I heard my son William and my students who have Autism crying out in fear, trying to find the right words to match the pictures in their heads, to match the confusion of what was happening to their bodies, to explain what neurotypical Black men cannot explain in these situations
“I love you!”
What I heard: “Please don’t hurt me. Aren’t we friends? Friends don’t hurt friends. No hit. No hit. Us. We. Me not. Me not. Iloveyouyouloveme. Don’t hurt. No hurt”
“I’m an introvert.”
What I heard, “You have to ask to touch my body. My body is my body. Please don’t touch me. Say sorry for touching me. Soft touch. Hands to self. Quiet hands. No bad touch. No touch. No touch. Bad touch. Bad touch. Stop touch”.
How do we teach them that they can be killed for stimming?
How do we teach these ‘supernatural beings’ that they can be killed for being weird, odd, bizarre?
They can be blamed for anything because it is easy to blame those who can’t defend themselves.
They form pictures in their brains instead of words. Words are their second language. Pictures are language. Music is a language. I wonder if Elijah tried to hum to reach through to the cop-brain.
I wonder what concerto played in his brain.
They relate to animals. What animal attacked Elijah? Lions, tigers, bears oh my.
Before he closed his sweet eyes one final time, did Elijah see the cops and EMTs as undefinable beasts ripping his body apart with their teeth and claws?
Is the heavenly music Elijah now plays on his violin violent, chaotic, heart-wrenching, confused or has Jesus rested a hand upon his soul and let his music be sweet, beautiful, soul-renewing?
I fear for my son and my students. But especially for my beautiful, low verbal boy. William would scream out phrases from movies to express his fear and dismay. Phantasm? Robocop? Star Wars? Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory?
I cry, but tears are no good without action. I am scared, tired, and so angry. My stomach and soul are raw.
Donna MacDonald is a child of God, a Black mother of four—1 dead, 1 with Autism, 2 neurotypical. She is a cis woman, an American, a former Army Sergeant, and a Special Education teacher. She teaches at a school for 3- to 21-year-olds with moderate to profound disabilities. She grew up in St. Louis without knowing it was a dangerous ghetto with trees. She is working on her Doctorate in Education (EdD) in E-Learning specialization. Follow her on Twitter at @dmacdonald1954