A Message from Our Executive Director: Racism is a Disability Issue

June 5, 2020

My heart is extremely heavy. I am outraged and heartbroken at the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis last week. And as a white man, I know my pain is only a tiny fraction of what the black community has experienced in our country for literally hundreds of years. Racism is not new. The killing of black people by authority figures and fellow citizens is not new. This tragedy is as old as our country. Breonna Taylor. Ahmaud Arbery. Manuel Ellis.

Near and far, countless black Americans have lost their lives to racist actions and racist systems. We cannot be silent on this topic—not now and not ever. We must stand in solidarity with the black community and denounce these horrific actions and systems.

We should also remember that racism is a disability issue. Because of the intersectionality of race and disability, many black people with developmental disabilities experience discrimination based on each identity.  Additionally, it is estimated that as many as 50% of the people killed by law enforcement each year are people with disabilities.

It is also important to remember that the disability community—and many others—stand on the shoulders of the black community in so many ways. Indeed, black Americans built a civil rights movement that laid the groundwork and legal precedence for the disabilities community’s civil rights movement. For example, the Brown v. Board of Education decision created a precedent for other landmark decisions like Mills v. Board of Education and Olmstead v. LC., which have tremendously benefited our efforts to build inclusive schools and communities.

As we move forward, we must listen carefully to the voices and perspectives of our black community members. Those of us—including myself—who experience privilege because of the color of our skin, or the opportunities we have been given, should be asking ourselves, what actions can we take to eradicate racism from our society? How can we act in solidarity with the black community?

I do not have the answers to these questions, but I commit to figuring out what this looks like for me and my family. I can and must do better. We can and must do better.

I deeply appreciate your commitment to the Developmental Disabilities Council. We are slowly bending the arc of the moral universe toward justice and I am grateful for your contributions to this movement.

Please know that my door is always open. I am listening.

Most sincerely,

Jeremy Norden-Paul

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