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Sunday, July 31, 2016

To Be Autistic, Hispanic, and Facing the Police

In The Politics of Autism, I discuss interactions between first responders and autistic people.  Police officers need training to respond appropriately.  When they do not, things get out of hand.

Matt Ramos writes about his son at The Washington Post:
Comply, comply, comply was what I was taught, and it’s what I’ve been teaching my sons, to the point that they can probably repeat the speech my father gave me. But how am I supposed to teach those words to someone who doesn’t understand language the way I do? How am I supposed to warn my son about the dangers facing those who look like him when he can’t even conceptualize those differences?
Jojo can’t scream “I can’t breathe” while being held down, like Eric Garner. He wouldn’t react to an officer pulling up next to him with sirens blasting and guns drawn, like Tamir Rice. He can’t even put his hands up and yell that he doesn’t have a gun, like Charles Kinsey. It’s not that he wouldn’t comply; it’s that he simply isn’t wired to, and he never will be. I can tell him to listen to and obey anyone wearing a uniform until my last breath, and it would be the same as if I never spoke at all.

I hear stories of people like Brian C. Bates, who had run off from his home in Virginia. Neighbors called the cops after hearing him repeating the names of pro wrestlers and talking to cats, things I could see Jojo doing. Four officers tackled him. They couldn’t make out that he was different, and he was knocked down repeatedly.
Then there’s Robert Ethan Saylor, who had the benefit of white skin and clearly presented as having Down’s syndrome, but was choked to death by off-duty officers in a Maryland movie theater. The officers, who were trying to remove Saylor from the theater and didn’t recognize his condition, were not charged with a crime because Saylor cursed and struck at them — another way Jojo lashes out if he feels threatened.