George Hodgins

Being Atop the "Disability Food Chain" in a Culture of Violence


Remember George Hodgins

Kari Pope's reflection on the death of George Hodgins is powerful and echoes many of my own feelings about the culture of violence that exists toward disabled people and the difficulties that having a less obvious disability creates in relating to others:

Remembered compliments, smiles, even nods took on new meaning as I started to wonder, “What code governs my own interactions with disabled and non-disabled folks alike?” Experience and history have taught me that few things are as threatening to a person’s sense of self as disability. I asked myself, “How often have I stayed seated when I could have stood, paid the full fare on the train or bus, or worn trousers or long skirts instead of shorts or mini’s, all in the name of preserving one’s perceptions–and, I admit, my own feelings–of so-called ‘normalcy’? By the same token, how often have I ‘gimped it up,’ in order to assure my fellow cripples that, yes, I am one of you?”

The answer is, all the time. And every time, I have felt like I was a threat to, and like I was threatened by, each group.

I strongly suggest reading the whole thing.

 

Vigils Tonight for Disabled People Murdered by Caregivers and Family Members


March 30: Remember disabled people murdered
by caregivers and family members.

 

To see a list of the cities in which vigils will be held tonight, please visit the Autistic Self Advocacy Network's new website.

To read an article about the vigils tonight, please visit Disability Scoop:

“I’ve seen articles explicitly ask the reader to ‘put themselves in the shoes’ of the non-disabled murderer, but I’ve never seen an article ask readers to imagine what it’s like to be a disabled person murdered by someone you love and trust, like your parent,” said Zoe Gross, a member of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, who is behind the effort, which is also being backed by the National Council of Independent Living and the Autism Society, among other groups.

Gross, who lives in Oakland, Calif., was spurred to action when she heard about the case of George Hodgins, a 22-year-old with autism who was murdered March 6 by his mother at their Sunnyvale, Calif. home. Hodgins’ mother — who subsequently killed herself — was reportedly overwhelmed by her caregiving responsibilities.

To read what Zoe said at George's vigil, and see a news story about it, please visit her site Illusion of Competence:

Because he was autistic, George is being erased from the story of his own murder.

The story of George Hodgins’ death is being discussed and presented as the story of a mother who snapped, and the story of other parents who have felt the same way. It’s being told as a story about a lack of services for families with special-needs children, as though a lack of services is a justification for murder.

When disabled people are murdered by their families, this is the story people want to hear. It’s the same story that we saw in newspapers after Katie McCarron was murdered, and after Jeremy Fraser was murdered, and after Glen Freaney was murdered, and after Zain and Faryaal Akhter were murdered. The story goes like this: it is understandable that someone would kill their disabled relative if they don’t get help to care for them.

To read what ASAN president Ari Ne'eman wrote about these vigils and the death of Trayvon Martin, please go here:

I believe there is a common thread between Trayvon Martin’s and George Hodgins’ deaths. Representations of race in the media and entertainment industries tell Americans that a black teenager walking through an upscale community should be looked at as a potential criminal. The same media and entertainment industries tell family members and caregivers that life with a disability is not worth living, that taking our lives should be viewed as acts of mercy rather than acts of murder. People learn to fear young black men from the same place that teaches them that a disabled child is a burden on society destined to ruin the lives of his or her parents.

To read my most recent post in which I discuss the death of George Hodgins, and its aftermath, which include links to my previous pieces, please go here.

 

Apology from the Autism Society of America


The Autism Society of America offers an "if you were offended" apology for their letter to the San Jose Mercury News exploiting the death of George Hodgins without mentioning his name:

Since the article was published, some individuals have questioned the Autism Society’s motives for not mentioning the victim of the story, George Hodgins, 22. We apologize if our letter offended anyone.

It was wrong of us to not mention Mr. Hodgins by name, but this in no way was intended to lessen the value of his life or justify the killing of an innocent individual.

I am not satisfied with this (please read the whole thing and decide for yourself.)  I was very pleased, however, with a conversation I had yesterday with Scott Badesch, the president of the organization and one of the people who signed the original letter. The decision to make an apology was made before I talked to Mr. Badesch, by the way.

I would not call myself a supporter of the ASA at this time, but I'm not angry at them anymore, either.

 

Day of Mourning for Autistic People Murdered by Caregivers, March 30


A message from Zoe Gross and the Autistic Self Advocacy Network:

Dear friends,

On March 6th, 2011 George Hodgins, a 22-year old autistic man living in Sunnyvale, California, was murdered by his mother. In the aftermath of his killing, I and other members of the local disability community were concerned by the fact that the media covering his death focused mainly on expressing sympathy for his killer. Because he was disabled, George had been written out of the story of his own murder.

This past Friday, I helped organize a vigil for George and other disabled people killed by their family members. One of the names we read was Tracy Latimer's a disabled teenager killed by her father in 1993. Little did we know that as we spoke Tracy's name, her father was speaking on a television panel for the Canadian Global News, arguing for legalizing the killing of disabled people - in the name of "mercy." Our vigil received sympathetic coverage in the press, but so did Robert Latimer's call for legalizing the murder of disabled children.

It's obvious that many in our society still regard the murder of disabled people as unimportant, or even desirable. But I've also learned that disabled activists can also have an effective on public perception, if we can find a way to get our voices heard.

On behalf of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, I am asking you join us in taking action. On March 30th, help us organize a nation-wide day of mourning for disabled people killed by family members and caregivers. Our goal is to hold vigils in cities across America to memorialize murder victims. Through your help, we hope to amplify our message: that disabled people deserve to live fulfilling lives free of violence.

We're calling for volunteers to organize vigils in their local communities on or around March 30th. You may never have organized this kind of event before, but please know that you'll have support - our first vigil was a success, and we can help you as you work to organize yours. If you want to help us take a stand against the violence facing our community, please write to me at zgross@autisticadvocacy.org.

Send a message to society that the disability community has no place for the kind of "mercy" offered by Robert Latimer and others who view us as having lives not worth living. The time has come for us to fight back. On March 30th, help us make it happen.

In solidarity,

Zoe Gross
Autistic Self Advocacy Network

Also related:

In Memory of George Hodgins: A Plea for Autistic Personhood

Where We Must Go After the Hodgins Tragedy

Autism Education: 25 is Not Enough

What Not to Write When Autistic People Are Murdered By Our Parents

Loving and Devoted Parents Do Not Shoot and Kill Their Sons

Why I No Longer Support the Autism Society of America

 

Remembering George Hodgins But Forgetting His Name


Remember George Hodgins

 

Video version of this blog post:

Click here to watch on YouTube
 

Update: I have changed the title of this post because the Autism Society of America has apologized, and this serves as my best summary of what happened after the death of George Hodgins.  I want to be able to link to this without feeling like I'm attacking the ASA.

 

Last night, I went to a vigil for George Hodgins.  Zoe Gross did a wonderful job of organizing it.  Please go to her blog Illusion of Competence, where you can both see a news video about the vigil (Max and I appear in it extremely briefly) and read her remarks.

An excerpt from what she said:

Because he was autistic, George is being erased from the story of his own murder.

The story of George Hodgins’ death is being discussed and presented as the story of a mother who snapped, and the story of other parents who have felt the same way. It’s being told as a story about a lack of services for families with special-needs children, as though a lack of services is a justification for murder.

When disabled people are murdered by their families, this is the story people want to hear. It’s the same story that we saw in newspapers after Katie McCarron was murdered, and after Jeremy Fraser was murdered, and after Glen Freaney was murdered, and after Zain and Faryaal Akhter were murdered. The story goes like this: it is understandable that someone would kill their disabled relative if they don’t get help to care for them.

The vigil was a very moving experience. 

It was very disturbing when Max drew my attention this morning to a letter in the San Jose Mercury News that did exactly what Zoe described-- it erased George from the story of his own murder:

Cuts to adult disability support are devastating

The tragic story of Elizabeth Hodgins, who last week took her own life and that of her 22-year-old son with autism, leaves us truly devastated. While this incident is an anomaly, it shows that high stress on parents is very common in the autism community. We fear that stories such as these will continue if families still feel hopeless in their struggles.

According to the Mercury News, Hodgins was exhausted trying to find a program for her son. Like most states, California provides little or no appropriate support to individuals with developmental disabilities once they turn 22. In addition, California has cut $1 billion in developmental disabilities services during the past three years, and the Department of Developmental Services will cut another $200 million within the next year.

We cannot wait long for change. Autism diagnosis is experiencing a staggering growth rate. Today, 65 percent of all state regional center intakes relate to autism. The divorce rate among parents with a child with autism is as high as 70 percent due to the pressure.

Scott Badesch

President and COO Autism Society of America

Marcia Eichelberger

President Autism Society of California

Two presidents of the Autism Society signed a letter about George's murder that uses him for a political cause without even mentioning his name.  This is not okay.

I have in the past suggested that people investigate their local chapters of the Autism Society of America and consider donating to them.

But both the national president and the California president have shown that they have infinitely more sympathy for George's killer than they have for him.

One thing I said at George's vigil last night is that I am not just sad about him-- I am sad that Elizabeth is gone, too.  But she killed him, and then herself.  She made that choice.  He did not.  Our first sympathy must be with him.

And I see no sympathy for him in this letter, signed by two presidents.

 

So I can no longer recommend that you support the Autism Society of America.

I do suggest you contact them and let them know that this is unacceptable.

Also related:

In Memory of George Hodgins: A Plea for Autistic Personhood

Where We Must Go After the Hodgins Tragedy

Autism Education: 25 is Not Enough

What Not to Write When Autistic People Are Murdered By Our Parents

Loving and Devoted Parents Do Not Shoot and Kill Their Sons

 

 
 
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