Fighting discrimination of diabetics, and ignorance too
I am in shock–and not the low blood sugar-engendered type–about the recent story of a man living with Type 1 diabetes who was severely beaten and injured by police officers because they thought he was . . . drunk. Yes, that’s right. Our society’s rule-keepers were so intent on taking down the “bad” and threatening people on our streets that they never gave a thought to checking someone’s actual health status or tried to understand, outside of their own survival mode of thinking, what was actually happening right in front of them. That this man didn’t die from their ignorance–is a miracle. That this could actually take place in this day and age, with so many people suffering from so many serious health conditions, is unthinkable. Ignorant? Yes. Discriminatory? Even if not intentional, the answer is still a qualified ‘yes’.
I remember when I was just a girl of 12, my mother reading aloud a similar tiny news story from the Philadelphia Inquirer. She was incredulous. “Can you believe this?” she asked. “A man with diabetes, believed to be drunk, was beaten and thrown by police officers into a holding tank til he woke up.”
“What happened?” I asked. At that age, I didn’t know what a holding tank was, and I didn’t know the point of sharing this news with me.
“He didn’t wake up. He died,” she answered me bluntly, “from diabetic shock.” We knew she meant extremely low blood sugar. That got to me, even at such a young age. I couldn’t understand the justification of taking someone’s life for reasons of sheer ignorance.
Today, stories like this one still abound. You can suggest, I guess, that everyone with a health condition would be better off wearing a Medic Alert bracelet or necklace. Or that people should carry some type of card with them listing health conditions. Yes, that might help, although many of us choose not to do so to safeguard our privacy. And that is my right, and yours, too. But it doesn’t solve the pervasive problems of oversight and not educating people to facilitate deeper awareness. I thought in this day and age–with so many people living with Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes–that so much more is known, understood and favorable toward making our lives both safer and better. I guess I’m wrong. Fighting discrimination against people with any health conditions, and ignorance about them, go hand-in-hand. There’s no other way around it.