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Free Cyntoia > "Free Cyntoia" - PART 1 QUESTIONS!!!

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message 1: by NOW's (new)

NOW's Feminist Public Square | 16 comments Mod
1. “More than anything, I wanted to belong. I wanted to sit down with a group of friends and feel like I was accepted for who was, that I didn’t have to try to fit in. But it didn’t happen. I felt awkward and alone.” (page 5)
--We see in this first section that Cyntoia struggles with identity and self-authenticity. How do race and gender play a role in her struggle? What environmental factors are contributing? Which of these are in or out of her control?

2. “Any love I had for learning was long since gone. Juvy kids aren’t provided the greatest education when they’re locked up...I didn’t see the point in trying. Everyone already figured I was doomed for failure. Sooner or later, they’d make sure they were right.” (page 39)
--In cases like Cyntoia’s, do you think that the juvenile detention children are really given a chance to succeed later in life? Go beyond prison and into schools in impoverished areas. How relevant is the poverty to prison pipeline? How are race and class players in the pipeline?

3. “He told me how I should conduct myself, the age I should adopt and the name I should use if ever stopped by the police. Money was more important than anything else, he told me. No one cared about my feelings. It was my job to get out there and do whatever it took to get the job done.” (page 79)
--Did you recognize that Cyntoia was a victim of sex trafficking right away? Societal definitions and depictions of sex trafficking do not always accurately define sex trafficking. Did Cyntoia really have a choice? Did her situation set her up for victim blaming?

message 2: by Angela (new)

Angela | 1 comments A1. Cyntoia seems to be on her own in navigating her identity. On the one hand, her parents were honest why she was a little different than her family and other kids. On the other, there seemed to be a lack of support in navigating those differences and the impact they would have on her life. Not clearly fitting into a box like race complicates an already tough world that has defined expectations for race. Cyntoia noticed that early on and it seemed to me she "steered into the skid." But being of tough mind and soul combined with racial ambiguity led to a lot of hardship and dismissal of her experiences. Her response to these experiences was fight instead of flight, and given her description of how she was interpreted from skin to behavior, I understand her instinct. Maybe it would have been redirected with more support from families or school counselors, but those supports were lacking.

A2. No, juvenile detention children are not given a chance. Their fate and worth are determined. I think this is even more true in poverty stricken areas, schools with less resources, and predominantly non-white student bodies. Socioeconomic class influences resources, especially as many schools are funded via property taxes. Racism is built into systems in this way. Individual actors like the teacher who reported Cyntoia for assault instead of being an uninvolved student, or the women who fought her & claimed she stole things from her house when she was a guest of another student, further perpetuate stereotypes of non-white races resulting in more non-white and/or lower class people being in the criminal system.

A3. I wasn't clear that Cyntoia was a victim of sex trafficking initially. I thought she had fallen in with a bad crowd. As her relationship with Kut unfolded, it became more clear that she was his employee. I think her story is set up for victim blaming because of internalized beliefs about kids who don't go to school and/or get in trouble. It's assumed girls like Cyntoia are not intelligent, don't care about themselves, and are only ever going to be trouble. But Cyntoia is very clear that she was alone in her experience of the world, again who was helping her navigate her identities? She admits to not having models of behavior or models of healthy relationships. She surrounds herself with people who understand even a shred of her experience. This leads to some choices that land her in a heap of complicated trouble However, let me be clear that NONE of this justifies her being a victim of trafficking, or ending up in jail. She was (still is) a child being taken advantage of by someone who saw her as an easy mark. That's heartbreaking.

message 3: by Alexandra (new)

Alexandra (ambonomo) | 10 comments 1. Cyntoia gets triggered when people say she is white because it reminders her that she is adopted. It makes her feel like she doesn’t really belong in the culture in which the was raised. She doesn’t like the reminders that she is different and that her birth mother was unable to take care of her. The way she learned about her birth mother involved a lot of negative, misogynistic stereotypes, which were unfortunately reinforced by general societal sexism and her parents refusal to discuss sexuality with her.

2. No, they aren’t given a chance for an education. As Cyntoia describes her experience, it is much too interested in punishing the kids than teaching them. There is little to no effort put into engaging with them, making it hard to learn and creating situations where the purpose of punishing them comes up over and over again. Race and class play a role in the school to prison pipeline as underfunded, overcrowded schools are most likely to be in poor neighborhoods with a high percentage of students of color, and then they are more likely to be put in situations where they are more interested in punishing than teaching.

3. As an adult, and someone who has read about the studies on why teenagers are incapable of making these kinds of decisions, I understood that she was being pimped by Kut. However, I also get how this isn’t the type of story one thinks of when one hears the word “trafficking”, so I could understand why Cyntoia and many people she met in the legal process would find it difficult to see it as trafficking. And after all her difficulties with school, and her mother’s general “letting people touch you is bad” response, she was set up for a lot of internal as well as external victims blaming.

message 4: by Rachel (new)

Rachel | 3 comments 1 - Cyntoia has a few factors that seem to play into her searching for self. While she had a loving adoptive family, she knows she's adopted and not quite looking like anyone else she knows seems to confuse her (and her peers who point it out to her). Having grown up in the South myself, I can related to the environmental factors that growing up in a place that can be closed-minded can do to make you question yourself.

2. Experiences are so individualized. There are surely some juvenile detention programs that really give kids a good chance for success (I'm thinking of The Other Wes Moore right now) and
while poverty is a connection to the prison pipeline it's not always a direct causation because of money. It has to do with race, resilience, support, self-esteem, and sometimes one single choice.

3. I also hadn't really easily recognized that she was a victim of sex trafficking. I knew it was definitely not okay, but wouldn't have labelled it as such. While I think Cyntoia did really have a choice, she didn't see the value or potential benefit in other choices. Her situation definitely set her up for victim blaming -- but we're also just getting a tiny piece of the story. Some people are truly held captive and have to find any way necessary to escape. It's so sad that when Cyntoia decided she was ready to be honest with someone who picked her up how she was that this was *the moment everything changed* and not as she expected it might. :(

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