Thursday, July 25, 2013

Don't Sanitize My Disability Justice

This may come as a surprise to some people, but disability justice doesn't mean "put ramps and elevators in", nor does it mean "hire the handicapped".

OK, so it means that a little bit.  Access is nice.  So are jobs.  But there are far more pressing and disturbing issues to deal with.  Just as the LGBTQ+ rights movement isn't exclusively about marriage, and the Black civil rights movement was not, and will never be, exclusively about voting, the disability rights movement is not exclusively about physical accessibility, or employment.

It's about people like us being murdered, and our murderers not only getting away with it, but garnering sympathy for finally putting us out of our misery.

It's about meetings where they try to explain to us that it's "not about [our] limitations".  Because they're so fucking uncomfortable with the idea of disability that they'll go to any lengths to avoid it, even avoiding the word.

It's about being accused of lying, of faking it, by a grown woman who is supposed to be teaching us how to teach kids like me.

It's about some disabled people being silenced, while others, the ones who are seen as bravely trying to overcome their disabilities, have their voices amplified.

It's about the deep-seated fears of people who don't want to be like us. It's about the consequences of those fears. It's about the mindset "better dead than disabled".  It's about equating death with disability, equally horrible outcomes. It's about newly disabled people wanting to die, and that being completely understandable, because in their minds disability is a living hell.

It's about denying ableism exists, when no one would ever dream of denying the existence of racism, or sexism.

It's about being the butt of everyone's jokes, and no one sees a problem with that.  It's about being seen as a problem, or a punchline, rather than a human being.

And therein lies the fundamental problem.  We've been working backwards all this time.  If we can't even be seen as human beings who deserve the same basic rights as everyone else, how in the world are we going to convince people that we need accessible buildings, or jobs?  I am a fucking person, do you see that?  Of course they don't want to give us jobs, or healthcare, or independent living, because we're not people.  It's our own form of slavery, wrapped up in pretty little bows that say "special needs", "differently abled", "handi-capable".  It's our own 3/5 Compromise couched in political and social bullshit.  Because as long as they can Other us, they can justify not treating us with basic human dignity.

You can't sanitize disability justice.  And you can't sanitize me, either.  Because I'm not a sanitized crip.  I'm spastic, fantastic, one of Those People taking the Big Bad Crazy Pills, anxious, depressed, mobility aid walking, rolling wonder.  I call myself a cripple and proud.  And I'm not even half as hardcore as some of my friends.

Ableism is insidious, as are all forms of discrimination. It gets inside your mind.  And to present a shiny, PC version of it is grossly ironic and unjust.  Discrimination isn't supposed to be neat and tidy - it's supposed to be messy, tangled, bringing to light issues that everyone would rather not be talked about.

So this is a plea - please don't sanitize my disability justice for your own comfort. Come back to me when you feel uncomfortable.  Because that probably means you're doing it right.


Hannah said...

THIS!!!!! <3

Hannah said...

THIS!!!!!!! <3

Elizabeth J. (Ibby) Grace said...

ZOMG "handicapable" I forgot about that one *snerf* This post is win.

Elizabeth J. (Ibby) Grace said...

Handicapable *snerf* This wins.

Rob said...

Great and fantastic post.

Anonymous said...

Thank you! This is wonderful!

So. Cal. Gal said...

When I was a teenager, some woman said to me, "You're so handicapable." I was laughing so hard, I never noticed her walking away.

Margot said...

Good work Cara!

Dave Hingsburger said...

Abso Fabo!

Cara Liebowitz said...

Dave, that means so much, coming from you!!! :D