Stop taking what isn't yours!
What do I mean by this? Let me explain.
So often I see other movements taking slogans, chants, songs, etc., from the Black Civil Rights Movement and applying them to themselves, as if it were their own.
In my life's experience, I've seen this often in the Disability Rights Movement. I've even participated in these activities, myself. Being both Black and Disabled, it's often hard to separate these two identities, as well as my other marginalized, oppressed identities.
For example, these days I see banners with Dr. King's quote, "Injustice Anywhere is a Threat to Justice Everywhere!" at disability parades, actions and calls to action and think, "damn, can't you use your own stuff?"
I see disability groups using "Nothing About Us Without Us", which was made popular during the Anti-apartheid struggle. I see us drawing on Black Lives Matter with Disabled Lives Matter. I cringe and get angry because we always seem to be going behind other groups and co-opting and appropriating their stuff and taking it for ourselves.
Back in the day, when our Movement was young, it seemed normal to draw our inspiration from, and emulate the Black Civil Rights Movement.
Certainly, in ADAPT, which I've been a proud member of since 1986, we are known for using the tool of nonviolent civil disobedience, learned from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who learned it from Mahatma Gandhi, who used it to great effect in India's fight for independence from Great Britain.
Other than the adoption of nonviolent civil disobedience, the Black Civil Rights Movement's methods of expressions - songs, etc, were our own, borrowed from Old Negro spirituals and hymns from the days of slavery and the fiery speeches of Dr. King and other leaders.
Back in the early days of ADAPT, we used songs and slogans from the Civil Rights Movement. I, being the ADAPT ham, often wrote songs and chants based on and inspired by that Movement, that I was born too late to participate in. It seemed okay back then because we were so new and some of our leadership and members had indeed participated in the Civil Rights Movement.
As ADAPT got older, many of us began equating our Movement with the Civil Rights Movement. I and some others put a stop to this because though we were inspired by that Movement, we didn't (and most definitely don't, today) go through one tenth of what folks went through then. Though many of us (including me) were beaten by cops back in the day, they were isolated incidents, nothing like what Civil Rights activists went through. Though many of us went to jail, our situations weren't like those activists. Back then, children were often arrested and jailed, something that ADAPT, correctly, doesn't allow. Several of our comrades have died on actions, but it was due to their disabilities, not at the hands of police or enraged ableists.
Now that the Disability Rights Movement is somewhere in its 40th year, you'd think that we've been around long enough to stop borrowing, taking, even stealing stuff from other movements and using it as if it were our own, with no reference or thanks to the movements from which it came. We've been around long enough to create our own stuff. Certainly, ADAPT has. We have chants and slogans that are uniquely our own.
So these days, when I see other disability rights groups using stuff from the Civil Rights Movement, or the Black Lives Matter Movement, or other movements, I cringe and get sick inside. On one hand, I understand where that urge comes from, but on the other hand, I feel like saying, "get your own stuff!"
Another reason that I feel the way I do is this: The face of the Disability Rights Movement and most disability groups is White. We have a huge problem with racism and the exclusion of people of color, particularly Blacks, from our narratives and history, yet we shamelessly use iconic Civil Rights stuff to define and promote our struggle.
Today, I saw a petition about stopping dwarf throwing contests. I never knew such horrid contests existed! That is shameful, dehumanizing and outright dangerous and I will definitely sign the petition. What bothers me though, is the use of a picture of a banner with Dr. King's quote. I think that the organization that produced the the petition could have come up with something more pertinent to the group that they represent - Little People who are against these unspeakable events.
Look, I'm not against Little People or any any other disability group. I'm just saying our movement and struggle is now old enough to consistently create and use our own stuff. We can respect and learn from other movements but we don't have to keep taking their stuff as our own!