[CW: Ableism, filicide (murder of children), abuse, death]
I am very saddened that this day must exist, but, being that we do, very unfortunately, live in a world where disabled people have their lives taken by their families and caretakers, I am grateful that disability advocates and advocacy groups have come up with a way to remember these people and to get across to anyone listening that this doesn’t have to happen.
Today, March 1st, is the Disability Day of Mourning.
There are vigils going on all over the United States and even the world today.
There is a virtual vigil for those who cannot attend an in-person vigil for any reason.
At these vigils, the list of known victims of disabled filicide will be read; this list is hundreds of names long, with over a hundred of them added since the 2016 vigils (see also the Disability Memorial for a year-round update); those whose deaths never make it to public attention will also be mourned.
There are essays, speeches, and other pieces written by disability advocates that will be read that touch on these lives lost, on the value of disabled life, and on the unfortunate way that this is often handled by the media–all too often, the disabled person is referred to as “a burden,” their caretakers as “merciful,” and their deaths as “understandable,” which normalizes these murders and likely contributes to more of them, very beautifully described in Zoe Gross’s Killing Words.
There will be heads bowed, tears shed, and much sadness and anger.
[A hundred more lives taken in the past year. That we know about. ]
There will be, especially on the virtual vigil but likely also at the in-person vigils, reminders to take a break and unplug when need be, to engage in self-care by doing something that lifts one’s spirits, be it coloring or making music or pacing or stimming or what-have-you.
The Autistic Self Advocacy Network and its partners have put together an anti-filicide toolkit that gives guidance on how to talk about disabled filicide, how to prevent it, and what to do if it happens in your community.
We must make it known that this is not acceptable, no matter what the nature of a person’s disability is and how that may present itself.
We must make it known that disabled lives have value and that people with all sorts of disabilities can and do live with happiness and fulfillment.
We must encourage our media to center the attention on the victim and the tragedy of their deaths and less so on who took that life and how “burdened” they were.
[I do not mean to minimalize the difficulties that these parents and caretakers face; taking care of someone with a disability, especially one that presents itself in a way that requires a lot of care, can genuinely be difficult and draining, that I understand. Heck, taking care of anyone is difficult. And I get that the resources aren’t always available soon or to the extent needed, if and when they exist at all (though sometimes they do: Support For Families seems to have a pretty nice list, and most regions of the United States have an Arc association that can point them in the direction of help).
But none of this changes the fact that these people, whatever their needs, deserve to live.]
We must make it known that it is preferable to call 911 and/or one’s local emergency services if one is seriously contemplating taking someone’s life than to take that life.
We must make it known that we will not tolerate or accept this.
May there be fewer lives lost to disabled filicide this year, and next year, and every year after that.