(CONTENT NOTE: This post discusses murder/filicide and child abuse, specifically the Austin Anderson case, and its links to systemic ableism)
Another day, another murder. Austin Anderson, aged just 19, was left in a field to die from dehydration and lack of crucial medication. By his own mother. And the media and the public are sympathising with the killer rather than the victim, because the victim was blind and autistic. (For more information I recommend this post by Grimalkin)
I saw the news on Facebook, made the mistake of reading the comments, and it felt like a punch in the stomach. How can this happen?
Why, after so many other murders of disabled people by their caregivers and the subsequent backlash by disabled adults against these ableist views, do those views – and the murders – persist?
Why are the methods of killing always so, so cruel?
Why are they sometimes called “mercy killings” in spite of this?
Why, when Anderson was crying out for help for as long as he was able, do people still jump to the horrible conclusion that, because he was disabled, he was automatically better off dead?
Why is autism in mainstream media always framed not from the point of view of an autistic person, but from the point of view of a neurotypical caregiver? (Think about it – would we let men control the feminist movement on the basis that they have daughters and other female relatives? I certainly hope not.)
Why is so little thought given to autistic people, in discussions supposedly about autism, that autistic lives are considered so disposable?
Why is the autistic person erased from the picture to such an extent that people only have sympathy for the killer, and empathising with a disabled murder victim is viewed by abled people as a lack of empathy? (Because in their eyes, the only “real” person in the situation, the only person available to be empathised with, is the abled person.)
Why is autism called a burden, an epidemic, a source of unending stress and misery, something to be eradicated, without anyone even considering that these are people they’re talking about?
Why is it that the huge stresses and strains of raising any child are (like all forms of labour traditionally ascribed to women) constantly erased and ignored, but as soon as the child is disabled, all abled people want to talk about is how all that hard work must be so stressful that literal murder is “understandable”?
Why do abled people not consider that the same ableist factors that make raising a disabled child hard make being disabled even harder? (Oh yeah, because they don’t think disabled people are people.)
Why can people simultaneously hold the views that autistic people are not allowed to engage in harmless stimming to cope with the stress of being autistic in an ableist world, and that neurotypical people are allowed to engage in literal murder to cope with somebody else dealing with being autistic in an ableist world?
Why is disability seen as a debate rather than a group of people, to the point that Facebook commenters think it’s okay to “just play devil’s advocate” when somebody died?
Why do people think being objective in this “debate” means having sympathy for that person’s killer?
Why are autistic people who object to all this so often dismissed as “high-functioning” and “not like my child”?
Why do neurotypical people want to divide us based on our ability to look and act like them?
Why do neurotypical people think autistic people aren’t “autistic enough” to have an opinion, but they can have an opinion when by definition they’re not autistic at all?
Why, when we put ourselves through debating our own humanity just to show solidarity with the victim, when we read these awful upsetting infuriating scary things about us and fight through autistic emotional overload just to show solidarity with the victim, when I had to wait until I had certain special interest material to keep myself steady enough to write this properly to show solidarity with Anderson, when our brains and an ableist society are fighting us every step of the way and we still want to show solidarity with the victim, do neurotypical people still think they can say we lack empathy?
Why do neurotypical people use perceived common traits of autism from the ableist mainstream point of view – lack of empathy, lack of theory of mind, and so on – as weapons to silence autistic people?
Why do abled people still mock the concept of ableism and attempts to reduce it? Why do abled people still think ableism is made-up?
This is ableism. Ableism kills. Ableism keeps on killing. And I’m already bracing myself for ableism killing again.