This week, medical examiners in New York City ruled the death of Jordan Neely, a 30-year-old Black man, a homicide following an incident on May 1, during which Neely was forcibly held in a chokehold by a white vigilante – and restrained by other riders – for several minutes.
The dehumanization of individuals experiencing homelessness and mental illness, combined with a culture that emboldens white supremacist violence, are directly to blame for this tragic and senseless loss of a young man’s life. And, we join other advocates calling for accountability.
As we have seen before throughout our nation’s history, when people who are experiencing a mental health crisis or homelessness are routinely perceived and treated as dangerous, it often can lead to violence and vigilantism against already marginalized and vulnerable groups. We condemn this violence.
As New York State Sen. Samra Brouk summarized, “We must end the notion that erratic behavior is grounds for a death sentence.”
Likewise, being Black, mentally ill and/or homeless should not be a death sentence. As an organization that provides long-term subsidized housing for women with a disability or mental illness, YWCA Columbus’ work sits at the intersections of homelessness, racism, and mental illness in Central Ohio, and we uniquely understand how supporting our neighbors in crisis leads to a thriving community for all of us. We also see firsthand the higher likelihood of becoming homeless due to systemic inequities faced by Black and Indigenous people and people of color, and we work daily to combat ableism and racism in all its forms.
We grieve alongside those who knew Jordan, and using our mission as our lighthouse, we will continue to advocate for the safety of everyone in our community, as well as the peace, freedom, justice, and dignity every human deserves.