March 1st is over here in New Zealand and I've seen disappointingly little about the significance of today for the disability community, but here's a few thoughts from me about Disability Day of Mourning and why it exists and matters.
"We see the same pattern repeating over and over again. A parent kills their disabled child. The media portrays these murders as justifiable and inevitable due to the “burden” of having a disabled person in the family. If the parent stands trial, they are given sympathy and comparatively lighter sentences, if they are sentenced at all. The victims are disregarded, blamed for their own murder at the hands of the person they should have been able to trust the most, and ultimately forgotten. And then the cycle repeats." - ASAN
- 2013: xojane - Yet Another Disabled Child Killed By Family
- 2014: ABC News OpEd by Stella Young - Disability and murder: victim blaming at its very worst
- 2015: Disability Visibility Project - Bay Area Day of Mourning: Alice Wong
- 2016: Carly Findlay - The murder of disabled children is often excused
- 2017: Rooted in Rights - Disability Day of Mourning: We Are Not Burdens
1. Change the conversation
Center the victim. Condemn the murderer. Refuse to “understand,” excuse, justify, minimize, or normalize a parent killing their child. Refuse to accept this. Refuse to allow this to become our new normal.
Call for these crimes to be prosecuted to the fullest extend of the law, similarly to other filicides. Demand that people with disabilities have equal protection under the law. Consider lobbying your state legislature to include disability in your state’s hate crimes statute, or to adopt one if your state does not have one.
3. End ableism
Challenge ableism (anti-disability bias and prejudice) everywhere you see it. Challenge the idea that it is better to be dead than disabled, that disabled people are a drain on society, that disability means suffering, and that disabled lives are not worth living. Promote inclusion, community integration, and acceptance.
If you think you are going to harm your child or adult relative, turn yourself in. Call 911 or child protective services and say “I am thinking about killing my child.”
5. Community reporting
If someone you know is talking about killing their child, turn them in. Often in the wake of a filicide people come forward to say that days or months before the murder, the perpetrator made a comment to them suggesting that they were contemplating homicide: “I’m despairing about my child’s condition - I think this is the end for him,” or “kids like mine should be put down,” or even “I am thinking about killing my child.” In addition, report any indications you might see of child abuse or child neglect. Abuse and neglect of children and adults with disabilities is very common and extremely under-reported, and many filicides are preventable escalations.Don't let this happen anymore. Don't be implicit to it. Speak out. Fight back.
Next year I am thinking of being more proactive in relation to Disability Day of Mourning and am considering seeing about holding a vigil in my local city. ASAN also have resources for doing so if you're thinking of doing the same.