I just wanted to share with you a recent discussion that has taken place in response to a man who was tasered by the police in front of screaming and distressed infant.
I was absolutely gobsmacked by the some of the comments coming from individuals who work in professions that have ethical codes of conduct, values and principles in relation to tackling oppression and challenging discrimination. The video footage was posted on social media and has appeared on the news showing the shocking actions of the police who tasered a man in front of his screaming child in a petrol station. This wasn’t about what the man had or had not done but about the disproportionate use of force against Black men by police officers, which is widely documented. Manchester GMP and the Met being the two areas who use this kind of force disproportionately against Black people.
Naively I thought people might reflect on their own position and attitudes to this incident, some justified the police actions, some were horrified by it, some could not see the relevance of such a post in relation to mental health and wellbeing. The child who witnessed this will no doubt be traumatised by seeing his dad drop to the floor and repeatedly tasered. The shock waves sent through the community will have a lasting impact on all of us that saw this footage. In response to some of the comments I looked for some teachings from my elders and found this; so if anyone is confused about the role resistance has in mental health and wellbeing take a moment to read the words of bell hooks.
“I write these words to bear witness to the primacy of resistance struggle in any situation of domination (even within family life); to the strength and power that emerges from sustained resistance and the profound conviction that these forces can be healing, can protect us from dehumanization and despair.” bell hooks
There have been several events in MY neighbourhood the the last month that have forced me as a counsellor and therapist to make a statement in a public arena. A man was handcuffed in front of family and neighbours for taking food to his relatives during lockdown, he didnt have a second home or break social distancing rules but nonetheless he was questioned and shoved up against his car and cuffed. His hands forced up his back while asking the officer to loosen the cuffs because they had twisted his wrists so much it was hurting him. He didn’t resist and answered the officers questions about his actions. This incident was captured by a neighbour who was also threatened with arrest for filming the incident. Previously an officer had been investigated after he had dragged two Black autistic young people off their bikes causing them injury. Just this week another video was posted where police officers fought with a non-black man in the street, being screamed and shouted at by others, while 3 youths jumped on a car smashing the windscreen and causing damage to the vehicle in front of them. The police didn’t employ their tasers and no one was arrested.
Often these battles against injustice and police brutality are fought in private by families, sometimes through coming together with colleagues and community members in the area. I have worked as a community development worker and activist for over 30 years supporting and working with families and individuals who are facing these struggles daily. At school, in shops, in employment, on public transport all made worse by the long Brexit campaign that gave the views of bigots and racists legitimacy.
I have my own personal experiences of dealing with schools unable to recognise the double discrimination Black autistic children face and who are 168 times more likely to be permanently excluded from school. I have attended 3 separate tribunals for disability discrimination knowing that ‘racism’ was a factor but because inter-sectional issues are not understood and therefore not dealt with we had to exclude this from our claim. The impact of racism in these institutions govern every aspect of our lives as Black people.
So while some people may have felt challenged and uncomfortable by the sharing of these daily micro-aggressions that undermine self-esteem, identity, increase blood pressure, affect employment and education outcomes, what impact do you think this has on long term health and wellbeing of Black communities? Under the Windrush scandal people died, some lost their homes and pensions, some were held in detention centres and deported, during the Brexit campaign an increase in racial attacks against citizens, then in 2020 Covid 19 and the disproportionate number of deaths for Black and Minority Ethnic Communities. The impact of which will continue for years as families have lost loved ones who were providing some economic stability. Disproportionate use of mental health sections, community treatment orders in African Caribbean communities, Black women afraid to go for help with domestic violence for fear of being deported even though they are British Citizens and it goes on and on……..so if you want to criticise me for bringing to your attention some uncomfortable truths be aware of where your discomfort might be coming from. This stuff is going on all around you on a daily basis, my privilege of being an educated Black woman with a voice, and internet, able to write, comment and engage in discussion is what I am using to raise awareness and have a debate about issues that affect my family, my colleagues, my friends and a wider of community of people who care about what is happening to people with far less privilege and resources to fight back. Our resilience comes from fighting back through collective responses of resistance. Your support by speaking up and speaking out against oppression and state violence increases community solidarity by supporting others who are silenced by such acts.