An Open Letter to Journalists, Bloggers, and People: A Violent Narrative

Autistic people and other disabled people are victims both of violence and of the myth-perpetuating articles and posts that crop up every time one of us is killed or abused.

It’s about “not enough services.”

It’s that the disabled person was “violent.”

The disabled person was “burdensome.”

The disabled person was [tw: murder of Nancy Fitzmaurice] “suffering too much to live.”

I am always disturbed by the ways in which the abuse and murders are justified. I want to read articles without being unsurprised by the fact that we have, yet again, been called burdens. I want to be able to read articles and be surprised if that happens, to have it not be the norm.

The deaths of the disabled have never been about us. Even in death, we are rejected sympathy and mourning. We (activists) should not have to spend all our energy trying to convince people that our lives are, in fact, worth as much as the non-disabled lives and defending our dead and abused. We should be able to spend our energy on just making disabled lives better, on helping each other through life, regardless of whatever we do in the traditional, societal sense of productivity.

My friend wrote that:

“London McCabe was a wanted child.

If you are a blogger or journalist telling the story, know that much.  Get that right.  Even if no one in his biological family wanted this boy, the autistic community did.  We wanted to enjoy sharing life and our affection with him. We wanted to help him grow into the best and happiest person he could be and have a wonderful life…”

The stories do not focus on this.

The stories that say [tw: ableism] “Oregon autism death raises awareness of how to help overwhelmed families” are what happen. The stories say that being overwhelmed makes it more acceptable to kill disabled people; the stories say that if we don’t get more services for these families, the children are at risk. And they are, but not because they deserve it or are “burdensome,” but because people buy into the fact that our “burdensome” existence can in fact justify the abuse, deaths and murders.

With every contribution to the narrative that lack of services make it acceptable, with every post that forces us to defend the dead we are trying to mourn, with every excuse thrown out to try and downplay what would be a horrific act if done to a non-disabled person, [tw: list of murdered disabled people] the disability community is put more and more at risk.

We are asking for your acceptance. We have your awareness of how “burdensome” we must be. Change the narrative into one not of awareness, but of acceptance of us as people.

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