me think of the privileged mothers like the CEO of Yahoo! Marissa Mayer, who was fortunate enough to not only have a well paying job, but was able to build a nursery right next to her cushy office at Yahoo’s headquarters.

The Shanesha Taylors of the world go to jail while the Marissa Mayers of the world build nurseries. I ask you: Is this the America that we want to create?

Yolanda Spivey writes on a variety of topics and is the founder of Black Insurance News.

Naturally Moi, April 3, 2014