Still, I'm very angry about the fact that increasingly, interactions between disabled people of color and law enforcement results in the death or serious injury of the person whom the police are responding to. Why does that happen? Why do they brutalize and kill us?
Two things stand out for me when I read or hear about these murders. 1. The person with a disability is almost always a Black man. 2. Their disability is almost always hidden; most often, it is a psychiatric disability, but autistic folks have been murdered by cops, as well. Now, haters, I'm not saying that White folks with disabilities don't get murdered by cops. I'm saying that the vast majority of disabled folks getting killed are Black and folks of color. Nor am I saying that the murder of someone Black or of color is more important than someone White because it isn't, BUT, society values Whites far more than Blacks and people of color, so the murder of a White person produces more outrage AND a White person is far more likely to get justice than someone Black or of color.
I've come to the conclusion that police, like most in society, don't give a rip about disability, especially if they cannot see it. In addition, people with mental health disabilities are often stigmatized and criminalized, so cops have very little patience with someone who is going though a crisis. Compounding this is the fact that Black men and teenage boys are seen as menacing, threatening, thugs and criminals even when they are unarmed and/or minding their own business; this even applies to little boys. Further, Blacks and other folks of color are more likely to be accused of faking, exaggerating or using their disability as an excuse for acting out. Together, these factors are a perfect recipe for tragedy.
These days, it seems that police and other law enforcement are trained to mistrust everyone, especially if they are Black or other folks of color. To me, it seems that to a cop, every Black person is a suspect, a criminal, a thug, an animal, a rabid dog, good only to be shot. I think of the line in that 2Pac song, "Changes": "Cops give a damn about a negro? Pull the trigger, kill a n----, he's a hero." Even when they are acting civil and nice, I catch the vibe that they don't respect me.
For you folks who know nice cops, or who have family members who are (or were) members of law enforcement - that's great - I'm glad because you are indeed fortunate. I'm sure there are some out there, but it has been my experience and that of the majority of Blacks and folks of color that cops, no matter the race or gender, see us as the enemy. I include Black cops, cops of color and women cops in this because if they want to succeed, they HAVE to be better at the White cops' game than White cops are. Yes, I know that in ADAPT, we are taught that the police are not our enemy. That may work - sometimes - at an action, but in real life, I KNOW where I stand with them. Still, I am respectful towards them, not only because I'm just that type of person and I like to give everyone a chance, but also because I know that disrespecting a cop could cost me my life! Another thing about so-called "good cops" that bothers me is no matter how angry and embarrassed that they are by their colleagues' behavior, they choose to uphold the culture of silence and not report or speak out against their fellow cops. That speaks volumes to me! In my opinion, your silence makes you part of the problem, so until you can find the gonads to speak up publicly, you can get out my face with your "shame and anger" - tell that mess to someone who will believe you, because it's certainly NOT me!
With that, is it any surprise that police often brutalize people with disabilities? Of course not. Cops are human and unfortunately, humans don't like humans who are different than them or their group. We folks with disabilities are seen as useless, worthless objects of pity. People would rather be dead than be us. We are still fighting for civil and human rights that others take for granted. Programs, agencies and legislators try to put a price tag on our freedom, indeed, our very lives. Policies are made about us without consulting us and they don't understand or care when we get angry about it. In community life, we are an afterthought, at best; most often, we're not even on the radar. Most diversity training programs don't even include us, so it's no wonder that police aren't trained on how to interact with us. Unfortunately, these amped up cops don't have a shred of patience or empathy - one of the officers sent to calm down Keith Vidal, a White 18 year old with schizophrenia, said, "I don't have time for this" - then, shot him dead! Kajieme Powell, who was clearly going through a mental health crisis, was shot dead 14 seconds after police arrived on the scene!
What can be done to stop this? What can we, as people with disabilities, Blacks and people of color do to make police see our humanity and our worth so that they will stop killing us on a whim? What will it take? I don't have the answers but I do know that we are tired. The killing must end.