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25 July 2016

Ableism is not "bad words." It's violence.

Content/TW: Somewhat graphic discussion of violent attack on disabled people; discussion of S.V. (rape).

Ableism is not "bad words." It's violence.

Photo: A police officer outside the facility, speaking to onlookers, in this photo taken by Kyodo on 26 July 2016. 

Earlier today, a former employee of a residential institution in Sagamihara, Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan, for disabled people (from children through elders), many people with significant disabilities and multiply-disabled folks, attacked residents with a knife, murdering 19 people and wounding 25 people.

The Sagamihara attacker was targeting the disabled residents of the institution.

He told police, "I want to get rid of the disabled from this world."

Don't you ever fucking dare try to say, "but who could hate the disabled?" to me again.

Don't. Dare.

We are not some innocent angels untouched by the realities of the world around us.

We are not unaware or oblivious to the existence of others, let alone of hate.

We know hate and we know violence, because it is written on our bodies and our souls.

We bear it, heavy, wherever we go. Ableism is the violence in the clinic, in the waiting room, in the social welfare lines, in the classroom, in the recess yard, in the bedroom, in the prisons, in the streets. Ableism is the violence (and threat of violence) we live with each day.

Ableism is the constant apologetics for family members and caregivers who murder their disabled relatives -- they must have had it so hard, it must have been such a burden, you musn't judge unless you've walked in their shoes. (In the last few decades, more than 400 disabled people were murdered by relatives or caregivers, and those are only the stories we know about.)

Ableism is the fact that a police officer who shot an unarmed Black man with his hands up decided it made more sense to claim he was actually aiming for the Brown autistic man holding a toy truck beside the Black man.

Ableism is the fact that the left wants to talk about jails and prisons as the largest mental health care providers in the country, decry the crisis of incarceration of psych disabled people, and then suggest unironically that we build new facilities, new asylums, new institutions, new inpatient beds so that at least we can get "treatment."

Ableism is the fact that queer, trans, and asexual people fight so hard against medical neglect and abuse that in the rush to end pathologization of queerness, transness, and asexuality, we insist on distinguishing ourselves from anyone who is really mentally ill, saying that there's nothing wrong with us because we aren't those people, so at least we don't need medical and psychiatric surveillance, gatekeeping, and control (only they do). 

Ableism is the fact that when violence does happen to disabled people, it's framed as inherently more tragic and pitiable because we are supposed to be these innocent fucking angels, like babies (no matter how old we are), and it's particularly low to attack us (but apparently not to attack non-disabled transgender people or non-disabled Black people or non-disabled Muslims or non-disabled women -- all of that is totally okay and justifiable and besides, it must have been the victim's fault in some way).

Ableism is the fact that of developmentally disabled people categorized as women, anywhere from 83% to 90% will be sexually assaulted at least once in our lifetimes and on average at least ten times by the age of 18; the estimate for those categorized as men is almost 40%; all of these are likely severely underreported. Ableism is also the fact that when we do receive sex education, it often assumes that masturbation is the only "safe" option, and that anyone having sexual contact with a disabled person is automatically a fetishist or a predator or both. Rather than being about consent and autonomy, it's about "protecting us" or "keeping us safe" but where's the talk of victim blaming?

Ableism is the fact that anywhere from around 40% to 70% of U.S. prisoners are also disabled, and that the forces of white supremacy, racism, and capitalism that keep poor Black and Brown people in prisons are necessarily intertwined with ableist presuppositions about intelligence and emotional capacity. (And that all incarcerated people -- disabled or not -- as well as many free disabled people can be paid, completely legally, only a few cents per hour for menial labor, and that this is called opportunity and teaching work ethic.)

Ableism is the fact that it is totally legal to torture disabled people in the name of treatment and help and "for your own good" -- everywhere from the daily ABA torture sessions focused on normalization at the expense of our own mental health to the extremes of the Judge Rotenberg Center where we are shocked even for flapping or moving out of our seats.

Ableism is the fact that too many of my friends and online acquaintances are literally facing death, starvation, family separation, severe physical danger, denial of life-saving medical care, and other catastrophes right now, as I type these words, because they are disabled in a capitalist, racist world that does not want us to survive in it.

Ableism is the fact that on average, autistic people die 30 years younger than non-autistic people, with suicide as the second leading cause of death. As one friend put it, that's an act of murder by society, because it is so bad that too many of us decide that it is no longer worth trying to live in a world literally designed to destroy us from the moment we are first born.

They hate us, and we already know it. They aim for us. They mean to kill. They mean to harm. They know what they are doing, and we know it too. There can be no innocence, not for us. Ableism is not some arbitrary list of "bad words," as much as language is a tool of oppression. Ableism is violence, and it kills.