Some of my friends will be angry with me for this, but it MUST be said - STOP derailing this conversation about what's going on in Ferguson, Missouri!
Let me lay out for you what derailing is. Derailing is a tactic used by people in privileged groups, allies, and marginalized groups to silence or distract from the opinion or conversation of a marginalized person or group and make it all about themselves. Many folks in privileged groups do this a lot, and quite intentionally, but people in marginalized groups do it, too, often without realizing it.
Derailing occurs mostly because someone got their feelings hurt over something that someone in a marginalized group said or did, so they get defensive and say things like, "all that anger isn't helping you or your cause", or "White people get shot by cops, too", or "my Black friend said that you should be angry about all the Black on Black crime". Some of the points may be valid, but don't belong in that particular conversation.
I'm seeing this a lot with the Michael Brown murder. Folks are saying all kinds of stuff to distract us from the main thing here, which is that there is a rising epidemic of Black folks, particularly, young men, being murdered by cops for doing absolutely NOTHING! I've seen all kinds of derailing tactics, from blaming Mike for his own death by trying to smear his name with lies that he assaulted the cop, and that he was involved in a robbery (news flash folks - both stories are untrue - the guy in the video is clearly NOT Michael, and even if he was, he wouldn't have deserved to die), to people complaining about Black on Black and Black on White crime, to people saying that all cops aren't bad, to folks getting disability issues in the mix - you name it!
In ADAPT, we are taught how not to get issues mixed up, so the disability part in this derailing is particularly disturbing to me. First, let me say this: I am BLACK - when you see me, that's what you see - a Black person. It doesn't matter that I'm also Latina, Choctaw and French because I don't have the phenotypical characteristics of these folks. In other words, I don't look "mixed", so what you see is a Black person. Unless I told you, you'd never know that I am a lesbian; in fact, despite my rather ample endowments, I am often mistaken for a man, especially, since I have a deep, bass voice. If I were not in my wheelchair or on my cane, or if you didn't see me holding things up to my eyes to see, you'd never know that I'm also disabled. You would, however, know that I am Black. That is why, for me, being Black is my primary identifier. The vast majority of the discrimination I experience is based on the color of my skin. That's why all of this hits close to home for me. Now, I've spent almost 30 years fighting for the rights of people with disabilities and have put my body on the line countless times, including 119 arrests, so don't go hating on me for what I'm about to say.
We folks with disabilities need to get off of this derailment bandwagon. If you didn't know that comparing what happened to Mike Brown to what happens to disabled folks is a form of derailment, now you know - it is! That is a very valid, but separate conversation - let's not mix the issues!
Here is a blatant form of derailment: Someone posted an old video of a cop dumping a guy out of his wheelchair, asking why didn't that incident receive the level of outrage as what happened in Ferguson, MO. Folks, I'm almost totally blind, but trust me, I saw RED - and posted this scathing comment: "This ish is horrible, and the cop should be fired and JAILED! BUT it's NOT on the same level as what happened in Ferguson - PLEASE stop trying to compare the two - they are VASTLY different situations! Look, I'm disabled, but I'm BLACK - the issues are DIFFERENT and I'm tired of the conversation being derailed like that - it's totally offensive! What that jerk-ass cop did to Brian was HORRIBLE and he needs to LOSE HIS JOB and be JAILED, but lets not confuse the two issues - the abuse and marginalization of people with disabilities needs to STOP RIGHT NOW, but comparing it with the systemic racism inherent in our police system, indeed, in the very fabric of life as a Black person is just NOT cool! I'm far more likely to get killed for Living While Black than for being disabled!"
A more subtle and well-meaning form of derailment was when a disability group posted a letter of solidarity with the people of Ferguson and used incidents of folks with disabilities being killed by cops in their letter. Again, this is a VERY valid conversation that needs to be had, but not in the context of Ferguson. That would be like the disability community speaking about how wrong it is that disability is often seen as a fate worse than death, and some Black person or some group like the NAACP chimes in about how Black folks get discriminated against all the time. Valid point, but different conversation, folks - it is NOT the same as folks with disabilities fighting for rights that even many Black folks take for granted!
What I wish the disability group had done was simply stand in solidarity and name the names of Black folks murdered by cops in that lettter. Trust me, I understand about intersectionality, and there are times when the mixed conversations need to be had, but again, not in this context.
Look, folks, I'm NOT saying don't join the conversation. I'm NOT saying not to be allies and stand in solidarity. I'm just saying, let's have this conversation and reflect and mourn and deal with this in the context of Black folks. Right now, this is about us. All I'm asking every other group out there to do is to listen to us and respect our lived experience of Black folks almost routinely, with impunity, being killed by cops for doing nothing. Right now, this is about us, so please STOP derailing this!