She Needed An Interpreter, But Was Brutalized Her Instead

black hands signing asl
Zain Murdock
September 10, 2022

On April 6, 2012, Lashonn White called 911 after being attacked by a guest in her home. White used a video service to do so - she communicates using sign language because she's both Deaf and primarily nonverbal. But when police arrived, they did not keep ANY of that in mind.

The Tacoma, Washington, police knew White was Deaf. But when she ran outside, waving, to talk to them, one officer immediately tased her. She hit the ground, her face scraping against the pavement. Why? 

Because according to the officer: "I yelled for White to 'stop'… White ignored my commands." 

But White couldn't hear him!

White was held in jail for two days - not once receiving an opportunity to communicate properly using an ASL interpreter. Fortunately, in 2014, she won a lawsuit confirming that the police violated her rights.

The Americans With Disabilities Act was passed in 1990. But for Black Deaf people, communicating with a police officer is still violently misinterpreted as "resistance." Many officers continue to see "not listening" as not cooperating. And this leads to brutality - and even death.

The system is already anti-Black and ableist.  Anytime Police see Black Deaf people as a threat to be brutalized, instead of human beings to be communicated with, there’s a problem. No one should be criminalized for existing.

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