Monday, July 23, 2012

Blanket condemnation of people with autism

List of people with disabilities who were killed by parents or caregivers
Photo from Twitter user @AspieSide during March 30 #vigilforgeorge
List of people with disabilities who were killed by parents or caregivers
 In a Monday morning broadcast, Joe Scarborough of MSNBC grossly stereotyped people (like me) who are on the autism spectrum.

“As soon as I hear about this shooting, I knew who it was,” he said, referring to Friday morning’s tragic shooting in an Aurora, Colo. theater. “I knew it was a young, white male, probably from an affluent neighborhood, disconnected from society -- it happens time and time again. Most of it has to do with mental health; you have these people that are somewhere, I believe, on the autism scale ... I don’t know if that’s the case here, but it happens more often than not. People that can walk around in society, they can function on college campuses -- they can even excel on college campuses -- but are socially disconnected.”

Scarborough’s statement has been reproduced in a petition at that demands a retraction from Scarborough and from MSNBC.

“These statements are ignorant and potentially damaging to people who already struggle against stigma and prejudice,” the petition author, Rachel Cohen-Rottenberg, states. “There is absolutely no link between autism and criminal behavior; in fact, people on the autism spectrum are far more likely to be the victims of violence than the perpetrators. Study after study has proven these facts.”

To these studies, I could add my direct experience following news reports and social media activity surrounding a March 30 vigil in memory of George Hodgins. Hodgins, 22, was shot and killed by his mother, Elizabeth Hodgins, who then killed herself.

The nationwide vigil also honored the memory of 12-year-old Tracy Latimer, who was killed by her father Robert Latimer.

One of the most poignant images from that gathering is a poster displaying a distressingly long list of names of people with disabilities who were killed by their parents or caregivers.

The petition continues:
“While people on the autism spectrum struggle with social cues and a variety of neurological issues, autism is not a form of sociopathy. People on the spectrum are fully capable of the full range of feelings, including distress at the pain of other human beings.”
I added my signature and included a statement that Scarborough’s “diagnosis” of suspected shooter James Holmes is an unwarranted, blanket condemnation of people on the autism spectrum.

This is hate speech, pure and simple, and the worst part of Scarborough’s bigotry about autism is that it deflects attention from the fact that people were senselessly killed on Friday.

Published July 24, 2012 in the Lake County Record-Bee

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