ICI Responds: A Call for Justice and Reform
In our anguish over the killing of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers, we commit to sharing in the responsibility for rebuilding our community by denouncing structural racism and inequity after this devastating loss of life and destruction of neighborhoods.
Our colleagues, many of whom live in these neighborhoods, are donating food, cleaning up, participating in protests and neighborhood action networks, helping those injured in the protests, checking in on people who have been displaced or lost their businesses, praying, writing letters, calling elected officials. In word and action, their response joins a global demand for addressing the racial discrimination and inequities that continue to plague our society.
Our work is founded on the principles of inclusion for people with disabilities, and we recognize the intersectionality that comes with being Black and also living with disabilities. People of color with disabilities are disproportionately the victims of police violence. Disability magnifies the marginalization of people by race, class, gender and sexuality, according to a 2016 white paper by the Ruderman Family Foundation, which concluded disabled individuals make up a third to half of all people killed by law enforcement officers.
In 2015, Freddie Gray of Baltimore died from injuries sustained while in police custody. He was 25, Black, and living with a developmental disability from exposure to lead paint as a child. Stephon Watts, a Black teenager with autism, was shot dead in his Calumet City, Illinois, home. Laquan McDonald, a Black teen with learning disabilities, died after being shot 16 times by police on a Chicago street in 2014. These are just three of so many names etched into a shameful legacy of police brutality toward Black individuals with disabilities.
Of course, the injustice transcends law enforcement. It permeates our schools, and communities. A 2012 New York Times review of U.S. Education Department data found that Black and Hispanic students with disabilities are disproportionately subjected to physical restraints, for example. Black students with disabilities constituted 21 percent of the total, but 44 percent of those subjected to mechanical restraints.
Mr. Floyd’s tragic death reinforces the Institute’s commitment to the importance of cultural and linguistic competence in all of the work we do, to acknowledging our shared humanity, and to calling out racism and injustices that continue to divide us more than a half-century after the passage of the Civil Rights Act.
It affirms our commitment for continued community outreach and dialogue around the issue of race as it intersects with disability. Every grant proposal we submit needs to contain a research question that relates to how disparity plays a role in the subject matter being studied. Every demonstration project must intentionally include work alongside diverse community stakeholders. And, it underscores the importance of our ongoing commitment to diversify our workforce.
Above all, ICI strongly condemns the use of violent and divisive procedures by police and other professionals who work in our communities—in hospitals, institutions, schools, and homes. We also condemn school-to-prison pipelines that disproportionately affect youth of color and people with disabilities. We embrace de-escalation, positive behavior supports, environmental changes, and other nonviolent interventions to support people who are in distress.
Mr. Floyd’s tragic death has sparked not only outrage, but a reckoning. Swift charges, worldwide protests, multiple divestitures from contracts with the Minneapolis Police Department and, now, the department’s withdrawal from negotiations with the labor union that represents officers, are all encouraging signs of needed action. Testifying before a House committee the day after his brother’s funeral, Philonese Floyd said he came to Washington to represent his family, and to ensure his brother won’t be “just another name on a list that won’t stop growing.”
That is the charge to us all.