What I Learned From Confronting Seattle’s Racist Ableism

The Age-Old Intent v Effect Debate

On May 16th, 2017, I published an open letter to my new-ish home, Washington, in confrontation of some seriously casual racism and victim blaming.

Yesterday we went to this panel as a family, ready to listen but also ready to confront, advocate, and resist.

Here are some things I took away from the panel discussion:

  • Seattle PD has a crew of about 10 people, 5 of which are actual responders, 1 Asian and 4 White, who respond to about 10,000 behavioral crisis emergencies per year. It is difficult to even get police to join the team. Crisis training is 8 hours with an optional 40 more. No active anti-racist policies are enacted as part of behavioral crisis training. No racist behavior monitoring of within the CIT (crisis intervention team). The SPD response to my asking what measure they take specifically to reform, prevent, and discipline racist behavior was that SPD “are diverse” (as if diversity meant there wasn’t racism) and that I could go to the website to find out about what SPD are doing concerning racial accountability, though nothing specifically attached to the CIT.
  • Most of the framing of autism safety is centered around blaming autistic people for aggressive police reactions (ok, I didn’t learn that yesterday, but I sure as hell confirmed it). Even people within larger advocacy organizations, like the ARC moderator Robin, call our concerns of racial aggression “fears” rather than “realities”, “there are layers to this” rather than “there is racism in this”, and “positive and experiences and not so positive” rather than “positive experiences and harmful ones”. Again, 0 accountability for non-autistic people. The framing narrative is non-autistics try super hard, autistics need to fix this too.
  • Parent advocates need not be woke, even if they are Black or Brown. Linda, the “let the cops handle it” parent advocate, needed far less “Jesus”, more “Abnormal Developmental Psych 101”. We were told, repeatedly by the non-autistic parent advocate that police were the professionals and we, as parents, needed to step back and “let them do their job”. Bullshit. No cop with 8 hours mandatory and 40 hours optional training knows more about my kid than I do. I am not only neurodiverse myself, but I’ve had far more than 48 hours of training. About 12 years and counting, in understanding his processes. Sorry not sorry, Linda. Sorry you haven’t gotten there with your kid, but that’s just a whole lotta no for me.
Blurry image of panelists from May 18th’s Autism & Police Relations Panel. (From Left to Right: Parent Advocate, two reps from SPD’s CIT, and autistic activist)
  • Seattle cops will show up to a panel discussion in full uniform. Why? What’s the purpose of bringing your gun to a talk about autism safety and police relations? Why wear the thing that grants you authoritative power over people in what is supposed to be a safe space? I get he may have been on duty. I also get this was an autism panel discussion about police relations, so maybe a costume change for the 2 hours he was there. He didn’t see it, but my kid definitely got nervous when he saw a man with a badge and a gun near him.
  • Police and “support” systems want us to educate police, 911 dispatchers, and first responders on disabilities and what they mean during moments of crisis, and just generally. Rather than undergoing proper training, they would rather us hold their hand and walk them through awareness of our disabilities. It’s not up to them to be understanding, it’s up to us to be persistent. Also, apparently, not good at word meanings. We were asked to paint pictures with common, non-community specific words and not use ‘vague’ words like “agitated”.
  • People with disabilities who have frequent interactions with police can have created, without their authority, permanent records, as a matter of retrievable public record, which can negatively affect their chances of getting a job. We have no control over what is written in those records and we cannot have the existing record changed, only amended to include new information.
  • Way too many parents use the term, “out of control” when describing their children’s autism behaviors. In reality what they are describing is their own inability to step outside of their rigid conditioning. Way, way too many. Including the “advocate parent” on the panel. What’s with all the obsessive need to control? Do these parents have autistic children or circus lions?
  • Sean the autism advocate (who was white) was the only one on the panel who addressed racism honestly, spoke at all about police accountability, the victim blaming framing of the conversation, or spoke about unaware ableism of parent advocates who play martyrdom to excuse exercising their privilege over their children’s autonomy. I loved his words. He’s awesome. I can’t remember his last name, but he’s a new favorite.
  • There will always be that one guy who shows up to the woke party to make sure we know he supports the police; you can hear him by his privilege call, “they risk their lives for us”. He’s easy to spot. Just look for that one guy who’s utterly lonely and looks like internet trolling incarnate with a hint of “hmmm, don’t leave him alone with the kids”. Basically, the Zimmerman fan club.
  • Seattleites will largely collect these iceholes, as two brilliant hospital staffers did yesterday. Bravo medically inclined humans. You rocked. I see you.
  • Even if you’re not autistic or have anyone close to you on the spectrum, if you are a taxpayer, you get a say in how our communities are treated. Though numbers have gone down since Consent Decree, 50% of aggressive police interactions involve a person with a disability (mental or physical), you can help lower it still. Please consider becoming more involved. I promise it’ll enrich your life. At the very least, it’ll increase your awareness of ableism. That’s never a bad thing. We’ll give you a bracelet which allows you to be smug at other abled people (that’s not a thing, please don’t ask for a bracelet).
  • My fingers are far more eloquent that my mouth and my mouth is an fumbling jackass at public speaking (even with A’s in debate class for 4 years). I should really learn to write down what I want to say and just read it out loud.
  • All of this means nothing if you don’t got the fam. Special thanks to our extended family for coming, showing up dukes ready, and being all-around amazing people.