The news. It’s almost impossible to turn on at this point. There’s the RNC convention, the election, the shooting of police officers, the shooting of unarmed, or surrendered Black individual. There’s shootings of other races and now one of these individuals belonged to us, to the mental health profession. And part of it is a media game, part of it is trying to make you feel unsafe, after all, it’s an election year. And people who feel unsafe will vote for individuals who promise safety. That’s been established time after time. Wilson won his second term because he was the man who kept America out of war! One we eventually did enter. Roosevelt ran and won a third term, because society doesn’t change presidents during wartime. Because the thought of unknown = unsafe.
Mr. Charles Kinsey was lucky, he’s alive, but now can ask the question “why did you shoot me?” and received a point blank answer “I don’t know.” Mr. Kinsey was caring for an individual with autism, he worked for a local group home, and footage shows him trying to calm the young man with autism during the encounter. He showed bravery, clear-headed thinking, and poise in a situation that most could not fathom. He was a counselor throughout, caring enough to continue talking his client down, providing support, despite being shot in the leg. Despite then being handcuffed, flipped over, and waiting for medical attention.
The incident occurred because of a call to police about a man with a gun. Local shop owners and witnesses, and even Mr. Kinsey and his client themselves informed the police that it was a toy truck the young man had, nothing more. The young man had blocked traffic, and Mr. Kinsey went to convince him to move when police arrived. When the cops got there, he immediately lowered himself and tried to explain the situation. Mr. Kinsey was laying down, his hands were raised, and despite no attack or threats, despite no movement by these two individuals, multiple shots were fired. Later, the police officer and force reported they were “intended to shoot the patient” and missed.
This is not an area with history of police vs. community. This isn’t a situation where there was ambiguity. There was no attempt to approach, to listen, to deescalate. We are told that shooting is the last resort, and although police officers must make life and death choices every day, the current climate is impacting those reactions. And here’s the thing. Blue Lives Matter, we owe our police a great deal of respect for the service and sacrifice they give. But we can still ask better. Because Mr. Kinsey, like all other social workers, mental health counselors, case workers, psychologists, psychiatrists, and all others in the mental health field put ourselves on the line. We step in to the angry, the high, those with severe mental health issues, developmental issues, the threatening, the abusers, and we place ourselves in front of them without a shield, without a vest, without a gun. Mr. Kinsey showed the world that our profession will advocate for our client even at the risk of our own life. And he did so without thought of himself, only for the safety of his client.
We have a tough job, a dangerous job. Over 50% of us will encounter work related violence, and over 60% know of others within the field who have experienced it. Physical violence, assault, stalking, and even death are part of the deal in social work and other mental health jobs. For many of us, we’re lucky to come out with a few near misses, but for some, it’s part of their everyday lives. Shooting should not be on that list, for us, or anyone else. Including officers. So we can rally behind Blue Lives Matters, because they do without question. And we all need to rally behind Black Lives Matter, because they do, despite those who question. This story isn’t as viral as some others. But the image of a man laying on the ground with his hands in the air prior to being shot haunt me. He lays next to a seated man with autism, he was a helper.
But what we need to realize is that we can say all lives matter as much as we want, but if we don’t actually adhere to it, then we’re the problem. Black Lives Matter came about because of how society acted towards Black people. Their claim is not that all lives don’t matter, but that theirs have not been included in that. Mr. Kinsey is a black man, he is a mental health worker, and he matters. And if you took away those two factors, guess what? He would still matter. And the officer who shot him? His life also matters. But his actions must be accountable to what occurred. And these incidents, these long line of incidents are because of how society is reacting. We must change that both locally and societally. Stop with the divide, agree that if you feel all lives matter that in turn you have to agree that all lives should matter equally, and if they’re not, something needs to be done. If you say that Blue Lives Matter but don’t care about the worker who risked his life for his client, or the individuals who put themselves into hazardous conditions every day without the respect of the police, then maybe we need to make more jobs matter to people. We all matter, we all are a part of society, we all make sacrifices, and impact our community and we all deserve to be treated equally and to be safe from hate, from fear, and from threat. Most social workers will tell you they answered a call to service. We’re the helping profession. Tell me then of a job that “doesn’t matter.” Tell me that any individual from the top down of an organization isn’t doing their part. Tell me that their jobs define their worth.
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