|Image of Charnice Milton, a young African American woman|
in braids pulled back neatly with a white tie, a gold loop earring,
wire-rimmed glasses and a white blouse. She is smiling. credit
Black Christian News.
Charnice was the victim of a drive-by shooting in the neighborhood she dedicated herself to getting voices heard about. She was used as a human shield in a violent exchange that had nothing to do with her. Southeast D.C. still mourns her. The police are asking the pubic's help in finding her murderer.
Her parents discussed her diagnosis, which at that time was labeled Aspergers, and how no one ever thought she'd complete school, much less end up with a masters degree in journalism. Like some African American parents, they spent the next months vacillating between the truth of admitting she was autistic and saying she "had Asperger's like symptoms" when the love for her work and for her by her peers and community overflowed such that her murder became the subject of articles in The Washington Post and The New Yorker. They rethought their initial admissions and made efforts to mute her autism from the story of her life rather than celebrate the brilliance of her short career as a disabled journalist. But their initial admissions are there in interviews for local television stations.
Meanwhile, all autism organizations remained silent on her murder. There were neither statements of loss nor demands for justice. No hashtags flooded Twitter. The first anniversary of her murder was on May 27th. I was in the hospital and could not attend her vigil. To my knowledge, no representative of any autistic organization did either.
I used to write one of these blog posts each time a Black autistic adult or child was murdered simply to force attention on these events and make the deaths of autistic people of color matter as much as white autistic children. The hypocrisy of being an autism organization and ignoring the murders of Black autistic people but claiming to speak for autistic people of color is something I've hammered on for 5 years.
I shouldn't have to .
Remember Charnice Milton. Make her matter. Her parents, with their intentions of wanting her remembered for her journalism and not her neurodivergence view her success as being in spite of her neurology. They are not grasping how the neurology that disabled her also shaped her drive and her detailed approach to becoming essentially an embedded journalist in the most dangerous community in Washington D.C. They are doing her a great disservice by their indecisive attitude towards including her neurology as part of what made her a meticulous and excellent journalist.
But her autism community is doing worse. Because they are acting as if she is not a part of us, as if she doesn't exist at all, and her life and death are of less import than a white autistic person.
When every autistic life and death has equal merit, my need to write these heartbreaking posts will end. Until then, #JusticeforCharniceMilton, Young, Black, Talented, and Autistic. You were appreciated and I hope this small effort will ensure you are not forgotten by the disability rights community.
The Death of a Young Black Journalist
The Washington Post Local:
The New Yorker: