Many people with autism are often misunderstood, but for people of color, especially black people, these misconceptions truly put them at high risk. Autism is a subject not everyone is informed about and requires raised awareness, as with police brutality and Black Lives Matter. It’s hard enough to endure with others reacting inappropriately or thoughtlessly to people with autism, in addition to racism. After reading this article, I realized that Sharisse Tracey has brought up an important point. How can police officers respond to different kinds of people of all abilities and learn to properly interact or handle someone’s behavior? Too many people are dying at the hands of police for the color of their skin alone, but when can officers and everyone else treat others with more respect and understanding? Their purpose is to eliminate danger, but they are often the source of danger. Sharisse’s son is a life valued just as much as everyone else’s. Why should his mother have to fear for his life? Elijah McClain was perceived to be suspicious for wearing a ski mask that he wore due to anemia, in addition to “waving his arms around” and “acting weird,” which can be normal to people with autism. The police officers who arbitrarily arrested Elijah on no legitimate basis with unnecessarily excessive force should have let him be, or at least taken the care to respect his basic rights. Elijah was known to be an extraordinarily gentle person, and would even use his lunch breaks to play music to animals. While the police were detaining him, he repeatedly said “I can’t breathe” and asked why they were being so violent towards him. Elijah identified as an introvert, saying to the officers, “I’m just different,” and never had the intention to harm, yet he was subjugated with a chokehold, injected with an excessive amount of ketamine, and died soon after that. Elijah should not have died from this injustice, along with so many others. The dangers that can come with being black and having autism shows how much the world and society is too quick to judge and too harsh. More people need to recognize that everyone behaves differently in their own, unique way, and the color of someone’s skin should not determine the kind of treatment they receive, because black lives matter.
Some ways you can help are by contacting lawmakers or figures of authority in your region, raising awareness by reposting or sharing this article, and by signing this petition for Elijah McClain: https://www.change.org/p/adams-county-district-attorney-justice-for-elijah-mcclain-48a81830-f891-4b04-ba28-c2625b916b96
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