Charleena Lyles called Seattle police to report a burglary. The police depicted up, find her in a mental health crisis and allegedly armed with a knife, and killed her. Photo: Courtesy of household
I was there and watched an 11 -year-old boy, his mother standing by, talking here trauma. When he was six, police charged into his back yard, guns drawn( the person the latter are looking for was several houses down the block ). His mother, Melinda Manson, describe her sons years of nightmares that followed.
Timotheus Gordon, a black autistic PhD student at the University of Illinois who describes himself as a black football player and dreadhead, talked about his constant dread of being to halt police and not being able to respond quickly enough in such a way that policemen saw acceptable. The household of Stephon Watts, a black autistic teenager killed by police in nearby Calumet, “was talkin about a” their lost loved one. Huff told his tale too.
The message was clear: there would be no justice for Chicago residents without addressing both disability and race when it comes to policing.
The good news is that the DoJ examiners heard the message and collaborated with AYLP to organize a number of sessions, some open to the public and some private( and thus safer) to ensure that disabled Chicagoans could tell their stories.
Over the autumn, I sat down with various members of AYLP to understand their vision. I maintained hearing the same two points in different ways.
First, they believe that the legal system is designed to maximize the oppression of black disabled people. Second, within the Chicago-area black community, stigma causes people to avoid talking about disability. In other terms, too many people is considered that talking about LaQuan McDonald as disabled demeans him, or that the conversation around mental illness and policing should be different than the one around autism.
Candace Coleman, Youth Organizer for AYLP, disagrees. She says: Im black, Im incapacitated, and Im from the South Side of Chicago. But she also knows that stigma is a real thing. She always knew she was incapacitated( she has multiple disabilities, including spastic paralysis and asthma, and has been in and out of hospital throughout their own lives ), but it took a long time for her to discover true pride in that aspect of her identity.
Today shes a leader in the disability pride movement, but recognizes that its going to take a long time to bring that pride to everyone. In too many communities, talking about mental health is not OK. You self-medicate, you do what you gotta do to get through, but its not OK to talk about it even now. If no one talks about it, even well-intentioned reformers arent going to know to listen.
For Huff, the stigma is a function of the dysfunctional system. He sketched out the pattern for me that day in the park. According to his analysis, oppressive situations cause stigma and intensify the negative effects of mental health conditions in particular. Those negative impact lead towards interactions with law enforcement. Law enforcement manages such interactions badly, far too often punishing people who behave differently in any way, and reinforcing the necessity for people with disabilities to remain closeted, even to themselves.
Once I came into the world, they already had a set of systems for me, he says. They had my neighborhood ready for me, the community because of segregation. Everything was already pre-planned. What I believe is really happening is that a lot of the illness, yes theres genetic components to it, but theyre manmade ailments. I have to adapt to the current systems and structures in order to receive education, job, housing.
One of the last acts of the Obama justice department was to release a report on policing in Chicago. It was a devastatingly blunt appraisal of the routine violations of Chicagoans civil right by the police. The US us attorney general, Jeff Sessions, initially dismissed the report as largely anecdotal even when admitting that he hadnt read it. Sessions is opposed to consent decrees between local police departments and the DoJ.
The DoJ report identified widespread abusive practices and made a number of recommendations, including work with community members from Chicagos diverse racial, religious, ethnic, gender, and disability groups to create and deliver cultural awareness training in partnership with CPD, and to advise and suggest the development of additional measures that may improve police-community relations.
The inclusion of disability in that listing is a testimony to the work of AYLP , among others, even if Trump and Sessions are trying to fling the report in the litter. As reported by Rachel Cohen in Vice, experts and activists say the citys mayor, Rahm Emanuel, is utilizing Sessions anti-reform message as an excuse to undermine reform in the city.
As Huff and I finished up, he admitted that he sometimes feels he has a trauma bond with this slice of Chicago. I know Im not the only person who has a trauma bond with the place that they grew up with. Whoever leaves a traumatic experience and returns back to that shit?
I responded: Its not a coincidence that youre living here, that we are in this park. Where else could you be?
He appeared away. All Im trying to do is bring a voice to the conversation of people with disabilities. I would like to[ understand] how structural violence makes or perpetuates the country of psycho-social disabilities, of mental disabilities. How does structural violence generate or add to the dysfunction that one experiences in their life?
He doesnt was of the view that he has a choice. Dysfunction is everywhere. He has to adapt. But he finished: I believe that, basically, if you adapt to dysfunction, youre gonna adopt that dysfunction.
David Perry is a disability rights journalist. His work focuses on violence and criminalization, and hes currently writing a book for Beacon Press with the working title: Disability Is Not a Crime