In today’s political climate, it is important that we work to abolish discrimination in this country. Now more than ever, we as young millennials are gathering together in protest, fighting to make changes in government, media, education and even big brand advertisements. We often find ourselves speaking out against bigotry, racism, sexism, homophobia, and xenophobia as they are all pertinent matters in the US and beyond. However, there is one that is often forgotten about: Ableism.
What is ableism, you ask? Discrimination against those with disabilities. It’s actually a bit deeper than that and guess what? We’re all guilty of it. “No, I don’t discriminate against anyone. I would never be ableist!” Yes, you would and the reason you probably deny it is because many people don’t see ableism as a legit form of bigotry. Even people with disabilities, such as myself, can be guilty of it known as internalized ableism. Since it is indeed a real form of bigotry, one that needs to be fought against, I’m going to tell you four ways, in which you’ve contributed to and participated in ableist behavior.
This is the easiest way to be ableist. Think about the last time someone did something you found either hilarious or to your disapproval. You probably used words like: stupid, dumb, crazy. You’ve probably used words like ‘blindsided’ or have said “It’s like I have ADD!” when you can’t multitask.
All of these words are ableist, as they have been used to demean someone’s intelligence or behavior at some point in their history. Even though we treat it as joke vernacular now, doesn’t mean the usage of this language is right. You should always either exercise care or just ask (if possible) before you say something that could be potentially offensive. And If you’re uncomfortable, realize sometimes you first have to be uncomfortable to correct ignorance.
You know when you talk to a baby or your dog and your voice pipes up a bit? You sound a like your name could be Suzy Cream cheese? Well, guess what? People do this with disabled adults as well.
I’ve had people talk to me slowly as if I don’t understand them, though they just heard me ask a slew of questions. Sometimes they even answer the person next to me (usually an able person). People see physical disabilities, like being in a wheelchair and assume it also means I don’t have the capacity to understand them. One doesn’t always mean the other so don’t assume.
To be honest, this is the most frustrating form of ableism, for me. You know how you see those videos on social media where a popular high school kid takes a girl with a disability to the prom and folks say it’s super nice? It isn’t! It implies that she isn’t worthy of someone going with her to a school dance because of her disability and that’s BS. You don’t get a cookie for treating someone like a human, but because ableism is so deeply embedded, able people use these moments to make themselves feel great. In the disabled world, that’s called inspirational porn; the idea that it’s extra sweet to see disabled treated like… people. Disabled people don’t exist to act as your good deed for the day, month or year.
Let’s talk movies, and yes I’m coming for Everything, Everything (based on the book of the same name.) A young woman has an illness that keeps her housebound, but then a boy moves next door and she becomes so deeply infatuated with him that she must leave the house and therefore *risk* her life. Now we all take risks in life, but to portray a young woman who essentially decides love is worth more than her health is irresponsible. Just because a person cannot leave their home, doesn’t mean they aren’t living a fulfilling life. In all the times I experienced being housebound (albeit a short period of time), I may have been irritated, but in 2017, there is always a way to bring the outside in, word to technology. What makes this movie worse is later we find out…
*****if you want to see this movie and don’t want it ruined, skip to the next one*****
the young girl is not actually sick… at all. She was just being psychology abused by a scared parent. THAT IS NOT OKAY!!!! And again, it’s inspiration porn. Friend, activist and Disabled Youtuber, Annie Segarra goes into why this film screwed up its chance to tell an accurate story
This next one kind of goes with behavior. This year I will have been out of college 2 years. You know what people kept telling me back then, you’re so amazing! No… I’m…actually…not. College was not easy for me, but people graduate from college every year after lots of obstacles. Why is mine so inspirational? Cecause I sit down 99% of the time?! Nope!
Firstly that undermines my accomplishment as a graduate, because lots of people, able or not, don’t make it. Secondly, it means you didn’t expect, I’d want or have the opportunity to continue my education and if that’s the case I have words for you that I can’t type here. Education is a big deal for a lot of people and that’s why I should be celebrated, not because you’re a close minded human.
Bottom line, we have a lot of work to do these days as a generation to achieve the equity, not equality, we all deserve. We must include everyone, truly everyone. Disabled people don’t need you to shout for us, we need you to listen when we shout. It is the only way actual change can be accomplished. Check your privilege at the door, admit you’re wrong and learn something.