Ugh, why must we sow division in our efforts to do disability advocacy?
I'm referring to using another group to make a point, such as, "you support LGBTQIAA rights, why won't you support disability rights?" Or, "you wouldn't support discrimination against Black people, why do you support it against LGBTQIAA, disabled, insert marginalized group here.
I used to be guilty of this, but as I've grown older, I've become mature and my views have changed. I've become aware of how divisive this tactic is.
When groups, particularly marginalized groups do this, the message is that the group that you're comparing your group to doesn't deserve rights, support or validation, but your group does, or, at the very least, your marginalized group deserves more consideration than others.
This is a form of Oppression Olympics, something that doesn't help or benefit marginalized communities.
I'm seeing this a lot within the disability advocacy and activist community. If someone points out that every 28 hours, someone Black is killed by police, inevitably, some disabled person will point out that half of people killed by police have some type of disability. That is a very valid point that needs attention and action, but bringing that up in the context of Black folks is erasing. That's a separate conversation.
The same goes for what's happening in Washington, DC this week. Disability activists (most of them are friends whom I love dearly) are demanding support for disability rights of the Obama administration, just as it, and the President, supports LGBTQIAA rights. With all of the compelling and valid reasons to support disability rights, there shouldn't have been any reason to bring another marginalized community's issue into the mix. The lack of support and action on disability issues and the profound harm it is doing to us is more than enough to make a point and demand action.
Most who know me know that I speak my truth and say the uncomfortable things. I don't always agree with those whom I love, but I try always to be respectful in my disagreement. Had I been with my friends, I would have shared my feelings with leadership, but I'm not with them, so this space is the only place that I can express my dismay over the strategy and tactics that were chosen.
Look, it's one thing for marginalized groups to demand of the dominant White, male, cis, straight, nondisabled society the same rights that those groups enjoy, but when those demands are made at the expense of other marginalized groups, all it does is pit us against each other when we should be united.
It has not escaped me that in the case of this week's activities, the decision to employ this tactic most likely was made by LGBTQIAA members with disabilities. That doesn't make the decision a good or correct one, just as it wouldn't be good or correct for Black disabled to assert that the Obama administration supports the rights of Blacks, so why doesn't it support disability rights?
As a Black lesbian with disabilities, I understand the desperation of our disability community. Because of policies and practices in place, many of us feel that no one gives a damn about us. We die of abuse and neglect every day in nursing facilities and other institutions. Programs designed to keep us at home are viciously cut. Laws that are supposed to protect us from discrimination are ineffective. I get that. I, and my family have gone through and been very negatively affected by all this. I can understand why some of us feel that our plight is the worst and that other groups have it better than us.
Still, we must not fall into that trap! When we do that, we hurt others. We Blacks see disability and LGBTQIAA as White, we LGBTQIAA see disability as straight, if anything, and we LGBTQIAA and disability see us Blacks as always pulling the "race card", which actually doesn't exist. Do you see how absurd this is and why we must come together and fight this and see the commonality within our communities?
We disability rights activists and advocates must denounce tactics that divide us from other marginalized communities, especially since many of us also belong to those communities. Our civil rights and support of them are no more important than the civil rights of other marginalized groups.
So, let's put an end to this, ok? We can do better than this! We ARE better than this!