In 2013 Ethan Saylor died at the hands of police officers. Eye witness reports state the officers held him down, restrained him with cuffs with their knee to his neck and back until he died. Before he died Ethan called out “Mommy it hurts”. Ethans death was ruled homicide as a result of asphyxia.
Ethans “crime” was that after watching a film at the cinema one afternoon he decided to watch a second showing. He didn’t understand that he had to pay for another ticket.
There are many striking similarities between Ethan and George Floyds death … and one glaring difference. Public response.
In the wake of George Floyds murder the world grieved. We changed our social media profile pictures, we discussed and debated social attitudes. Businesses big and small spoke out, using their platform to stand up against oppression. We held mass protests across the world.
While those responsible for George Floyds death were rightly convicted this week with the President himself speaking out, Ethans killers returned to their duties after a short time of fully paid leave.
It might be worth mentioning at this point that Ethan had Down syndrome
The sad fact is we are decades away from the sort of public support anti racism or women’s rights issues have experienced in recent months. As a society we simply do not see disabled people, and in particular learning disabled people, as having equal value.
Our disdain for those with learning disabilities is woven into almost every aspect of our culture. From pregnant women being pressured to to aborting their babies with disabilities to the rising rates of disability hate crime. We are in the midst of SEND education national crisis, unemployment rates amongst those with intellectual disabilities are sky high and nobody bats an eyelid.
While we easily recognise racist or homophobic language, ablist language is acceptable day to day chat. We call bad drivers on the road “idiots”, words like “retard” and “spaz” are thrown around as if they have no meaning, we joke that we’re “monging out” or imitate people with an LD (tongue pushing out lower lip with a “durrr” noise & flapping hands) to mock our friends . We understand that the best way to insult someone is to mock their perceived lack of intellect – what sort of society values IQ points over kindness or integrity?
The only people to really stand up and make noise about this are disabled people themselves and their families. And when we do we are told to pipe down, to be less angry, that we should be more understanding, that they didn’t mean it “that way”.
But with the knowledge that my child’s life expectancy is 20 years less than her sister’s. Not because of any medical reasons, simply because she will face barriers and discrimination in accessing education, healthcare, employment and living accommodation I don’t really feel like piping down.
I want to scream at the top of my voice WHEN IS IT OUR TURN? WHEN WILL YOU START SPEAKING UP FOR US.
When will you decide my girls life also has value?