What it means to blame one community for mass shootings

Each and every time there is a shooting — regardless of whether it took place in a school, a music concert, or a church — there’s an attempt to cast blame upon the disability community. People label the shooter/assailant with terms like ‘psycho,” “mentally ill,” “sick,” ‘deranged,”etc., etc.

These terms are often used to make sense of the latest act of violence, because to think that those responsible for such acts share any similarities with us is unfathomable and terrifying.

This is not about policing which words can or cannot be used, nor is it about being “politically correct.” What we as a country forget is that to blame a particular community for the actions of few has very real consequences: Society (particularly non-disabled people) does not understand what it is to hear nightly news, magazines, blogs, and so on, blame your neurotype/disorder/illness for the most recent act of evil. As is, the disability community already encounter profound amounts of oppression, ableism and ignorance from the world we live in.

Published author and activist Lydia X.Z. Brown expands on this in their blog Autistic Hoya, “Autism is not violence. Mental health disabilities are not violence. (And) Adults with “severe mental illness, are 11 times more likely than non-disabled adults to be victimized by crime.” (Linda A. Teplin, Gary M. McClelland, Karen M. Abram, and Dana A. Weiner, 2005.)

It is easy to understand the confusion, anger and sadness that ripple through our nation every time these mass shootings happen, but let’s not make things worse by using divisive rhetoric or casting blame upon our disabled brothers, sisters and siblings.

We cannot begin to heal until we are ready to acknowledge our strengths, faults and take inventory of what does and what does not work. And that will only begin to truly occur when we are ready to embrace those who are different than us — in particular those in the disability community — as full, valued, and equal members of our society.

Devin Beach



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