Friday, August 23, 2013

Reflections on Zimmerman: What does SYG mean for Deaf people?

Whatever you feel about the Zimmerman case and its outcome, Stand Your Ground presents some scary possibilities for the Deaf community.

Every year several Deaf people are shot because of misunderstandings between the Deaf person and police/store owner/restauranteur/someone who saw them signing and thought they were using gang signs/perceived rudeness. This often happens with police officers.

Right now, as Stand Your Ground is interpreted, I'm concerned Deaf people trying to communicate will be perceived as resisting or attacking–and more Deaf people will be shot or killed. Amy Cohen Efron wrote a great piece about how Deaf people can experience deadly challenges when dealing with the authorities, and pointed out that the TV show Switched at Birth addressed this issue to some extent.

Take this story about a 72 year old man in Texas shot by cops who went into the wrong home. Never had a chance to really know what was happening and seems to have thought they were burglars.

Or the story about the NC man stabbed because people thought he was gangsigning.

I'm not claiming every Deaf person is innocent. But the dynamics of this, and the way the law seems to be written and interpreted, would seem to invite misunderstandings. One day it'll be a Deaf person being chased by an unmarked man in an unmarked car: that's my fear.

No comments: