I suggest that you read The Independent’s story about the plight of Osime Brown before reading further. That article will give you context and should put you in the right frame of mind to appreciate my outrage.
I would also recommend this post by my friend Wolfheart Sanchez who offers his own take on Osime’s situation.
The Stay At Home Office
There is much that is twisted and horrifying about the UK Government over the past decade of Tory misrule. One of the more obscene pits of dysfunction and cruelty is the Home Office. This is an agency that often behaves like something out of a dystopian fantasy.
The Home Office went off the rails when the Tories started believing their own blather about reducing net immigration. The UK generally had some of the more liberal immigration policies within the EU.
The Cameron government and Tory party acted as if the state of the UK immigration system was the EU’s fault. Before the Brexit vote EU legal structures would have allowed the UK to tighten rules on immigration from Europe. For political reasons the Conservatives failed to even acknowledge that this was possible.
Innovations in Absurdity
After locking itself into wilful blindness around European immigration, the government looked elsewhere for a reduction in numbers. They chose to target the category of highly educated people. At one time I could have had a UK visa because I have a Ph.D. from a top university.
Theresa May, as home secretary, eliminated that visa category. If we have too many uneducated immigrants, she perhaps thought, why not balance that out by getting rid of a bunch of people who are too educated? Fortunately I had sponsorship from an employer so did not require this visa.
Then she came up with the concept of a ‘hostile environment.’ Seriously. As if the racism and colonisation deeply ingrained in English culture weren’t enough. Rather than increasing efforts to improve the lives of all, the government set out to make just the racists more comfortable.
All of which is a long-winded way of saying that one should not be surprised if one encounters feats of stupidity coming out of the home office that are so staggeringly inconsistent with one’s own perception of reality that one marvels that the universe itself is not warped.
Perversion of Justice
Such absurdity is found in the case of Osime Brown, a young Black and autistic man.
The UK today is a land of austerity mixed with racism. One is unsurprised that a young Black man might go undiagnosed as autistic for years.
Predictably, Osime was deprived of necessary services even after being diagnosed. By the time he was diagnosed he had been permanently excluded from school. Surely this exclusion should have been reversed in the course of a full examination of his past record in light of his diagnosis. One suspects that such a review never occurred.
He was convicted of stealing a phone, a crime that he never committed. The boys who actually stole the phone testified that Osime had tried to talk them out of it. He was sentenced to a brutally harsh five years in prison, under an interpretation of law that has since been deemed incorrect by the courts. Unsurprisingly for an autistic person, Osime has a strong sense of right and wrong and tried to prevent a crime. For his troubles, he has been locked away.
Osime was only in a situation where he was associating with the boys who did steal the phone because the government repeatedly failed to provide him the assistance to which his disability should have entitled him.
Osime was illegally removed from his home against his mother’s wishes. Osime was repeatedly moved from placement to placement. These were cruel acts that would harshly impact any autistic child.
To take us from absurdity to farce, the charges filed against Osime included ‘perversion of justice.”
Perhaps this charge would be better levelled against the government.
Responsibility is For Other People
This government can’t seem to get out of bed in the morning without ruining the lives of Black and Brown people. Typically, no one in government will take any responsibility for any of its failings. Yet they insist that any trouble Osime got himself into was purely of his own making.
Never mind that he has actually done nothing wrong. Like Matthew Rushin, he is criminally punished for being autistic while Black.
Osime was failed by our system. He is the victim. Yet he is the only person being held to account for all the centuries of wrongs that culminated in imprisoning a Black autistic teen for stealing a phone he didn’t steal. He is the only person suffering the consequences of this governmental failure.
Our prime minister is infuriating. He acts like a six year old although he is theoretically an adult. His life seems strewn with poor judgments and apparently-discarded children.
I speak here of the ones he has fathered, not the innocents caught in his party’s inhumane constructions. Osime does not fully understand the threat hanging over him, yet he is in jail and facing deportation.
If only Mr. Johnson would be held to such a strict standard of accountability for the actual wrong he has done in his life.
Decades Won’t Make you British, Four Years Makes You Jamaican
The barb in the government’s position is that Mr. Brown was not born in the UK. He is Jamaican, although he has been in the UK since he was four years old.
Today’s Tory party seems to believe that no matter how long a non-white person lives in England, they will ever remain a foreigner. However, Osime’s four years in Jamaica, none of which he remembers, somehow make him qualified to easily adjust to building a life there for himself after the deportation with which he is being threatened?
Osime knows no one there. He cannot navigate the world without compassionate support. He asked his mother which direction he should walk to get back to her– from Jamaica to the UK.
The government’s stance appears to be a very convoluted death sentence. Or perhaps Jamaica, with a fraction of the money to spend, is capable of taking care of autistic people dropped off on their shores. I look forward to Priti Patel explaining that we will be adopting the Jamaican model in an upcoming overhaul of social care that will actually take care of all of those who require help.
An Alternate Universe of White Privilege
Looking at Osime’s plight, I can’t help but observe that my own life has been lived in a completely different universe.
A universe of white privilege.
I grew up in a world where someone like me would never have been considered autistic. I was “too smart.” Too successful in school.
My behavior was excused because of my presumed intelligence. Osime, like many Black autistic children, had his autistic behaviors dismissed as willful defiance.
Sure, there were those ‘temper tantrums’ which I now know to have been autistic meltdowns. There was that year in elementary school when I was segregated from my class as I could not cope with the overly-strict teacher.
No one ever involved the police. No one ever questioned my parents’ ability to care for me.
One year in college, a classmate talked a bunch of us into stealing a poster from the musical ‘Cats’ from the local train station. We were stopped and questioned by a policeman. We told him we had bought the poster.
The policeman went back to the train station, found the corner of the poster we had left in the frame, and came back to confront us. Except he just showed us that he knew we had stolen it, gave us a warning, and let us keep the poster!
I’m sure that would have all played out a lot differently if we weren’t all white and privileged.
Prior to obtaining UK citizenship, I personally encountered staggering incompetence in the Home Office. My biometric residence card was stolen during what was meant to be a weekend in Spain. I spent over a week in exile waiting for a new visa. When the new visa finally appeared, it was stamped ’employment prohibited.’ Brilliant, since, as a US citizen, the only reason I required a visa was that I was employed in the UK. ￼
My employer was tolerant, and things were eventually resolved, although only after my MP faxed an angry letter to then-Home Secretary Theresa May. I do wonder how differently this whole sequence of events might have played out had I not been white.
Or what if Osime had an MP faxing Theresa May or Priti Patel on his behalf?
For someone like me, the failings of the Home Office were a temporary annoyance which never made me feel threatened. For Osime Brown, the failings of multiple governmental agencies has damaged his health, deprived him of an education, and locked him away in jail.
To top this off, the government wants to deport him to a country with which he has only tenuous connection. His entire family is here in the UK.
One similarity between Osime and me is that we both have talents that should be of value. The picture accompanying this article is his work. My talents have led me to a series of interesting and stable jobs. Osime’s talents provide him with something to do while he is locked up.
Osime never had art classes. His drawings were shared with us by @coreden10 on Twitter who is helping to advocate for Osime.
Prison guards steal his drawings. Osime is serving five years for theft he didn’t commit. The theft of his art is acceptable Osime is Black and autistic, and that means that his rights have been disregarded.
How can these two universes co-exist? How many others are trapped in this cruel alternate reality?
Judge This Government
A true measure of a society is how it treats the least fortunate within its borders. By this measure, the current UK government is failing miserably. ￼
They turn a blind eye to abuses of power by those who declare them necessary. They show unbridled hostility and brutality towards those most in need of protection. One can easily feel that any member of such a government who does not resign in shame is deeply morally deficient. They are completely lacking in the areas most necessary for building a truly inclusive and humane society.
Please support the crowdfunding campaign to raise money for Mr. Brown’s defence.
- Osime Brown is Black, Autistic, and Wrongly Convicted. Now the Home Office Wants to Deport Him - June 11, 2020
- Why Autistics Can’t Run The World But Could Run the Government - May 1, 2020
- The NHS, COVID-19, and Autism - April 15, 2020