Miriam Carey: When We Ignore Black Women and Mental Health

Family of Miriam Carey (Michael Graae/Getty Images)
Family of Miriam Carey (Michael Graae/Getty Images)

At Salon magazine, Brittney Cooper connects the incident in Washington, D.C., involving Miriam Carey — the African-American woman who tried to crash her car into a White House barrier — to the current dysfunction on Capitol Hill over the right to health care. Her case is a "cautionary tale about what can happen in a nation that systematically ignores the unwell," particularly women and African Americans. 

The temptation in this case is to read Carey’s acts and her death as an anomaly. But her death cannot be understood outside of the broader set of policies governing the treatment of women and people of color in this country.

The GOP has shut down the Congress for a week now based on the simple belief that everyone is not entitled to healthcare. Among other things, Carey’s death is a cautionary tale about what can happen in a nation that systematically ignores the unwell. One is left to wonder whether she had all the social support she needed in a country that not only thinks access to healthcare is a privilege rather than a right, but that also stigmatizes mental illness …

Thus Carey’s death is also set against the backdrop of a governmental assault on struggling and vulnerable moms. She is also a casualty of the prevailing racialized logics of governmentality in this moment: irrational obsession with terrorist threat, over-policing of marginalized communities and a lack of empathy for the least of these, all of which are tied to a fear of brown people. How many folks must die because officers’ first response is always to shoot to kill, never to disable? How many immoral acts — for instance, the callous disregard for the life of the 1-year-old sitting in the backseat enduring a barrage of bullets — must we blatantly excuse before we reckon with our growing lack of empathy as a nation for people in distress? When will we come up with new understandings of these kinds of violent acts that don’t pivot upon the logic of terror?

Read Brittney Cooper's entire piece at Salon magazine. 

The Root aims to foster and advance conversations about issues relevant to the black Diaspora by presenting a variety of opinions from all perspectives, whether or not those opinions are shared by our editorial staff.

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