Issue No. 1: Ableism Speaks
In which The Crip gives very special ableist remarks the 2¢ they deserve
“If you’ve got your health, you’ve got everything.”
Sure, health is important but if you’ve always lived with a chronic condition and/or a progressively degenerative one like I have, hearing this most common of platitudes leads to a waxy bummer build-up in the psyche. It is no pleasure to ponder the possibility that you regard me as having…nothing. Nor do I want to reprise my role on Emotional Labor: Special Cripple Unit where I tell myself you don’t actually mean that. I would prefer instead that people express gratitude for what health they have (I know health is a nice thing!) without making such a sweeping generalization about what a good quality of life requires.
Did You Know?
A disability does not necessarily mean “sick.” Unless you mean, “sick of discrimination.” Then — oh yeah. #CripTips
I’m FEDup with transactional philanthropy that presumes disrespectful behavior can be overlooked if the price is right. I have now been witness to The Mistake by RespectAbility’s President, Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi; the unpleased reactions by disabled women of color; some thoughtful initial responses; a cringe-worthy apology-type product; the official statement; and now (I’m guessing), The Great Moving On from uncomfortable conversations about ableism, racism and disabled people of color within the disability rights community.
Part of me — the part that’s still polite to boundary-busting missionaries — initially wanted to say, “I’ve done this kind of racist shit myself. Sadly.” Then I remembered that much of that shit was when I was near the start of my career 25 years ago. When I would have lost my job — and Bi-Pap-providing health insurance — if I kept that shit up in our very progressive free clinic for gyn care. And how I had no safety net if I lost that job.
Everyone makes mistakes but the erring field is far from equal.
Depending on your class, Repercussions, Consequences, & Accountability are either the Three Furies that dog you even when you haven’t screwed up, or they’re the crisis PR firm you consider for damage control.
When you’re poor, unemployed, a woman, a person of color, a disabled person, or all or most of the above, making mistakes is far more likely to lead to words like “unqualified.” You are threatened with unemployment, fired, and/or are cut off from public benefits. In the worst case scenario, you haven’t made a mistake at all but are questioned, blamed, violated, beaten, shot, killed for being the person you are in public, in school, on the road, and at home.
When you’re affluent or “comfortable,” employed, a man, white, not disabled, or all or most of the above, making mistakes is more likely to lead to words like “executive coaching,” and “Let’s bring our communications person in to help.” In the worst case scenario, you “transition out” to what is often a better-paid job, aka “failing up.” If you are in a position to be a volunteer who has significant authority, the usual checks and balances on your behavior can be even weaker.
That’s when I first realized how integral money, class privilege, and power are to this recent incident. I haven’t seen any real repercussions, consequences, or accountability for Mizrahi — except for a bump to her prestige — and that’s just one infuriating aspect of how race and class insulate those with power.
5. Why is suicide being presented as a solution, rather than a problem, when the people involved have disabilities?
September is Suicide Awareness Month and September 10 is World Suicide Prevention Day. I’m writing this because media coverage over the past year alone seems to warrant an explicit reminder that:
- We don’t lack awareness of people with disabilities committing suicide; we do allow vulnerable people to feel shame over chronic pain and depression.
- Our suicides deserve prevention, not encouragement and cultural misrepresentation, as in films such as Me Before You.
What’s the context beyond the medical? What are the underlying attitudes guiding how the media’s coverage of people with disabilities who have committed suicide or who are planning to do so?
5. Because we need to support the decisions of overburdened parents/caregivers of severely disabled children right up until the time when their decisions require public funding for adequate and affordable in-home supports.
It’s feels like it’s 2007 all over again, what with “growth-attenuation therapy” for severely disabled children – many of whom are girls – being back in the news. And today, just like then, people with disabilities are trying to make this all about them. But there’s no unrecognized ableism framing this “ethical debate.” It’s not as though fearful parents who really do care about their children — who really are severely disabled — are being given an absurd and brutal choice:
The medical model of disability would keep us separated by diagnoses — different and disconnected — but the social model can bring us together — unique and united — through common concerns for our rights.