Editor’s note: People with disabilities were already living in challenging times with the COVID-19 pandemic, due to our underlying health conditions.
And then the world changed again. The recent unrest and wave of peaceful demonstrations in the wake of the killing of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis Police has led to worldwide reflection and scrutiny of law enforcement and criminal justice practices.
It also brings a renewed and much-needed focus on people with disabilities and our ties with the civil and human rights community. Because one in five of us will develop a disability within our lifetimes, there’s great intersectionality between communities of color and the disability community.
Racism and discrimination hurt all of us. Many of our organizations have spoken out in the wake of Floyd’s death. Here are some thoughts, with links to longer commentary.
The Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD) is a diverse, interdisciplinary leadership, research, training, and service network focused on people with disabilities with a foundational commitment to inclusion, diversity, and cultural competence. Our work, our experience and our shared humanity unequivocally opposes the ongoing, fatal police killings and other violence against Black individuals across our country. What happened to George Floyd May 25 was not a beginning, it was a continuation. But it was a catalyst for change.
“These attacks must end. As a person of color, I know too well how these incidents can and do happen,” said AUCD Board President Sachin Pavithran.
The disability community’s connections to and intersection with all parts of the civil and human rights community are essential to who we are and lead us to stand together and speak out against injustice and inequality in all its forms …AUCD stands committed to assist, and will continue our internal and network-wide efforts to embed principles of equity in everything we do.
George Floyd mattered. His death reminds us, once again, about the harsh and unjust reality of living as a Black person in the United States, and the extensive work to be done to end systemic racism and discrimination throughout our state and country. We stand with the Black community and are ready to join in the fight to rebuild our community to be just, fair and accessible for all.
In the United States approximately half of all lethal police encounters involve a person with a disability. The disability community understands the significance of showing up to fight for basic human rights, and we acknowledge that disability rights have historically been centered in the White experience, although disability does not discriminate between races. We acknowledge the systemic problems for persons of color navigating disability services, including higher disparities in access to diagnosis, appropriate education and daily living supports that are culturally and socially appropriate. It is important that the disability community acknowledge this intersectionality.
The Minnesota Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities is committed to working toward justice for all and to using an intersectional lens to fight for the rights of people with disabilities, especially people of color with disabilities … Please raise your voice, hold people in power accountable for their actions, and continue to support one another and all who experience injustice. Black lives matter.
The death of George Floyd is, quite simply, a tragedy. It is a tragedy that is affecting our community and cannot be ignored. My heart goes out to everyone affected by this injustice, and in particular those who live in this reality every day … There are so many threads to this, including unjust death, and the destruction we witnessed across our cities. These horrific events are the result of othering, and its ensuing fear, that our organization is dedicated to dismantling. We cannot let the cycle end in complacency as it usually does. Enough is enough.
The Arc Minnesota is dedicated to promoting and protecting human rights, because we want to see the wellbeing of all people, from the individual, to the familial, to the community, and societal level. As we are dedicated to protecting the human rights of one population, we must be dedicated to extending that to all populations of people who have experienced oppression. We all have a responsibility to ask ourselves how we can contribute to encouraging a world where all people are seen, understood, are able to have equitable access to education, jobs, homes, well-being and love …
As we are adamantly promoting the capacity, wisdom, resiliency, strength and power of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, we must do the same for our brothers and sisters of color. If we focus on what we want to see in our future – instead of what we don’t want to see – we will draw the necessary energy towards equity, abundance, justice, peace, and love. We choose to set our intention on bringing that vision forth. I encourage you to each think of how you can make changes in your corner of the world, and how we can make changes as a strong, vibrant community of fierce advocates of human rights. Lean on each other, talk to your neighbors, your friends, your family. If we are in this together, we can make great progress. It’s our vision and it’s our responsibility.
To our community of autistic adults, teens, children and families:
Whether or not you have experienced first-hand the intersection of race and disability, you are powerful allies and agents of change. As a community, you, too, have experienced the frustrations of systems that were not created for your success. You know fundamentally that behavior can communicate what words cannot. You know how important it is to make space for the oppressed to contribute and to lead – nothing about us, without us. You know that awareness is only the beginning, and that acceptance, equity, and true appreciation are the most righteous goals we can pursue together. You are important and are an integral part of our evolution into a Minnesota that feels pride for and values all people.
And a final note: A great resource to pass along is from the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network, American Association of People With Disabilities and Green Mountain Self- Advocates. It is a booklet and resource guide for talking about racism, disability and discrimination, called What is Police Violence? A plain-language booklet about anti-Black racism, police violence and what you can do to stop it.