The New Nigers

A shocking title for a shocking, ongoing, and increasing sickness in the United States. If you do not look, sound, and act physically, cognitively, and emotionally healthy; your rights tend to be weighed much differently than a health individual.  This is true of not only authorities of the state, but in the interactions between individuals.  Although the back of the bus mentality towards racial minorities continues, great strides have been made towards equality.  Where that was once also the case for those with health challenges, our society seems to be back sliding in that department.

Consider the story presented by police in the case of a man with down syndrome.  If we are to believe what the police who beat this man say, they stopped, handcuffed, and searched a man simply for having a bulge in his clothing.  I do not believe they stopped him for nothing other than the bulge because both my wallet and cell phone make bulges in my clothing.  Further, this occurred in Florida where concealed weapons permits are fairly common.  I think something else caused the police to take the actions they did.

Unless it is common place to stop, handcuff, and search people for lawfully carrying a firearm, having as wallet in his pocket, having a cell phone on his belt, or in this case having a colostomy bag; I am forced to believe police took the actions they did because the man did not seem to be “normal”.  He was as black man in a white neighborhood.  More accurately, he was a sick man in a healthy world.  The discrimination is just as bad and just as pronounced.

Unlike many other health conditions, down syndrome has outward manifestation.  Even if a person is untrained and unfamiliar with the physical features, it is clear that a person has health challenges.  Because it is ridiculous to believe a bulge in your clothing would bring about such treatment, I believe this man became a target due to the all too common belief that people with such challenges are somehow inherently dangerous.

Stepping away from down syndrome and addressing the broader category of folk with cognitive and emotional challenges, there is a horrible trend in our culture.  In response to recent spree shootings, many have taken the stance that the root cause was mental illness.  While I certianly agree that anyone who intentionally takes the life of an innocent is mentally ill, we must be very careful in how we express that thought less we continue to promote the idea that people with such challenges are more dangerous than healthy people.

In fact, people with cognitive and emotional challenges are more likely to become the victims of violent crime and less likely to be perpetrators of violent crime.  That is what I think happened with the young man I used as an example.  Due to his health challenges, he became a victim of violent crime.  In his case, violent crime perpetrated by the very people who are charged with protecting him from such things.

Leave a Reply