Deeply saddened and outraged by the refusal to indict Darren Wilson for Michael Brown’s murder, the Autism Women’s Network and the Washington Metro Disabled Students Collective have issued a joint statement calling for justice for Michael Brown.
On August 9, 2014, a police officer shot and killed Michael Brown, a young Black man, in Ferguson, Missouri. He was unarmed, but Darren Wilson shot him six times. Once dead, Michael Brown’s body was left in the middle of the street for four hours. After three months of protests, community teach-ins, and actions nationwide, the St. Louis County prosecutor announced last night that the officer will not be indicted. The announcement comes without surprise to Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities that have long been victimized by police brutality. Officers responsible for the killings of unarmed people of color rarely face any real consequences for their actions.
Last year, George Zimmerman was acquitted of murder in his trial for killing Trayvon Martin, another unarmed Black man. In February, police shot and killed Yvette Smith, a Black woman, as she opened her own front door. Only days after Michael Brown’s death, Los Angeles police shot and killed Ezell Ford, a Black man with psychiatric disabilities. In September, Provo police shot and killed Darrien Hunt, a Black man who was cosplaying a fictitious character. This past week, Marissa Alexander, a Black woman, pleaded guilty to charges filed against her for firing a warning shot at her abusive husband. Last week, Brooklyn police shot and killed Akai Gurley, another unarmed Black man. This past weekend, while the grand jury’s decision in Michael Brown’s death was still pending, Cleveland police shot and killed Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old Black boy.
Right now, Eisha Love, a Black trans woman, is facing attempted murder charges for defending herself against four men who attacked her. Neli Latson, a Black autistic man, is currently in solitary confinement stemming from repeated encounters with police and an original 10.5 year prison sentence after being profiled as suspicious and arrested while waiting outside his library in 2010.
State-sanctioned violence is rampant against people of color, especially those who experience multiple forms of oppression. Hundreds of unarmed Black people, trans women of color, and disabled people of color—many from low-income communities—are murdered with brutal, vicious violence every year. White privilege cannot be clearer than the benefit of the doubt extended to white people who claim they feared for their lives when encountering Black and Brown people, while Black and Brown people defending themselves from actual violence are charged and imprisoned without considering the circumstances.
Every year, the disability community holds vigils nationwide to honor disabled people who were murdered by family members or caregivers. Of the hundreds of victims on the lists that grow each year, the ones that receive most of the attention in the disability community tend to be white. Of the untold numbers of disabled people who experience police brutality, those whose cases are brought to public attention are typically white. This clear racial disparity is a replication of white-centric attitudes in larger society. The Washington Metro Disabled Students Collective and the Autism Women’s Network believe that it is our moral responsibility to show solidarity for the low-income Black and Brown communities targeted by the vast majority of police brutality and Black and Brown activists and organizations leading the charge in the fight for racial justice.
While many members of the autistic and broader disabled communities are also racialized and low-income, it is imperative that all of us recognize the necessity of supporting our Black and Brown friends, neighbors, and colleagues. We advocate not for vengeance or retribution, but for an end to the systematic violence of structural racism. We call for our community to show support for the families and communities of people who have been murdered by racist police violence and those who continue to face denial of any genuine justice. For those of us who are not impacted directly by police violence or anti-Black racism, we raise our voices—both metaphorical and literal—in support of yours. It is not enough simply to demand justice for disabled people or to be outraged when police kill disabled people of color. Justice is for all, not “just us.” The struggle for disabled liberation will never be complete without racial justice.
Black Lives Matter.
Lydia Brown, President
Nai Damato, Board Chair
Washington Metro Disabled Students Collective
Sharon daVanport, President
Autism Women’s Network
This statement authored by WMDSC co-founder and AWN board member Lydia Brown