With all due gratitude to the Riverfront Times for featuring the Activist Hub as one of its favorite blogs and our beloved Adam Shriver as “Best Gadfly” of 2010, I feel the need to call them out on something. The RFT has been incredibly insensitive when reporting on people with mental illnesses and those who are transgender.
Take Chad Garrison’s recent article about a man—Trip Powers—shot by a police officer on Sunday after allegedly breaking into a Denny’s restaurant. The article is posted online in the blogs under the “Criminally Stupid” category. Garrison quips that the man was shot, “while seriously craving a Grand Slam omelette. Or maybe it was a Moons Over My Hammy?”
According to Powers’s mother, Teri Powers, a licensed clinical social worker, her son Trip is suffering from a mental illness, and he is not a criminal. “Everyone involved should recognize that keeping Trip jailed and without psychiatric treatment and medication is doing him an injustice,” Teri told me via Facebook message. Bill McClellan of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch is doing a respectful series on Trip Powers and his situation. So why the stigmatizing sarcasm from a reporter for the Riverfront Times?
This is not the first time that the RFT has ridiculed someone with a mental illness. Remember Susan Stone? She was also written about under the “Criminally Stupid” category.
Now, I’m not a psychiatrist, but I’m pretty familiar with mental illnesses. I saw Stone at the Metro East Pride vigil in October. It seemed pretty clear to me then, based on some of the things she said, that she was suffering from some kind of mental illness.
While other local media showed disrespect to Stone, using her legal (male) name and referencing her with pronouns that do not match her gender presentation, the RFT went one step further by nominating her as “Ass Clown of the Week,” calling her “he/rself,” and “s/he” in that article.
It sounds to me as though the RFT could use some sensitivity training.