How anyone can function with any semblance of patience is outside my realm of understanding in this time of turmoil. It seems like society is imploding, and rightfully so. We are in a revolutionary period, stoked by a lackluster governmental response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the collective outrage of the way Black people have been treated for the entire time they have lived on this continent. It makes me wonder why the murder of George Floyd is getting such a different response from white people this time. Perhaps it’s that they are getting used to being treated like they aren’t the center of the universe anymore, and they don’t like it one bit. After all, there’s nothing like having the things you value and support taken from you by a president who could care less.
It seems ironic that people are posting and sharing their outrage when Black people have been begging them to care for decades. For me, it still feels false, like if the pandemic wasn’t happening, would they care? I really don’t know. After all, where have they been for disabled people? We are the largest minority group in the country, yet our rights continue to be overlooked by the general public, including other minority advocates. There needs to be a place at every table for us that is considered without our having to ask. Better yet, make our priorities your own, knowing that you are going to be more inclusive in the long run. When our concerns are naturally found among yours, trust comes more easily.
Very often, getting to the point of being naturally inclusive of people with disabilities is out of reach. The long arm of ableism is strong and has influence in the way people regard their own discrimination. They can’t connect the dots between their own experiences and someone who is disabled, even if they share a common background or history. I mean, how many people would be out marching for George Floyd if he had been someone with an intellectual disability? I truly wonder, and I just don’t know. There have been so many Black disabled people murdered by the police. The statistic is around half of all police murders were of disabled people of color.1 Right now, it seems like this fact is being overlooked by everyone yet again.
So what do I want right now? What would get me to stop complaining and feel like this movement is really listening to disabled people who are Black or trans or poor or indigenous or non-binary or white?
First, name our shared history. Say that someone was disabled and Black. Say that they were murdered because they were feared for being different and neurodiverse. Tell how the police don’t want to try to understand when someone presents in a way that makes them uncomfortable.
Second, reflect on your own history of ableism and how you have chosen to look the other way when it’s been a disabled person who was killed by the police or a family member. Realize that you may consider their lost life more sad than a criminal act because they were not “normal.”
If you are someone who is BIPOC, how are you making space for your disabled brothers and sisters? If you are protesting in the streets, are protesters around you disabled? Is disability even mentioned? Is the event accessible? Is there user-friendly transportation, accommodations, hearing access, and respite available?
There has to be a new level of what is no longer going to be an acceptable amount of bias and discrimination of Black disabled people. When we lift that person up, they lift us all. When we support someone’s neurodiversity, we have to support their journey through this society as it’s happened, including the effects of being Black or gay in a world that ridicules these factors and has gone out of its way to persecute us for being ourselves. When we realize that we are not so different from each other, only then will we live in true peace.
Fight for us when we can’t be in the streets; act like we’re your child and really let our lives be full of possibilities – I mean, the kind you would want to lead yourself. Raise your fists in anger over the injustice we live with every day, especially our BIPOC disabled family. Let our voices be heard. Let us be represented.
- See the section, “Police Brutality and Disability” on Black, Disabled, and Proud: College Students with Disabilities’ website, https://www.blackdisabledandproud.org/black-lives-matter.html