The Disabled Community Can Learn from the Deaf Community On How To Respond & Make Cultural Work On Police Brutality.

PNNscholar1 - Posted on 25 September 2017

Leroy Moore

Did and has the anti police brutality movement left behind one of the biggest groups that have been killed by police since the early 1980's when I got involved. This includes people with all types of disabilities from activist groups like October 22nd to Mothers Against Police Brutality to BLM but not only activist groups but even scarier high profile police brutality lawyers and of course mainstream media who still have any deep knowledge of disabilities/Deafness?


And I'm not just talking about awareness but more institutional and community change with people with disabilities and who are Deaf leading the way. And not only policies and White papers but also cultural work. The disabled community can learn from the Deaf community. After John T. Williams, a Deaf Native American wood-carving artist was shot down by Seattle police, the Deaf Native community challenged the mainstream media about the story they put out on John T. Williams. They also put together songs, art and statements around this police killing. The Deaf Native American community stayed on this killing and with other community-builders forced the city to at least put up a pole to honor Williams’ life.


Another example from the Deaf community on police brutality that the disabled community can learn from especially now is the popular suggestion from many cities and some advocates is an i.d.. A Black Deaf elder, Pearl Pearson, 64, who was pulled over on Jan. 30, 2014 and tased although he had the Deaf symbol on his license plate and also on his driver i.d. He didn’t have time to show the officer his hearing impaired placard so that he could communicate with the officers. So even with an i.d Deaf people still get abused by police.


Years ago, a friend of mine and father of the Deaf Hip-Hop movement here in the US, Wawa, was apart of a play highlighting police brutality against the Deaf community and even on the independent film screen, a Black Deaf filmmaker, Jade Bryan also put her camera on this issue of police brutality against Deaf people.


It seems even Deaf organizations are more quicker to respond to police brutality cases than disabled orgs both locally and nationally. It also helps that the Deaf community has a well known movie star, Marlee Matlin, who has been vocal on police killings of Deaf people. Now upcoming Deaf artist and American Sign Language interpreter has been hired by Chance The Rapper, Matt Maxey - put out this video, 10 ASL signs all Police Officers should know. And there are more examples that point to the Deaf community having success on responding faster, providing cultural work and community advocacy however success in the political arena i.e. legislative powers on this issue is still not noticeable yet. I still think that the disability community can learn a lot from the success of the Deaf community in this area on how to respond and their cultural work around police brutality and abuse.



Edited by Heather Watkins


Pic:  Where Is Hope (Documentary on police brutality against people wth disabilities) painting made for the project showing police brutality against people with disabilities 2016


Sign-up for POOR email!