KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The family of an 11-year-old girl they say was the target of a racially motivated attack in Shawnee spoke out Thursday afternoon.
La Ronna Lassiter Saunders, the family’s attorney, said the family wanted to hold the press conference to start conversations about racism.
“We’ve seen a problem, and we’re here to give solutions and ask the community to come together to address this problem,” Saunders said.
According to a news release from Saunders’ office, Nevaeh Thomas and her friends, all of whom are Black, were playing together at the Park 67 Apartments in Shawnee, Kansas, when a 12-year-old boy, who is white, began yelling “racist epithets” at the girls.
The boy allegedly hit Nevaeh on the head with a steel pole, leaving her bleeding and unconscious.
Nevaeh had to get eight stitches on her face, lost a tooth and is being treated for a concussion.
Pastor Terry Bradshaw Jr. of Empowerment Temple said Nevaeh was targeted because she stood up to the boy.
“Nevaeh stood up and refused to be bullied for the color of her skin,” Bradshaw said.
At Thursday’s press conference, Nevaeh gave her own statement.
“All I want to say about this is the we need to stop hate racism,” Nevaeh said. “It’s wrong and it’s wrong to hurt people.”
Nevaeh said she hopes what happened to her will spark conversation among her peers.
“I think kids need to get together and talk about racism. It’s OK if we’re different, we have different opinions — but it’s not OK to hate and judge each other on the color and skin,” Nevaeh said.
Her family also spoke Thursday, calling for equal justice for Nevaeh’s alleged attacker.
Her mother, Brandi Stewart, said it took more than two hours for the boy to be arrested.
Nevaeh’s grandmother said she believes that if the roles were switched and Nevaeh had been the one to commit a crime, the outcome would have been different.
The Johnson County District Attorney charged the boy with aggravated battery, a felony, and he is currently on house arrest.
Stewart said she is encouraged that the boy has been charged, but despite what happened and her anger about the incident, she hopes the boy gets help.
“He’s only 12 years old. I want to believe that there is hope and that if he does get good help that he can learn from this incident and learn that hate and violence is not healthy,” Stewart said.
Stewart said she never thought her daughter would become the victim of a racially motivated attack, and that it’s important for parents to talk with their children about racism.
“We need to tell [our children] how expressions of hate can make others feel and how they can leave scars that last a lifetime,” Stewart said. “We need to make sure our children have healthy ways to resolve conflict, and we need to model these behaviors for them as best we can.”