Can we straight up make something clear.
Prejudice and discrimination are part and parcel of the experience of people with intellectual or physical disabilities or intellectual or physical differences.
I'm not sure that people recognize that the kinds of experiences, the micro, midi and maxi aggressions that come with the territory of disability are too diverse to list and too unrelenting to count. Sure we learn to cope but our coping on a daily basis doesn't mean that we've had days on end without experiencing some form of social violence or some kind of social belittlement during that day.
I am NOT an expert on the lives of all people with disabilities. But I am an expert on mine. I am an expert, then, on the very specific kinds of prejudice I run into and I am very, aware, of the extraordinarily high rate at which it occurs. I need to think about that when I think about my life and may plans.
I wrote a blog post yesterday about the anticipation and anxiety I have when having to put myself in situations where I need service from others. The more people I will meet, the higher the anxiety rises. Somebody who understood things about percentages told me that the risk rises. He didn't have to tell me, I knew.
I wrote a deeply honest blog about my fears of who I would meet and the choices they would make in how that service would be provided.
I was deeply honest about my anxiety - I've been worried for a week.
I was deeply honest about the sense that they have choices that I do not.
And yet, in my own comments, from my own readers I am told that I am 'cloaking my self in the role of victim' or it was suggested that 'when you go out looking for problems, you are going to find them.'
I usually like my comments but these two, anonymously made, stung me. No, more honest, hurt me.
I always feel uncomfortable writing true feelings about situations of great vulnerability like the one I faced yesterday ... air travel. I wanted to put that sense of vulnerability in the world.
I don't think that acknowledging that, as the world is full of prejudice and discrimination, the worry about experiencing it is cloaking myself in victimhood. I don't think that stating that others have choices that I don't comprises tying the cloak around my neck. I need to fly, they can be as bigoted as the get go and I've got to get by them and get on the plane. Here is were strong advocacy may be the right thing to do for the cause and the wrong thing to do to get on a plane.
The idea that those who experience the blunt end of prejudice and the sharp end of discrimination on a routine basis, go looking for it. This is the kind of thing that is said when women talk about sexism at work ... if you look for it you'll find it. Of course, because it's fucking there. I do not go looking for discrimination, I need not search behind the couch for prejudice. My wheelchair, and my difference, is like a huge magnet for hostile attitudes. It comes to me. I don't go to it - who would.
The kind of blaming the victim statements ... if you had happy attitudes they would lead to happy encounters ... um yeah, right .... if black people and women and gays had just been happy they'd have been voting, participating equally and have full access and equal protection under the law. Right.
Cloaking oneself in victimhood is so offensive and so hurtful to me that for the first time I thought, is it safe for me to be honest about my feelings here? I was horribly hurt by that remark. I do not live the life of a victim. I do not secede space that is mine. I speak up when necessary and though it's not constantly so, it is at a pretty high rate..
People with disabilities, like me, sometimes need to be around people who see that prejudice exists, who understand that situations of high risk of meeting or dealing with prejudicial attitudes cause anxiety, who wish to create a safe space of honest discussion of what it is to live in a world that isn't always, or maybe even often, or maybe even rarely completely safe for disabled people to enter and to participate.
At this point I keep thinking to myself. "Why did I tell them the truth about my fears and my sense of loss of control in the hands of another?" Well the answer was: I felt safe to do so.
Do I now?