One of the most common tactics between privileged and non privileged is erasure. Here’s an example of what I mean by that. Go read this article: Prosecutor: No charges against Seattle officer who shot woodcarver. (I’ll wait.)

OK. Now, let me inform you that Williams was deaf. Now go back and reread that article and tell me where it notes that fact. I’ll help you out there. The article does not once mention that Williams was deaf.

One last reread:

According to evidence presented during the inquest, about four seconds elapsed between the time Birk issued his first order to Williams to put down the knife he was carrying and when the officer opened fire.

The shooting occurred after Birk saw Williams cross the street holding a flat piece of wood and a knife with a 3-inch blade. Williams, a member of Canada’s First Nations people, used the knife for carving, according to his family.

Birk got out of his patrol car and followed Williams onto the sidewalk. Birk shouted at Williams to get his attention and ordered him three times to put down the knife. Birk fired when Williams didn’t respond, hitting him four times.

Got that? William would never have heard Birk yell at him. And that asshole gave him four full seconds to respond before killing him. That’s not much time to do anything, even if you can hear someone yelling at you. Four seconds. You want only four seconds to deal with a cop before he kills you?

But the fact that Williams couldn’t hear isn’t even mentioned in this article — which is a fairly detailed write up, not a short two paragraph summary or anything like that. Why? Point of privilege. Hearing people don’t have to stop and consider whether or not someone can hear them — their privileged position entitles them to make that assumption.

This isn’t even a one-off thing. Consider this: Photographs from the John T. Williams Inquest Hearing (with some great photos). There’s one (buried) comment about William’s ability to hear and that’s it. It’s kind of surreal at times to watch this sort of thing at work. Go ahead and google more up, they’re all pretty much like that. I suppose that since he wasn’t 100% completely and utterly deaf from birth, someone “yelling” at him should have been enough for him to notice. (Yeah, that thing about shouting at deaf people to help them hear you? PSA: Doesn’t work.)

My favorite is the multiplicity of victim-blaming comments like this:

Too much to expect someone drop a knife when ordered? Police are armed for a reason, to protect citizens from knife wielding criminals. The officer was correct. It is silly to expect the police to take a knife in the ribs. put the weapon down or expect deadly force.

The commentators are perfectly comfortable assuming that the person can hear (and not just hear, but understand) the officer (any other possibility probably never even enters their heads) and respond appropriately in four seconds before being killed. Not taken down, not cuffed, not jumped — killed. And since Williams was shot from the side, he was clearly not facing or moving toward the officer (both requisites for a deaf person to possibly see another person is trying to talk to them).

This is why I keep talking about this. After all, this is the Internet. I could easily pass online — I don’t have to raise these subjects. But they are important to me, and so I keep trying.

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