Content: Mentions of violence against people on the basis of ability, race, and so on; Mention of abuse.
Friday, March 1, is the 2013 Day of mourning for those PwD whose lives were lost to the hands of their caregivers. Last year, it was at the end of March, not the beginning, which means it’s not quite the anniversary of knowing one of my abusers/caregivers is dead. Last year, those two things fell on the same day. I felt shock and relief mixed into my grief. The shock predominated throughout most of that afternoon.
It’s been a year and a month since Stephon Watts was killed, by police who his family was told to contact for “help,” for the combination of being an Autistic young black male. 11 months since Daniel Corby’s murder. This fall it will have been 20 years since Tracy Latimer’s murder. A month and a half since Robert Saylor’s murder. Almost 80 years since the Nazi’s T4 program. I can post lists and timescales forever, it seems, and it still won’t have all the names it should.
Our dead are mixed in with the dead of others in places where our identities cross, these cross sections boosting statistical probabilities. Stephon’s murder was just as much (if not more so) a factor of racism as disability. T4 blended in to a larger propagandistic and genocidal engine.
There are sadly always many for which to mourn.
This year, we’ve seen violent events, events which have gotten the attention of major news outlets and the dwellings on of news cycles. In these ways, it is unlike our dead- though our dead are hidden in theirs. Instead of joining in mourning, the public uses these deaths as a means to fuel the same bigotries which lay behind the excusing of our deaths and pardoning of our murderers.
Recently, some noticed something terrible, something demonstrating the way in which a certain segment of the disabled population is viewed, when they googled “Autistics should” and “Autistics are.” Google uses everyone’s searches to guess what your next words will be. Based on the searches in their database, google suggested things like “Die” and “dangerous” to complete the search.
A flashblog (see both “should” and “are“) appears to be bearing some results* in amending the computer side of this, but Google only has the ability to amend what their searches suggest. They can’t amend a code and instantly remove the biases that lead to those searches in the first place. (Though it does help.) Erasing bias a is longer, and more complicated, process than that. A process which is on all of us to work on.
A process that we all need to keep in mind. Bigotry that cannot be forgotten, as it blooms fresh again.
My words here are not as direct as I’d like. I see that my sentences are convoluted, but every time I fixate on them enough to begin translating them out from the word pictures in my head into plain language I feel those things that indicate I’m about to cry. It’s hard not to, when you allow yourself to really have the reality sink in. Terror, relief, grief, anger, sadness, and the sense of ever reaching, all inter-playing and weaving.
Yes, I do believe I’m mourning.
This year’s vigils are being jointly backed by ASAN, Not Dead Yet, and the National Council on Independent Living. You can find the nearest vigil to you on the ASAN website, and I’m (as an ASAN person) managing the virtual vigil 3:30pm EST-Midnight-ish, with a good friend, That Crazy Crippled Chick, as my second.** This is a cross disability effort; Autistics are not the only PwD to be murdered by those who were supposed to protect us.
* The article in the link is titled in a way that suggests that this change is already in effect. This is inaccurate; as of this writing, Google has agreed to modify their algorithms to eliminate this issue. It has not been implemented in a way that impacts the user end experience as of yet.
** Or number one, if I’m Picard and she’s my Riker.
I wish I could say something new about George Hodgins.
I wish there were words to really express
what a tragedy his death is,
and the deaths of other Autistics,
other People with Disabilities.
There aren’t words.
Just as there aren’t words to express
what horror and tragedy
the Murder of Trayvon Martin
Who was Black, but not Autistic
or of Stephon Watts, who was black
and Autistic and scared, holding a
butter knife, or the murder of
Ernest Vassell last fall for
holding a toy gun while Black
and Autistic. (Or the arrests
of Neli Latson, and of his mother
for calling people on racism.)
This is what has been done to
Young Black Men in this country.
To Young Black PwD.
There aren’t words.
There aren’t words for
the horror of baby Rylan
Rochester, age 6 months,
whose mother thought he
might be Autistic after working
At a hospital serving Autistics
and so she smothered him.
There can’t be words.
There can’t be words for
The grief, anger, and fear
of living in a world where
Hate, fear, bigotry, and
complex social mythologies
Let people make excuses
for murder. Lets them empower
Blais after her sentance, or
air Latimer’s vitrol while
blocking dissenting comments.
All I can do is show you other words,
and hope they can be enough.
In memory of George:
Amanda at You Need A Cat’s Another murder. Please no.
Weird Law’s When perfection is deadly
Shannon Des Roches Rosa for BlogHer’s My Autistic Son’s Life: Not Less Valuable
Brenda at Mama Be Good’s Perpetuating the Stereotype: Autism, Parenting, & Murder
Other links of relevance:
Krip-Hop Nation’s Broken Bodies Pbp: Police Brutality & Profiling Mixtape and Where Is Hope? Documentary
In Memory of Stephon, Justice for Stephon Watts.
Please comment to add more links on these issues.
March 30th and on, Vigils for People with Disabilities Murdered by Relatives and Caregivers are happening under the direction of ASAN. These are cross disability events. The current list of vigils is at the above link, and if you absolutely can’t find a way to get to a vigil in person, I’ll be hosting the virtual vigil via tiny chat for those who are in rural areas or are housebound. (After all we are people too, even when our disabilities keep us in our homes or we live in the country.) But please, try to get to or organize a vigil in person if at all possible!