Last Saturday, I stood in a park across from the Capitol Building, surrounded by my community, as we read a list of names. I could have sworn time stopped; we read down one poster, and then another, and every time I thought we were done, there were more names. I remember thinking, last year we only needed one poster.
The list of names was a list of disabled people who were murdered by their parents and caregivers. The youngest person was six months old. We’ve been making this list for three years; every year, more disabled people are murdered by the people they trusted the most, and every year, we find new names from previous years. Even this year, when the list of victims can no longer fit on one poster, we know we missed people.
How does a community heal from something like this?
As I stood in the park, I took strength in the fact that I was not alone. I was gathered with my community; across the country, 24 other vigils were happening. Disabled people, our loved ones, and our friends and allies stood together, mourned together, and called for justice together. This wasn’t my pain alone–this was our pain. We felt it together, all across the globe, and we could do something about it, together. And that’s the thing. We can do something about it.
It starts simply. It starts with remembering our dead. It starts with mourning, and it starts with saying, this is not okay. You cannot do this to us. It continues with demanding that our murders be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, that our victims not be blamed for our own murders, and that our lives as disabled people be fully and equally valued. It requires having blunt conversations about the way our society devalues and disposes of disabled people, and it requires all of us to stand together and demand an end.
It’s a huge undertaking. It’s overwhelming, and it’s terrifying. And it’s absolutely doable.
To everyone who came out to the vigils this year: thank you. To everyone who took time out of their lives to organize a vigil: thank you. To everyone who joins us, every time our community loses another life, in saying enough: thank you. There were more vigils this year than there have ever been before, and they were stronger and better organized. So are we.
We can stop this.
Julia Bascom Director of Programs Autistic Self Advocacy Network