Friday, August 15, 2014

Counting Bodies: Anything Else Is Impermissible

Editor's Note: No, you do not get a chapter of Imaginary Friends today. Read this instead. Then go read everything I link to in this. Then go think. (Updating to add articles as I find them.)

It's been almost a year since I stopped all of my other writing projects and blogged about murder. That last time, I was lucky enough to be able to say that it was merely an attempted murder. The time before that, I was not so lucky.

In the time between the Alex Spourdalakis post and this one, we lost more people. A list (incomplete as it is) of the disabled dead this year would have to include at least Randle Barrow, Jarrod Tutko, Ayanha Comb, Robert Robertson, Olivia Clarance (along with her brothers Ben and Max), Lucas Ruiz Wigstrom, Ethan Saylor, and Yanira Serrano-Garcia.

The list is admittedly incomplete. And it only covers the last year and a quarter (this list goes further, but it is still incomplete). And most of them died at the hands of parents or caregivers. Yanira and Ethan, though, died at the hands of police officers acting well beyond beyond any reasonable interpretation of the phrase "keeping the peace." They died because of policies that viewed them as immediate threats and attitudes that allow people to see the disabled as less than fully human.

The Disabled dead come from all races, all walks of life. Their deaths are often under-reported, and the stories that do appear to alert the public are loaded with assumptions about the murderers' justifications for what they did. The comments on those articles are also on fire with people rushing to make excuses and provide rationalizations for the murders.

During that time period, we also heard about Kimani Gray, Trayvon Martin, Jordan Davis, Eric Garner, and (now) Michael Brown. Not all of them were murdered during the time that this post covers, but all of them were in the news, as the earlier murders were tried and activists repeated the names of the dead who came before. These boys and men were not disabled. They were African American. And they were not killed by caregivers. They were killed by police officers and enraged, entitled citizens who had been empowered to carry and use guns in public. Citizens and police officers who viewed them as less than fully human.

Maybe those cops and vigilantes didn't consciously tell themselves that African American lives were lesser. Maybe they didn't have to--the message is visible at all levels of our society, from the way we treat Black lives in the arts and on television to the language we use to describe incidents of violence at the hands of police officers.

Longer lists of the African American dead can be found at The Root and Hip Hop And Politics. Like my list, they are incomplete.

Like the lists of the disabled dead, they are incomplete because of under-reporting. The articles that do talk about them, when you search Google, are loaded with language that carries assumptions about the murderers' justifications for what they did. The comments on them are also on fire with people rushing to make excuses and provide rationalizations for the murders.

The two types of dead are not the same, but they are similar. They also overlap, and seeking to advocate for one group necessarily involves advocating for the other. Not only because some of the Disabled dead are African American, but also because the shape and language used to excuse the deaths of one group are often recycled, appropriated, or otherwise applied to the other group.

Their histories of oppression are different. Their exact ways of experiencing dehumanization are different. Even the ways they died are different. (Well, except for Eric Garner and Ethan Saylor--that shit was exactly the same, there were just different underlying causes for asphyxiation.)

We must acknowledge that while those differences exist and we should know them, the effect is the same.

People are being murdered for reasons that are largely about the convenience of their murderers.

Don't take your eye off that. Don't let yourself calm down. Don't let it go away.

There's a reason we only take a moment for silence.

During this time, when the police and the politicians want to sell a narrative that allows them to "move on" and "achieve closure", it is vital that the Disability community stand with the protesters, the family of Mike Brown, and the larger online community that is working to increase the visibility of casual murder in our society.

It is not time to compare whose wounds are deeper. It is time to recognize the wounds for what they are--uniforms telling us that we are on the same side in this fight.

I have been quietly spreading the word about the events in Ferguson in the best way I know how. Not by speaking out (other than this post), but by amplifying the voices of those most directly involved with and affected by these events. In that spirit, I am compiling a bibliography of the articles I found to be most helpful at the end of this post. Please continue posting links in the comments.

And names. Post the names I don't know and I will know them.

Until the systemic and endemic racism in this country is addressed, the Disabled community can not adequately advocate against the murders within our own community. The policies used against African Americans will necessarily be turned against other marginalized groups, and African American Disabled persons will not be protected by our activism while racist institutions persist.

We would be moral monsters if we allowed our Disability activism to ignore this.

Anti-racism is a Disability value. It has to be.

Anything else is impermissible.

Name of Ferguson Police Officer Who Shot Mike Brown Revealed at BoingBoing
White St. Louis Has Some Awful Things To Say About Ferguson at The New Republic
Ten Things White People Can Do About Ferguson Besides Tweet at DAME
Howard University Grad Mya Aaten-White Shot In Ferguson, Missouri at 4NBC Washington
What Happens To #Ferguson Affects Ferguson at
Antonio French Freed After Arrest In Ferguson, Mo. at USA Today
Ferguson Is An Occupation In Plain Sight And Words Aren't Enough To Change That at The Guardian
If Twitter Implements A Facebook-Style Algorithm, You May Not Hear About The Next Ferguson at Pando Daily
Things To Stop Being Distracted By When A Black Person Gets Murdered By Police at Black Girl Dangerous
Furious About Ferguson? Here's How You Can Help at
Ferguson Police Use Tear Gas On Al Jazeera America Team at The Huffington Post
Ferguson And The Cult Of Compliance at Al Jazeera America
The Death Of AL Bing at Disability Right Now
The Talk at TAG

Non-Article Resources (and article resources not from Ferguson) and Images from my Twitter feed (@MMonjeJr).

There's more. These are just what I saw from noon yesterday onward.