I wrote this yesterday on a friend’s post because she shared something about disability:
“Today is Ed Roberts Day!
“I went for part of the Women’s March in Sac, and there were two disabled activists who spoke (one is a stuttering comedian), and they told some truth bombs. So at one point, they were like, “And we are going to empower our disabled friends, right?” And we are all like, “Yeah! Woo!” They respond back, “No, ’empower’ is a colonialist word. Disabled people don’t need to be empowered, because they already have that power! It’s up to the rest of you to step aside.” WE WERE ALL CALLED OUT IT WAS GREAT. I identify as being part of the disability community, but I recognize how vast the community is. I cannot talk for wheelchair users because I am able-bodied. I can still be ableist towards certain kinds of disabilities, and the same goes for other people with different kinds of disabilities towards other types of disabled people. Also, check yourself! Check your privilege in an able-bodied and neurotypical world. Check your potential pity towards disabled lives. Check your inspiration meter, because disabled people are not here to inspire you or make you feel better about yourself. Don’t applaud people for doing typical life things.”
Also, someone commented below me and said they were stealing my comment. I went to their page to find that they actually did steal my comment. Didn’t use quotation marks, and didn’t say they took these words from somewhere else, let alone reference me. Annoying…
I am currently taking a number of classes related to disability this term at my school: a disability activism seminar, a psychology class on developmental disorders, an education class on students with disabilities, and a neurobiology class on addictive drugs. The psychology and education classes are proving to be problematic in nearly opposite ways, which is interesting. It’s part of why I am taking them, to understand how “the system” (in this case, psychology/science and education) treats disability. Apparently disabled students are called “children with exceptionalities” these days? I find that off-putting. I would have hated to be called that in school, just as I hated the push to call learning disabilities “learning differences.” It’s too soft, and it’s more than just a “difference”. Then in my disability activism class we (of course) watched the late Stella Young’s TED talk, “I am not your inspiration, thank you very much,” which states how painful and ridiculous it is for non-disabled people to treat disabled folks as “exceptional” and “inspirational” simply for existing with bodies and minds that differ from what society thinks is “normal” and “good.”
Then of course there is the Trump thing… With the ACA repealed, there will be many disabled lives at risk, with potentially nearly 43,000 people dying each year. Healthcare should NEVER have been a profitable business. People’s health and lives should not be profited on, which is why I am for socialized medicine. Much like living in my housing co-op, the point is to pool together resources so we can take care of each other. Let money go towards helping others in need, and then money can come back to you when you need it. “To each according to their needs.” Isn’t the point of taxes to pool money together for government programs, which theoretically are supposed to be for the people’s benefit? However with so much of our taxes going towards military and defense, we do not have proper representation. Also, I will be critical about how Medicare works. It’s supposed to be there for poor people, which is nice and all, but let’s not forget that poverty exists because capitalism exists. People who receive Medicare, including disabled people, cannot make more than a certain amount of money if they want to keep their health insurance. For disabled people, they NEED that healthcare coverage to survive. This keeps disabled people stuck at the poverty level, perpetuating poverty in the disability community. I would argue that this is a form of systematic oppression. Remember, y’all, “Trump is the Symptom, Capitalism is the Disease”. If poverty doesn’t exist, and everyone gets healthcare, people wouldn’t have to worry about forcing themselves to work less or not look at other jobs just to get life-saving healthcare.
I also want to go back to the part in my comment where I mentioned the disabled activists who called out the use of the word “empower.” Again, IT WAS SO GOOD. I love being challenged, and expanding on my sociopolitical consciousness. Reminds me of the “empowered woman”, which is usually a woman who is a scientist or business owner, and sometimes a “sex-positive” feminist that centers around the idea that being empowered means having lots of sex. Like, no. Even though I do not identify as a woman, I am read as one. I never felt comfortable calling myself “empowered”. Something seemed weird about it. It doesn’t mean I can’t have power, but empowered? And it brings us to the idea of the ally theater (performative allyship), the white saviors, and whatnot. “Making space” when really one should step aside. White saviors and acting like an ally to get brownie points is problematic, because one is trying to help in a way that still centers one’s own privilege and entitlement. Colonialism has this history, of taking land and power, then white people going back to “help the poor third world countries,” even though it was white people who put them in those conditions in the first place. “Empower” means to give power, or to help cultivate power in the people who are in need. But it’s not up to privileged people to do this. As stated, they already have this power. It’s up to privileged people to step aside, take a seat, give up privilege and entitlement, and allow the already present power of marginalized folks to prosper.