I loved the video. I think the man has a truckload of talent and I enjoy watching people do what they love to do. What I found disconcerting though, was the number of people who have responded to this video by saying things like:
"I wouldn't call him disabled."
"Who say's he's disabled?"
They mean this as a compliment! I'll admit, I've had it said to me too. Usually as part of a compliment after I've given a lecture or in an email from someone who was moved by something I've written. I know I am supposed to take it as it's meant - the highest form of flattery. Like I've moved out of the class of beings who cannot and into the class of beings who can. Rah!
I don't take this as a compliment, however, I find it, in fact, quite insulting. Firstly, I AM DISABLED. Secondly, I'm OK with that. Thirdly, my status of being a disabled guy isn't temporarily lifted when I do something that someone else admires.
This may shock you but when I hear that kind of compliment, given to me or given to someone else with a disability, what I hear is the depth and breadth of prejudice and bigotry behind it. What it means is that the speaker, the compliment giver if you will, has such a narrow definition of what it is to be disabled that they cannot include in that definition what they have seen, what they have heard or what they have experienced. So instead of stretching their minds to include within their conception of 'disability' this new experience, they artificially 'lift' or 'elevate' someone with a disability into the status of someone without a disability - into the 'norm.' Yikes.
This doesn't just happen to people with disabilities, of course ... I remember hearing some guys talking about the first woman welder at the mine where I worked summers during my university years.
"She's just one of the guys."
"When it comes to welding, I don't think of her as a woman."
Um, but she is. She is BOTH a woman AND a welder. But we can't have that can we? That would mean that we'd have to reconsider what restrictions we have in our minds about what it is to BE a woman. Rather keep the stereotype and 'elevate' her into the status of 'honourary man.' I call 'bullshit!'
But then this also happens in reverse.
When I wrote about the woman who sat in my wheelchair someone commented that the woman must have had a disability or some other "difference". It's like the definition of "normal" can't include someone who is privileged, who is selfish, who is inconsiderate. Therefore, instead of stretching one's mind to include within the understanding of the length and breadth of of "normal" behaviour someone with negative characteristics, one simply "demotes" them into the "dis" part of humanity.
You see this all the time. When someone commits a crime, or when someone does something cruel, people interviewed, usually neighbours who blink into camera's and say:
"That's just not normal."
"She seemed so normal."
It distresses me that typical people are constantly encouraged to see themselves as being at the peak of evolution. They have no need to think about their behaviour, to think about the fact that "normal" includes cruelty and selfishness and unkindness. That "normal" people can bully and abuse and rape. That "normal" people need to be on guard against their own natural impulses - which aren't, no matter how much you may want to believe it, always towards charity and love and generosity of spirit.
That disabled people can be disabled and talented and that "normal" people can be mean and cruel should simply be obvious.
But it isn't obvious.
It's a challenge to how those with bias see the world. It's the essential ingredient behind ableism and disphobia. But then attitudes that have "disability" as lesser than "normal" are so ingrained that the minds of many have installed elevators ... not, unfortunately, to increase access ... but so that those who "inspire" can be lifted up from one status to another, and those that don't can be moved down.
Yeah, the guy can dance. Yeah, the guy has a disability. Get over it.