As a mother of a teen on the autism spectrum, and as a special needs advocate, I was sickened yesterday by the video of four black Chicago teenagers tying up and assaulting an eighteen-year-old boy with developmental issues. I believe we must always call out and condemn acts of violence and cruelty, whether the perpetrators are white, black, brown or purple. At the same time, we shouldn’t be so quick to always condemn police. We should applaud law enforcements agencies when they act quickly and responsibly in upholding the law. In this case, the Chicago police department quickly apprehended the suspects, and resisted outside pressure to label the assault a hate crime before they could even complete their investigation.
Unfortunately, there are many people, especially members of the Alt-Right, who use any instance of black crime as an opportunity to distort Black Lives Matter and its message. These critics of Black Lives Matter view it as a black nationalist movement that is only interested in protecting the rights, and advancing the causes, of African Americans. But today we heard the actual truth as Black Lives Matter spokesman DeRay McKesson, as well as the Chicago Police Department, said there was no connection between the suspects and BLM whatsoever.
And for those on social media trying to equate this isolated, random act of violence with the Klu Klux Klan’s 150 year history of murder and racism—let me be clear: there is no comparison.
Sadly, however, we do seem to be in an age where many young people have lost their moorings, and act upon their hateful impulses in the most sadistic and violent of ways. Dylann Roof recently announced in court that he was completely sane and stable, and that the reason he killed nine church members in South Carolina was plain and simple: He hated black people and saw them as a threat to the white race.
When we look at the dreadful crime statistics in Chicago, and the explosive growth of white supremacists hate groups, it’s clear we are witnessing a major breakdown in the fabric of society. We need to question what we are teaching our young people about mutual respect, and the value of human life; we must also rededicate ourselves to doing a better job of teaching them about compassion and the difference between right and wrong.
My heart goes out to the family of the victim, and all families of kids with developmental and mental health issues. We in the special needs and social justice community must always be cognizant that it’s our children—among the most vulnerable in society—who are often the targets of bullying and abuse. As such, we must always be prepared to stand strong together and give voice to the voiceless. I’m standing today.