Every week, the local cops do a “Wanted Wednesday” post on their social media accounts.
Apparently the point is that they’ve lost contact with the individual, and they hope by posting, the public will recognize the person and give them some information that will allow them to locate them and arrest them.
Each post includes a name, age, and what the person is wanted for. It also usually includes a mug shot of the person.
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Last month, they posted the photo of a 26-year-old woman as part of their Wanted Wednesday. And several people took the liberty of expressing their opinion based on her photo.
Commenters shared such things as “I feel bad for these people”,“They look so lost”, and “Another wasted life to drugs.”
Here’s the thing though.
This sort of language is just another way to dehumanize people who use drugs. A person’s value isn’t attached to whether they do drugs or not. A person’s value is inherent in their simply existing.
Saying that a person has wasted their life implies that their life no longer has value. And when we see people as having no worth—being worthless—it’s easy for us to see them as an annoyance, an inconvenience, a pest.
To us, they’re not people, but “the problem downtown”.
And as long as we see them as barriers in our own lives, we won’t be able to help them with the barriers in their own lives.