Mother/Activist, Kerima Çevik, Tells Why Police Crisis/Disability Training Is Not The Answer
photo description: Kerima Cevik, Black woman with two braids & eye glasses holds a Krip-Hop Nation/5th Battalion CD on police brutality against people with disabilities.
Kerima Çevik is a topic blogger, a parent activist for autistic rights and social justice, has been active various roles from being an editor and contributing writer at Ollibean, to consultant and contributor to the Autism Women's Network Committee on Autism and Ethnicity. An independent researcher and content contributor, she focuses on shining a light on disparities in supports and quality of life for marginalized intersected disabled populations through grassroots community building activities, resource generation, and pay it forward activism strategies. She is a married mother of two children currently homeschooling her tween son Mustafa, who is autistic and nonspeaking. Mrs. Çevik gave written testimony before the Maryland State Assembly in support of HB269/SB540 Child With A Disability - Individualized Education Program, which became law in May of 2010 and worked with legislators in support of autism training for first responders. HB 361, a bill modeled on similar legislation presented before the Massachusetts Legislature by autistic disability rights advocate Lydia Brown, was shelved after all stakeholders agreed to a regulatory mandate for autism training instead. After the Autism Training Bill (proposed to be modified to include all disabled people), was shelved, Robert Ethan Saylor died in a catastrophic encounter with off duty law enforcement officers.
I talked to Çevik about the routine responses to police brutality/killing of autistic/other people with disabilities, aka police crisis training and what else we can do as parents, activists and community as a whole.
Leroy Moore: Thanks so much for agreeing to be interviewed on this topic of police training and what we can do to stop police brutality/killing of people with autism and people with other types of disability. I’ve been following you work for years. Please tell us about your son and you work now?
Kerima Çevik: Thank you for acknowledging my voice; deep respect. My son is very much like a 13-year-old version of Mr. Tario Anderson, of Greenville, SC., the nonspeaking autistic man who was tasered, handcuffed, and arrested over the tears of his mother and protestations of the entire neighborhood on Christmas Day. Mr. Anderson, to be clear, had not committed any crime, nor did he resemble anyone who was being sought by police. Like Mr. Anderson, my son is autistic, non-speaking and nonwhite. Mustafa needs to be able to either move his hands to sign or reach for his iPad and be allowed to turn it on and access his language program to speak. So if he, like Mr. Anderson, were walking alone to visit family on a holiday and police assumed that because he was not white and because he could not give a verbal response to their commands he would suffer Tario’s fate at best.
Racial profiling severely reduces the probability of police accepting my son, a Hispanic presenting male, larger than his peers, walking down the street with an unsteady gait, holding an iPad without challenging him. Which would inevitably lead to them trying to stop him, taking his iPad, and verbally demanding proof his speech device was his and their response to him not being able to respond would be to try and arrest him for stealing it. Situations like the scenario I just described, that I call ‘Mustafa’s Dilemma’ and what happened to Tario Anderson is what haunts me. That is where I am now. I am in this moment of polarization along racial lines seeking solutions to avert this and other nightmare scenarios I’ve witnessed occurring to countless disabled people, for the sake of my son and all his peers.. Training has been done. Trained officers used deadly force in encounters with clearly identified disabled teens and adults. I’ve changed my entire advocacy strategy based on this truth. The best way for a person in Mustafa’s Dilemma to remain alive and safe is to avoid any circumstance in which police engagement is necessary as much as humanly possible.
The painful lesson I’ve learned is that training initiatives fail. The fallout from the slew of deaths that spurred the Black Lives Matter movement is that the majority of those lives lost were disabled Black lives. I learned the police officers that shot both Paul Childs III and Stephon Watts were thoroughly trained and also knew the victims prior to the fatal encounters. This knowledge changed the focus of both my parenting and advocacy.
Leroy Moore: When & why did you get involved with activism around police brutality?
Kerima Çevik: I lived overseas for 30 years. There is a history of involvement prior to that (a sit in in the middle of the day at our high school as a freshman over the physical objections of my older sister), but specific to the disability rights community, it began with Mustafa’s Dilemma.
If someone shouts at my son, he’ll retreat. He won’t speak because verbal speech is not the way he communicates. He’ll run because if you shout at him it is an assault to his hearing very much akin to you wearing headphones and listening to music and walking down the street and having someone suddenly turn the volume up to earsplitting levels. I tried to look at Mustafa’s dilemma from the point of view of the average police officer. They would see his nervous giggling as insubordinate. They would presume that if he can laugh he can speak and that would be an incorrect assumption. They would want to try and handcuff him. He would resist. He has weak lungs and brittle bones despite his size. My son has a 70% chance of encountering law enforcement in his lifetime simply because he is disabled. It is a thought that chills me to the bone. That is how a woman who has little time from the care and homeschooling of a disabled son gets involved in this battle for the life of her child and other people’s disabled children.
On the legislative end of things, as I was trying to think of solutions to this dilemma of helping my son survive potential encounters with police, I met the great Lydia Brown, an autistic activist of color who had been trying to get an autism-training bill they’d written at age 16 passed in Massachusetts for several years. I had come away from the 2010 legislative session here in Maryland very ambivalent about the approach to passing legislation taken by some disability advocacy organizations here. The approach was to support small, nondescript disability related legislation that no one would object to. The purpose was to claim the victory when the bills passed and very slowly build to more critical bills. But the bills themselves were not doing much to change the quality of the lives of disabled people like my son. So I talked to Lydia and reached out to my State Delegate to run a bill based on a combination of the bill she’d written and legislation that had become law in New Jersey and I presented an expanded bill template to my Delegate for first responder training.
Leroy Moore: I know my mother back in the 70’s didn’t really get into the disability rights movement because of many reasons. How do you think the disability rights movement is doing especially today dealing with race and our issues such as increase police brutality?
Kerima Çevik: A great deal of bad things happened to me in the 70’s. People think of us as the children of the civil rights movement and the first generation to benefit from the Civil Rights Act. But we were also the children who bore the brunt of the retaliatory backlash from those who resented us sitting in their schools and moving into their neighborhoods. So I can’t say I blame your mother.
I’ve been quite vocal about the fact that the disability rights movement has been historically recalcitrant in acknowledging the roles played by its’ intersected activist populations. This is especially true in autism organizations, where nonwhite representation in decision-making positions is either nonexistent or at the token representation stage. I’ve spent part of my time trying to shed light on the structural bigotry embedded in autism organizations. It has been particularly tough dealing with racism in other stakeholders who are supposed to be on our side in fighting against injustice. Until very recently one would only see autism nonprofits rush to put out position papers when someone white and disabled was the victim of injustice unless shamed into doing otherwise. When autism organizations don’t need to be reminded that Black disabled lives matter as much as white ones, the direction of autistic advocacy for black autistics can move beyond placing them in the awkward position of being the de facto race relations activists. How they are doing at fighting police use of excessive force and catastrophic encounters? It doesn’t seem to be very high on their agenda, if on it at all. Right now I’m still disappointed that I must speak out when each new project or book or conference or action for our autistic community is announced excluding nonwhite autistic voices. If the privileged voices of the autism community continually erase us from entire histories of autism, they aren’t going to be there when police reforms are needed unless those harmed are white. That is a reality that is extremely slow to change.
Leroy Moore: In this time of the heightened attention of police brutality against the Black/Brown/LGBTQ communities and the activism toward it in your view what has come out of it and what we still need to work on?
Kerima Çevik: Michael Brown’s murder and the protests in Ferguson resulted in a serious look at the urgent need for demilitarization of our police force. Everyday Americans asked why this shift to a militarized police force happened when the National Guard exists to fill the role of guarding the homeland. The reality of redlining was made public for the first time in ages. Most white people today had no clue what policing for profit or redlining was before the protests in Ferguson began. Zimmerman’s trial for the murder of Trayvon Martin began a chain of events that has forced a national spotlight on injustice in our criminal justice system. The murders of Islan Nettles and two other black transgender women in quick succession taught the general public what activists already knew; that the most vulnerable population at the highest risk for harm are nonwhite, disabled, transgender community members. They know now that all this time, the deaths of these people were diminished and erased from public attention. The gaslighting done to us for years, that rhetoric that race was a card that is played, that by speaking out we were practicing reverse racism, that we voted for a Black President so that means that racism is over was blown aside by the raw hatred of the Mother Emmanuel church murders. And still the attempt at erasure by some media outlets, saying this mass shooting was actually not a racial hate crime but an attack on Christianity was so awful I recoiled in disgust. When the killer was treated like royalty and given a fast food meal on his way to jail, I was furious. That man confessed to deliberately attempting to start a race war and still there was an attempt to deny. But so much has happened now that they can’t gaslight it away.
What we need to work on as activists is entirely dependent on who we are as individuals, and what our skillsets are. I shy away from trying to advise others on scale, scope and direction. You and other activists have tried top down change for years. Politicians promise everything until they are elected; then they forget those promises. We need to work on going from a fear based post Columbine mentally of policing on steroids in every aspect of our lives and return to the role and scope of the law enforcement officer as a peace officer, there to help the community by enforcing laws and protecting and serving the public. What are our reform points as black disability rights activists? #CampaignZero as added them as an afterthought in their list of policy change demands. But what do we need to live our lives free of being targeted by criminals and being harmed in police encounters? We haven’t gotten together and discussed that as academics, activists, and disabled activists fighting for the same reforms. Yet we have people everywhere lecturing on police brutality. That needs change specific to the needs of disabled people. There are reform issues missing from everyone’s agenda related to how police interact with disabled wheelchair users, and what accountability will occur when a person is dumped from their wheelchair or physical support equipment. It is just unacceptable. The lack of interpreter support for nonspeaking people is unacceptable. There is no plan in place for how interaction safeguards can be put in place so someone like my son can keep from being shot by police. This is an example of an issue that is not being addressed by other activists and campaigns. What is the protocol for someone trying to sign police that they are deaf if police choose to ignore this and treat the individual like a noncompliant suspect? There needs to be a communication paradigm that is inclusive of nonspeaking people so that police can interact with victims and persons of interest without harm or violation of human rights. I have too much to say on my personal agenda for what needs to change.
Leroy Moore: As a Black parent of an autistic son, what do you think about what some cities want to do like having a name bracelet and some want families to register to the police so they now about family members with autism?
Kerima Çevik: Many autistic adults choose to wear GPS and tracking devices. Not because they are what the autism nonprofit industrial complex has mislabeled “elopers” or “runners” but because they need the assistive technology support to navigate safely. I’ve listened to autistic adults who support tracking devices as a choice for themselves because they tend to get disoriented. The key words are individual understanding about what this device is, how it assists them, and obtaining the individual’s consent. If consent cannot be obtained the device should not be there. I am very concerned that tracking bracelets not become a new form of restraint, and pathologizing behavior we make no other attempt at analyzing or understanding may be an indication of discord in the autistic child’s home that is not being addressed. In any other child, elopement would be a red flag that requires investigation to rule out abuse. In autistic children, teens, and adults, where the only goal seems to be compliance for non-speakers and forcing verbal speakers to be indistinguishable from their peers, the rush to remove responsibility from everyone and blame autism for every event or habit in a child’s life that is not acceptable to general society, we insist on coming up with solutions that equate our offspring with dogs in need of training or wild horses needing breaking. I am very concerned about the tracking bracelets that failed in Colorado, and the mother who was charged because her frequently ‘eloping’ son’s bracelet’s battery failed. She was cited for child endangerment for what the police say was failure to charge the bracelet’s battery. We still don’t know if the bracelet, from the same company that manufactured the two, which failed, has a defective battery. I think if the person chooses to wear the bracelets it is okay. If not, it is very much like house arrest with an ankle bracelet. Shackling people with an electronic tracking device for the crime of being curious about the world at large while being disabled is a limited, and rather draconian response to autistic wandering. . I am against databases full of innocent autistic children’s DNA and fingerprints, another part of the tracking device initiatives, because we don't know that the data in them will be limited to use for its original intent. It is too creepy.
Leroy Moore: There is no surprise that you have written about the ineffectiveness of police crisis/training. In your August 26th/ 2014 article, Why Autism Training for Law Enforcement Doesn't Work you bring up many police shootings including those of two young Black teens with autism who were killed by police in Denver & Chicago, where the officers involved have receive training and you said “You can't train away racism or ableism.” Please give us your views and experiences when it comes to police training of people with disabilities
Kerima Çevik: Right. Paul Childs, and Stephon Watts are examples that police, regardless of disability sensitivity training, will always fall back on their primary training and shoot anyone with an object in their hand first and worry about the consequences later. The murder of Ronald Madison, the 45-year-old Autistic man and his brother on the Danziger Bridge after Katrina is a clear indication that racism is not being factored into the concept of training for disability sensitivity in law enforcement. In fact to date, disability training in law enforcement has been presented as risk management rather than ableism sensitivity for the most part. Ableism sensitivity is only applied to evacuation scenarios. We expanded the responsibility of police beyond the scope of their intended purpose. That is the root of this problem. I think we need to understand the concept that training for invisible disability in particular may have its uses, but it is not the antidote to catastrophic encounters with law enforcement. So it is time to begin looking at the solution from the reality that racist ableism exists, police are equally subject to human biases and failings, and when we expand the definition of what a police officer’s job is, we put everyone at risk.
Leroy Moore: If it’s not police training then what are your suggestions and it can be for our community (For me I think we only focus on what police need and not what the community need)?
Kerima Çevik: Leroy I agree that we are focusing on what we think police need when we need to reduce police engagement and increase community supports that limit the need for police contact as much as possible. I won’t advise the community but I can tell you what I personally would like to see happen.
I’d like to see efforts made to establish a 911-type number for mental health emergencies/psychiatric disability related crises and more community crisis response teams to answer them. There is a myth that policy makers are exploiting based on a moment in history. This myth that after the Willow brook scandal, we just opened the doors of mental institutions and threw the patients out to wander the streets, and that to this day those same individuals are out there being a danger to themselves and others. The new fear factor story being added to that is we really need to bring back mental institutions. Victim blaming every deceased victim of a catastrophic police encounter with a person with psychiatric disability and sprinkling that disgrace with a healthy dose of posthumously declaring every white male mass shooter as a mental health patient achieves this fear driven train wreck. Uh nope! I think that funding being demanded for the return of the infamous mental institution model of mental health treatment, research, and ‘residential care’ should be given to desegregated, community supported mental health solutions that work in accord with the Olmstead Decision. I think we need to build on peer mentoring and peer respite centers, an idea that has already been proven successful in other parts of the country. I think we need to be seeking preventative solutions that solve the main series of events that ends in catastrophe for so many disabled victims, and that is the present situation where a mental health call is lumped in with a 911 call and therefore has police responding where they shouldn’t be. I think we should be increasing healthy inclusive school environments for neurodivergent students at school by paying school support staff wages that retain them and training them, not calling SROs to handcuff autistic children to squad cars.
I could go further:
I think that police transport vehicles need to be made safe and wheelchair accessible. I think that blind suspects should be given a copy of their rights in braille, and law enforcement should understand that removing a person’s wheelchair is removing they spinal support and their legs. They need to be made aware that removing a person’s service animal deprives them of the assistive technology they need to navigate. I think that deaf interpreters who are body language qualified should be on call or available in every precinct. I think we have to get to a place in neighborhood law enforcement where the people who police your neighborhood truly live in it, and therefore know their disabled neighbors and everyone in the neighborhood personally and live through what those living there live through. Inclusion in all aspects of society must mean insuring universal design in the criminal justice too. Wheelchair access in courthouses shouldn’t be a thing anymore, yet we still lack this. We still haven’t achieved proper therapeutic supports of prisoners found to be neurodivergent. People are dying in county jails because the police protocol for dealing with anyone they label a mental health risk is to place them in a restraint chair – for hours. This is the strongest evidence out there that police should not be involved in calls about autistic meltdowns, potential suicides, and mental health crises. We have community members with prosopagnosia, but we expect them to look law enforcement in the eye. How is that going to happen, when they may not be able to distinguish your facial features? Police demand compliance to their orders. How does that happen when some autistic adults have diagnosed auditory processing disorders and may not understand the command although they heard it? I always come back to the question of how someone like Neli Latson had his case go to trial? It is because everyone but the autistics themselves is informing the entire criminal justice system about autism. Autistics are the scenery in autism training for police. I don’t know of one police training program for autism that addresses invisible disabilities that could bar communication in a police interaction like synesthesia, auditory processing disorders, photosensitive seizure disorders, and face blindness. Hopefully things will change. But if organizations that claim to advocate for autistics try and exclude autistic disability rights activists from the complexities of how autistic victims or persons of interest might come to harm from simple interactions with law enforcement, you get a hot mess of experts thinking that training by generalizing both autistics and police will solve everything. Training based on managing risks and generalizations when the people involved are such a diverse and unique population cannot succeed. Invisible disability is not something a training seminar, even one 40 hours long, can prepare police for when other factors are ignored to do so.
Leroy Moore: You followed the aftermath of the shooting of Robert Ethan Saylor and now Maryland has police training by people with disabilities. Your thoughts and what did you experience covering that case and do you think if Saylor were Black would his family get the same amount of attention fro the disability and general community with media?
Kerima Çevik: Ethan Saylor’s case was local, and I did follow it. It was determined that there were no grounds to prosecute the officers involved. This kind of thing is no surprise to people of color but to the Saylor family it was like a hard slap in the face. The ableism in the lack of accountability broke my heart. The grieving family did what many grieving families do. They directed all their efforts at training, presuming that the officers involved had no training in this area and that mandated training might have changed the outcome for Ethan. I would argue that it would not. I don’t know how many of Ethan's peers were involved in decision making about training. This is the third statewide disability training effort attempted in Maryland. I am afraid it will fail as much as the attempts before it. The premise behind training police for this is fundamentally flawed as I stated earlier. I can’t emphasize this enough. It presumes police are not subject to human weaknesses like ableism. It ignores racism or presumes that racism can be trained away. It does not address instances of excessive use of force by individual officers. Right now in Baltimore, there is another case of excessive use of force, the victim of which has broken bones. The victim knew one of the officers involved. That officer was well aware that the individual involved was not disruptive at all. But that did not impact the outcome. I have not even addressed police culture. Most police training doesn’t either.
If the family and the victim were Black no, the Governor would not have gathered a task force, and in my opinion this would not have made national news. Verbiage would have been generated to criminalize Ethan Saylor and he would have been posthumously victim blamed. That is the reality of where we are in race relations today. It is a time of dangerous polarization and overt unpunished hate crimes.
Leroy Moore: What is you advice to first anti-police brutality movement, the disability and Black community on the issue of police brutality against people with disability?
Kerima Çevik: My policy as a stakeholder in the anti-brutality/police reform movement is when the victim is found to be a black transgender woman, making my best effort to give the podium to a black transgender activist, either live or through amplifying their words, and allowing those voices to be heard. When the victim is black and disabled, the tendency of prominent white activists to speak for the black disabled community or simply say the important identity is the disabled one is wrong. Because when victims are limited to a single identity, key reasons why this is happening are erased. It is the combination of identities that makes the victims targets. But white dominated organizations do this. No one should speak for the black disabled community when there are activists out there who can speak for that intersected population. Understand your privilege, be the ally, and give the voices of disabled black activists the platform to be heard.
To our Black community: We have tried to reform from the top down. My personal conclusion is that it is right to continuing filming and speaking out when we see excessive force and anything in an exchange between police and people with disabilities we know is beyond the scope of the law.
I think all advice needs a giant disclaimer: this is one person’s opinion. I think what is making modern human and civil rights movements work is that the decentralized, online/offline, ebb and flow of the activism has allowed a great deal of room for a preponderance of ideas that will bring an eventual series of innovative solutions to our causes. I can only speak my truth, with the understanding that it this woman’s attempt to insure her son survives an encounter with a militarized police department in a time of extreme racial polarization. It is difficult to see my son growing up and not communicating well enough to tell everyone what he thinks. We are also working on that.
I have felt the personal need to focus more on grassroots activism. I am trying to support pushes for the establishment of respite centers, community crisis teams. I continue the work of calling out nonprofits that present themselves as emergency crisis response centers but in fact only act as resource generators who hand out phone numbers, and leaflets and watch people who need urgent help die. If organizations don’t have real action plans and policies aimed at preventing these deaths and permanent injuries, they are part of the system perpetuating them. I ask myself, why then are we not speaking out against funding them? No organization calling itself a disability rights organization should be ignoring this issue. If they are, we should be ignoring them. So I guess the advice I’ve given myself is again a series of answers to the question how can I save my son’s life? The answers I came up with are:
Reduce potential for catastrophic incidences.
Reduce police presence in school behavioral management of disabled students.
Reduce police involvement in non-criminal disability related crises.
Reduce nonprofit distancing from involvement in catastrophic encounters with police.
Reduce symbolic feel good training being marketed to police departments by diverse stakeholders in the disability nonprofit industrial complex and fund things that find solutions to how our people can survive these encounters.
Leroy Moore: As a legislative advocate what do you see needs to be done on the legal level? Recently we are citing more states including disability apart of their anti-profiling bills. What else can we do especially when it comes to the increasing abuse of disabled youth/young adults in our schools by resource officers?
Kerima Çevik: I think we need to legislate to phase out SROs (school resource officers) from schools and refocus on strong anti-bullying culture infusion in public schools instead. I don’t think police should be profiling disabled children in school. Police officers are not trained to evaluate students with psychiatric or invisible disability. This entire concept is just frightening. I think that the role of legislation is to create laws to provide community based respite, location and recovery services for lost people outside the police force for those disabled people who themselves feel they need monitoring and tracking, and I think funding needs to be created for mental health crisis response teams with non lethal means of engaging individuals in crisis. I think laws generating funding to go towards community supports, assistive technology should exist and be operative in every State. Isn’t it sad that if a bear is up a tree or a wild predator is wandering in an urban area, we tranquilize and relocate them, and we’ll come to blows if anyone thinks of shooting them, but people are okay with police shooting a disabled adult in crisis? How is it that our society has failed to progress on how they view disabled people?
Leroy Moore: As a long time activist what do you think the activist world needs to know to make their work, protest and campaigns not only inclusive but to gain more realization that many times the disability component of a police brutality case is a key?
Kerima Çevik: I think those of us who write need to increase our body of work to educate other activists as well as the general public that a victim with an intersected disability label is in fact the key to defining the problem and solving it. I think activists need to understand that they may be marching against racism, but erasing the disabled identity of the victim makes them ableist. I actually think we need activist networking and strategizing events that are intersectional to impart on activists across causes that not erasing one marginalized group from activists’ efforts might make a major difference in how change happens. Keeping it real, I was disappointed to see Deray McKesson on Late Night With Stephan Colbert and he chose not to at least give a shout out to Heather De Mian, who was on the ground in Ferguson protesting as well and was dumped from her wheelchair hit with her own cell phone and arrested for being an ally against racism. Typical example of disabled activists being erased and made invisible when a platform existed where she might have been able to voice our perspective on this.
I have been more vocal about racism and the racial polarization we are all witnessing because of where and how these events intersect with black disabled lives lost. I burnt out dealing with that type of ableism and disability bias. My personal focus changed. I’ve spent the past two years fighting to make our voice heard to our disability rights activist colleagues who are speaking for us and aren’t allowing us to speak for ourselves or worse, are part of the machine that is erasing the voices of our victims from their own stories. Doing the right thing begins with our own stakeholders and community.
Leroy Moore: I really believe that cultural activism plays a very important role in not only protecting our rights but also educating our community, politicians, legislators and the media. So in this area of police brutality how do you see cultural activism of people with disability fit in, how has it made a difference and if you had a magic wand how would you expand it??
Kerima Çevik: Wow, great question. Absolutely agree that cultural activism has been the definitive transformative change agent in recent history. I just saw Jon Connor and Keke Palmer performing “Fresh Water For Flint” on The Nightly Show and I thought about “Disabled Profiled,” “Where is the Hope” and how much cultural activism is part of the way those of us who are Black activists move though social justice space. A documentary or a spoken word poem or a musical performance has the potential to make a much more visceral connection to people and pairs well with social media to make that message a global one. As you know I wanted to make that connection with disabled activists and stakeholders with you, Keith Jones, and KripHop Nation but that failed. A dream would be witnessing KripHop on a platform like The Nightly Show. Disabled cultural activism needs a wider audience.
Leroy Moore: In these days what are you working on for your son and his community within and beyond eliminating police brutality?
Kerima Çevik: I actually sat down with my daughter, who has a Masters in special education, and later with my son, and reprioritized what he needs as a nonspeaking disabled tween, and included his older sister’s professional opinion of what services he was denied as a multiply disabled student of color while in the public education system. What we came up with are new perspectives on inclusion, public education, and our thoughts of what the future of educating disabled people throughout their lifespan might look like and I’ll be writing about later.
My son’s expressions of what his educational needs and interests are compared to what the public entity, the school system, wishes to track him towards is very much akin to the difference between what my racist high school freshman counselor decided I needed and what my aptitude tests said I needed in terms of a high school education. When I entered high school and found that a counselor had ignored my aptitude and high school placement scores and placed me in both a remedial math class and a home economics course I never registered for because I was a Black female I was furious. My math teacher marched me into the freshman counselor’s office and asked why a student who scored in the 98th percentile in math reasoning was placed in his remedial math class; the counselor calmly answered that there was no room for students my color in the college track math classes and I was in home economics because colored girls needed to learn their place was to clean houses and cook for white people. Mustafa experienced both the racial bias and the addition of the presumption of incompetence that is carried into the school system by the structural ableism of society in general. On the other hand, those who witnessed the injustices done to my son because he is a nonspeaking multiply disabled student were silenced because they have no whistle blower protection from reprisal if and when they step forward. I’m working on what needs to happen to go about changing that.
The other cause I’m involved in is the fight against the attempts to pass right to die legislation in Maryland. On February 13, 2014, Belgium legalized euthanasia by lethal injection for children and Europe’s escalation of assisted suicide on anyone who they think shouldn’t live stinks of eugenic mentalities that are frightening..
The revised assisted suicide push is a based on a rebranded, seductive, presentation of a very ugly idea complete with a young woman with brain cancer who promoted the myth of the beautiful and dignified death on social media by making herself the star of her own reality show as a heroine of assisted suicide, making her personal choice and insistence on mandating this for the rest of us. Now other cancer patients who want to continue life sustaining treatments are being denied the medical insurance to do so in states where such legislation has passed, while insurance companies boldly state in rejection letters that they’ll pay for drugs to end patients’ lives but not hospice care or medical treatments to keep them alive. That is inexcusable. I need to give a shout out to Not Dead Yet, Carrie Ann Lucas, esq., Corbett O’Toole who introduced me to Carrie Ann virtually, and ASAN’s Sam Crane, esq., for fighting this fight longer than I’ve been in it.
Leroy Moore: Any last word & where can people read about your work?
Kerima Çevik :I’m actually doing a great deal of amplifying disabled activist voices so I’d recommend they follow my blogs on Facebook or follow me on twitter @kerima_cevik. I hope more people amplify and support the “Where is The Hope” documentary, it explains the topic of excessive use of force and delves into the lives of some victims of catastrophic encounters with law enforcement and their families attempts to find closure well. I am not an organization type human but I think a shout out to ASAN activists’ efforts to end violence against disabled people by continuing cross disability vigils is worth mentioning. I think that disabled victims of violent death in general should all be remembered but that is a topic for another time.
I have become a rather itinerant blogger because of offline goings on. These days, when I blog, I write about:
autism related topics on The Autism Wars: http://theautismwars.blogspot.com/
Intersectionality and Disability on InterSected: http://intersecteddisability.blogspot.com/
Racism and Social Justice on Brave: http://overcominghate.blogspot.com/