“It’s not only training. Just look at how we live our lives, you know, we’re all human beings. We all deal with people every day so it goes beyond just training. I mean, there are human issues. We all understand that.”
How nice it was of Sheriff Jenkins and all the other local dignitaries to attend a World Down Syndrome Day event and begin the exposure process. I wonder if they would have bothered if it weren’t for Ethan and the political “exposure” that social media and the press have given his death?
I have also learned that public opinion is still in the dark ages when it comes to developmental disabilities. I’ve extensively studied the comments posted on every news article I could find online since January 12th. The overwhelming majority of people interested in the case seemed to have a personal grudge against law enforcement in general. Some did seem genuinely concerned. Those people, more often than not, listed a personal connection with someone who has Down syndrome or some other developmental disability. Then you had the people who were just ignorant of the facts about Down syndrome. Many called it a “mental illness.” Some referred to “retard strength.” More, and worse, things were said in reference to not allowing people “like that” in public alone. Some, and lets’ hope they were just trolls, even posted statistics about how people with Down syndrome shouldn’t be born in the first place. (Yes, I got an eye opening education about what internet trolls are and what they’re trying to do.) And for those few who suggested that "we" don't teach our children to behave in public, we give "our" kids whatever they want, or we expect a "free pass" just because "they" have a disability, let me publicly say - "That's ridiculous!" (Not that I think you'll believe me.)
What stood out, above all else, was how people resorted to stereotypes. Even those who meant well. At one point I posted a graphic that said “No two people are exactly alike…even if they both have Down syndrome.” You wouldn’t know it to read the thousands of comments posted on different articles.
Do I think justice was served, absolutely not! Why? Because even though the officers did not intend to kill Ethan, the fact is that they did. I will never believe that it was because they didn’t realize that factors like his weight, or his “compromising” Down syndrome made him more susceptible. They saw someone they were not comfortable interacting with and so they over-reacted. Like Sheriff Jenkins said – it’s a “human” issue, not a training issue. Bias and prejudice automatically kick in, especially under “stressful conditions.” Our first-responders are supposed to be the ones who can handle stressful conditions when others can’t.
Tonight I am saddened and disgusted on so many levels I can’t even articulate them all at once. (My disappointment in the lack of outrage from local and national parents’ groups will have to wait until I have recovered from the initial shock).