Original Blog by Stefanie Lyn Kaufman-Mthimkhulu, June 6, 2020.
“Replace the cops with mental health workers!” is a really well-intentioned statement, but the current mental health system is also a white-dominated, violent, coercive, and unaccountable structure that disproportionately harms people of color.” — Morgan M. Page
As a Disability Justice organizer, a person with lived experience of madness, Disability, and neurodivergence, and someone who has been incarcerated in psychiatric institutions — I wrote this piece to shed light on why we can’t reform cops into social workers, why we shouldn’t replace cops with mental health professionals, and why abolition + peer support is the only way forward.
For many of our community members, it is dangerous and/or life-threatening to engage with police who are often the first responders for a mental health crisis (mentally ill/mad, Disabled, neurodivergent, and Deaf BIPOC account for over 50% of police deaths and mentally ill/mad, Disabled, neurodivergent, and Deaf folks are 16 times more likely to die in an encounter with police).
I am grateful to have learned + received knowledge from incredible Disabled organizers and scholars, such as Talila Lewis, Lydia X.Z. Brown, Alice Wong, Stacey Park, Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, Azza Altiraifi, Dustin Gibson, and so many more.
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