Avalanche: #SaveArnaldo


PNNscholar1 - Posted on 28 October 2019

Author: 
Kerima Cevik
Arnaldo Rios Soto, Autistic, Nonspeaking, and Brown, is about to be evicted from his current group home.  
 
His crisis brought back a personal memory. So here is that brief, true, Kerima memory.
 
When I was in my teens, I worked summers as part of the Youth Conversation Corps. One of our projects was assisting efforts to reclaim the Palso strip mine. A group of us were standing with our supervising forest ranger on the top of a mountain of slag looking at miles of blasted fields and ponds filled with acid runoff when suddenly the rubble beneath us shifted and three of us tumbled downward with the landslide. The other two managed to stop and scurry back up. But each time I moved, the mountain seemed to respond by raining more debris around and over me. It was an avalanche. I was sure I was going to die that day. 
 
If we were to create a timeline of each pivotal event in Arnaldo Rios Soto’s life, I believe those traumatic moments would morph into a rubble mountain of suffering and trauma. Arnaldo has now seen the ground shift beneath him one too many times. An avalanche is happening, and Arnaldo, like me the day I hung suspended on a slag mountain, is scraped, bruised, too young to die. The detritus of a failed disability care system falling like rubble all around him, he is now being evicted from another group home on the excuse that money was cut from his care budget. 
 
Arnaldo’s life is measured by how much profit he makes for those who offer services to house and care for him. His family’s lives have been punctuated by seeking the land of autism care Oz, that place where Arnaldo won’t be beaten, chemically lobotomized, where someone, anyone, can truly see him as a human being and not a collection of behavioral reports, untreated complex PTSD and medications. They are tired, burnt out with disappointment in that shattered dream of an American mainland utopian disability care system they sacrificed and journeyed from Puerto Rico for in vain. 
 
What will happen to Arnaldo now?
 
What happens to Arnaldo now is up to all of us. We are his family now. He is in our care. So we need to understand how and why Arnaldo matters. Arnaldo’s situation is greater than his news headlines. His situation right now is bigger than my personal emotional reaction, informed by the fact that he once looked so much like our son that both my husband and I cried out in shock when we saw that video of him sitting in the middle of the street, holding his toy truck, police shouting and Charles Kinsey shot and bleeding beside him.
 
 It is greater now than Arnaldo not understanding that he was about to tumble down that cruel mountain of police interrogation for the crime of sitting in the street holding a toy truck while disabled and Brown. Arnaldo is now the symbol of what it means to be a nonspeaking autistic male of color at the mercy of a system that views the Black and Brown disabled body as a threat. This system, founded on eugenic attitudes, views those with complex support needs as burdens or cash cows. When the profit margin is not enough the cash cow is sent to the slaughterhouse. For someone like Arnaldo, who was harmed by agents of the state, leaving him without shelter and the complex support he needs is tantamount to destroying his psyche entirely. And returning him to a hellhole institutional setting like Carlton Arms is unthinkable and unacceptable. 
 
What that means is that what happens to Arnaldo now has the potential to impact how future cases like his are handled across our country. If we can act together and change his destiny it will demonstrate that our community has the power to transform the destinies of others brought low by this system. It means that the lifetime efforts of hundreds of disability justice activists have managed to change something. We need this hope because we multiply marginalized people have become the targets of hate groups instigated by those who feel that the current administration has given them a free license to hunt those who are oppressed and vulnerable. So what I am doing right now, typing, wheezing with asthma, pushing past joints that ache to write this is reaching out to say this is the time when all of us, ALL OF US, can help Arnaldo. #SaveArnaldo can trend on every social media platform enough to make those who made the decision to cut funding for Arnaldo’s care rethink their decision. Organizations can support Autistic Self Advocacy Network’s leadership and issue statements in support of the Sotos family. Legislative advocates can reach out to their lawmakers. This takes a few moments, a click, a retweet. But multiplied exponentially, collective cross disability community action could be an avalanche that forces a positive resolution to Arnaldo’s crisis. 
 
As I was sliding down a mountain of slag towards my death, two other people volunteered to lay flat, one grabbing the ankles of the other, and acted as a human rope. Five others held on to the arms of the person laying flat on the top of that mountain for dear life. Then they all heaved up and backwards. 
 
Together, they saved my life.
 
I am asking you all to make a human and virtual chain. Get him off that sliding bureaucratic slag mountain and back into a place where his family can see him every day and he can be safe and cared for. #SaveArnaldo. 
 
Peace.
 
Poor Magazine Lays out My position on catastrophic encounters with Law Enforcement:
 
Read and hear more about Arnaldo:
 
Aftereffect: Against the Erasure of Arnaldo Rios Soto
 
Aftereffect: A SWAT team, an autistic man, an American tragedy.
 
Podcast: Aftereffect — an indictment of America’s disability care
 
On catastrophic encounters between disabled youth and men of color with law enforcement specific to Arnaldo’s case:

PNN RADIO

Sign-up for POOR email!