An Unexplored Angle

Thanks to the prevalence of social media, our news feeds are filled to the brim with videos of police committing acts of injustice. Recently, a video surfaced showing a police officer slamming a female student on the floor. Many people defended the officer’s actions, stating that had she just complied with his request to leave the classroom, this never would have happened. I am by no means a person who can be convinced that snatching a student out of their desk and slamming them on the floor is acceptable. I may be going out on a limb here, but I think the problem is larger than anyone considered. 

When someone commits a mass shooting, say in a church or movie theater, there is an automatic assumption that the perpetrator was plagued by mental health problems. Yet, this girl who sat stubbornly in her chair and refused to leave the classroom was automatically considered to be a problem child. No thought was given to the possibility that a behavioral disorder makes it difficult for her to conform.

 I am not trying to turn this into a racial debate, but we would be fools if we didn’t acknowledge the racial disparity when it comes to the way noncompliance or crime is handled. I’m not implying that the only people of color who commit crimes are the mentally challenged. There are plenty of folks (of all colors) who simply suck at being decent. But there are also many who are plagued by mental health disorders.

 Let’s look at Autism as an example. Anyone who parents an autistic child knows the challenges involved with getting their child to function in a society with little tolerance for anything not considered normal. There are many degrees of autism from highly functioning, to requiring care around the clock. It’s hard to say how many people are truly affected by the disorder, though. It is proven that white children are much more likely to be properly diagnosed than black children. This is not information I am pulling out of my behind, I can assure you. This is a documented fact. Black children who probably should be classified are often cast aside as problem children in general, or slow learners. They are placed in a “normal” classroom setting and expected to function without additional assistance. White children are more likely to be classified and have an EDP (educational development plan) in place. Can you guess what happens to the child who was never classified, barely making it through school? There’s a strong possibility that they don’t grow up to become productive adults.

 Take a moment to think of how education has evolved over the past few decades. Kindergarten is no longer a place to learn by way of playing and singing songs. Instead of learning about geology by playing in a sandbox, children now have research projects to complete. Human brains haven’t evolved enough to keep up with the evolution in education (in my opinion), but we expect our children to perform in a way that we wouldn’t have been capable of performing at their age. Throw in a learning disability, and you have a recipe for disaster.

 The disparity between blacks and whites doesn’t stop at medical diagnoses. It leaks over into the media. Pay attention to the way these kinds of situations are covered. I won’t bother to elaborate any further, but I’m sure you are all smart enough to figure out where I’m going with this. Obviously, we can’t blame all of our problems on mental health. But we can’t continue to turn a blind eye to the lack of/misdiagnosis of behavioral and mental disorders when it comes to minority groups.

 

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