Here we go again!
My badass, gorgeous sister in disability, Maria R. Palacios, penned the above quote on her Facebook page. Wouldn't you know it - someone had to post this in response: "Pretty sure that's true even as it DOESN'T relate to disability. Seems universal" Of course, that got my blood boiling!
Stop it, folks just stop it NOW! Can't we have something of our own? I'm not a selfish person; I love to spread the wealth. I know that there are some messages that are generic enough to be considered universal. What irks me is when someone tries to take a message that is specifically and explicitly for, or directed at a specific community, in this case, people with disabilities, and make it for everyone when clearly, the message was NOT for everyone. My response was this: "Yes, but this message is vitally important to those of us with disabilities because all the messages out there tell us that we are unworthy, not good as, other, better off dead - it IS for US!"
The vast majority of us with disabilities who love ourselves, are comfortable in our own skins and who know our worth have had to travel a long journey to get to this place where we are. Every day, we deal with messages telling us we're unwanted, unloved, useless, worthless, pitiful, incompetent, ugly, other, better off dead. We see it in the way people stare at us, ridicule and exclude us, in the way we are forced to live in poverty and unemployment, in the way that laws that are supposed to prevent and protect us from discrimination aren't worth the paper it's written on. With all that, is it any wonder that many folks with disabilities would give anything not to be disabled? Is it any wonder that some disabled folks go to great lengths to hide or minimize their disability even to their own detriment? Is it any wonder that there are people with hidden disabilities, who, due to the fear of being stigmatized and treated as a second-class citizen, hide their disability so well that you could know them for decades, even all their lives and not know that they had a disability? Is it any small wonder that many of us internalize the ableism, disdain, even hatred that society directs at us? After all, we don't want to be seen as one of THOSE people!
Having gone through this, myself, when I hear messages from others with disabilities that say that we are beautiful, competent, loved, worthy, awesome, amazing, sexy, talented - I hold on to that with all my might! Needless to say, I get pretty damned frosty and salty when someone - most likely, nondisabled - pipes ups and says that the message meant for me and my community can apply to everyone. Oh HELL no - oh no you didn't just slide your butt up in here and try to minimize and trivalize the beautiful, powerful message given by one of our own and meant specifically for us! What, you don't have enough positive messages coming to you from your community that you have to try to steal and co-opt one of ours? Call me selfish but I'm not about to let that happen - I WILL call you out!
To me, when someone tries to universalize a message intended for a specific community, it's the same as derailing, which is taking someone ese's conversation and making it all about you and/or your group. Those of you who know me know in no uncertain terms how I feel about derailing. I feel the exact same way about universalizing, whether it's a message to a specific group, or a particular group's lived experience - just don't do it!