Note For Anyone Writing About Me

Guide to Writing About Me

I am an Autistic person,not a person with autism. I am also not Aspergers. The diagnosis isn't even in the DSM anymore, and yes, I agree with the consolidation of all autistic spectrum stuff under one umbrella. I have other issues with the DSM.

I don't like Autism Speaks. I'm Disabled, not differently abled, and I am an Autistic activist. Self-advocate is true, but incomplete.

Citing My Posts

MLA: Zisk, Alyssa Hillary. "Post Title." Yes, That Too. Day Month Year of post. Web. Day Month Year of retrieval.

APA: Zisk, A. H. (Year Month Day of post.) Post Title. [Web log post]. Retrieved from

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Why Do We Look to Disability?

Trigger Warning: Murder, Ableism, Racism, Islamophobia, discussion of institutionalization

First off, developmentally disabled people and people with mental illnesses are not more likely to kill people than the folk who are neither. People who are neither make up significantly less than 95% of the population (I think it's something like 75%) and they commit 95% of the murders here in the USA.
But the factual accuracy isn't what I'm here about right now.
Why? Why do we talk about mental illness when there are mass murders?
To answer that, I think we need to see which mass murders this happens for. If the killer was Muslim, we don't talk about mental illness. We talk about terrorism. If the killer was anything but white, in fact, we find something to talk about that isn't mental illness or autism, one of the latest things to be mentioned. In fact, autism scored speculation after both the Oregon shooting and the recent Connecticut one, though there was much more attention payed this time to the speculations.
We turn to disabilities as the explanation when there is nothing else to explain it- we don't want to accept that    a white man could do this barring any other reasons, or at least, white men don't want to accept that. They need some way to make it so that it's not a person who was like them who did this horrible thing, even when it was. So when there is no obvious -ism to simultaneously be the reason this person is different and the (claimed) reason they did it, mental illness is turned to. The person is clearly a troubled loner, or not right in the head, or mentally ill, or autistic. No matter that none of these things actually make a person more likely to be violent. No matter that many of these things increase the chances of being a victim of various forms of abuse.
It's about somehow othering the killer, not about increasing and improving mental health care. (Or sometimes it's about distracting people from the issue of gun control, but that could seriously be a whole separate post. There's that much in it.) It's been done in other ways before, and it will be done in other ways later unless we can either stop these tragedies or look at this pattern for what it is. It's a cop-out. It's a way not to look at the very real problems our society has, by deflecting it to a conversation that is ostensibly about helping fix the also real problems with mental health care but isn't. It's about deflecting, and it adds to the stigma around mental issues, opposite to what the stated goal would be. It paints people with mental illnesses and now autistic people as time bombs, as mass murders waiting to happen, which does not make it easier for us to get actually helpful services in any way, shape, or form. It might get more of us institutionalized against our wills, and Amanda Baggs can tell you all about what's wrong with institutions.
For the sakes of the people who actually are in the categories we keep on hearing are ticking time bombs, that we keep on hearing are reasons to do this sort of thing, stop. Stop choosing these categories. It's always  a category that is already vulnerable, and it always makes it worse. It's always a category where there are discussions that really do need to be had (dealing with abusive households, dealing with bullying, dealing with the broken mental healthcare system are all important things, truly) but where the ways we talk about them after a shooting do nearly the opposite of what is needed.
Have the conversations that need having on these issues. Go for it. It's needed. Just don't pretend that scapegoating these categories is the way to make these conversations happen, and don't pretend that this scapegoating is anything other than a way to avoid the fact that white men can do these things and that there are societal issues that make this sort of tragedy more common.

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