Friday, January 13, 2017

My Mom or My Battles

People thought him funny. And because they thought him funny, they laughed at him. All he had tried to do was to be assertive and stand his ground. In fact, he had done that, but in doing so he made himself ridiculous in the eyes of pretty much everyone around.

What had happened was pretty simple. It's something we've all experienced but I'll bet that it happens with more frequency and with open intent to people with disabilities. He was standing in line, he was aware of the stares and the curiosity his very presence caused. Being disabled in public is always cause for bored eyes to light up and to burn a hole into out self worth. He had Williams Syndrome, for those of you who want to know, but any difference would do. A fellow, the suit and tie type, stepped in front of him when he was clearly next to be served.


He spoke up. (Good for him.) He protested. (Good for him.) He recognized that he had a right to his place in line and a right to be served when it was his turn. (Good for him.) He said, "Hey, it's my turn." (Good for him.) The fellow told him to be quiet and wait. (Asshat.) Then the man in line said, with fury, "I'm going to tell my mom on you and you'll be in big trouble." (Oh, no.) People burst out laughing. He was instantly humiliated. He left the line up, crying, his hand over his face.

"I'm going to tell my mom on you ..." Let's look at this statement. He's saying that since he wasn't listened to and since is simple protest wasn't enough, he was going to call in his mother who would fight his battle for him. "You'll be in big trouble ..." My mother is a powerful advocate and she will let you know precisely why what you did was wrong and how you discriminated against me.

I think what he said translates into, "My mother is my advocate, she speaks for me, she protects me."

Right up until he said he was going to report the man to his mother he did really well. He was appropriately assertive. He did what a lot of people, disabled or not, would not have done. He used his voice to protest how he was being treated. So he's got all the basics covered, he has a solid foundation for being his own advocate and using his own voice to deal with the world as the world deals with him.

He had so many options besides retreat, besides stating that the REAL ADVOCATE would deal with this situation. He didn't seem to have the skills to take the encounter one step beyond. He had three or four options available to him, all of which he has demonstrated that he could use. But he didn't.

His skills grew, but then, for some reason, they stopped growing.

"I speak for my child."

"I am my child's voice."

"My job is to advocate for the people in my care."

I worry more and more and more about the theft of the voices of people with intellectual disabilities by those who, while they have good motives, take what's not theirs.

And if you don't like what I've said, "I'll tell my mother on you."

I'm not saying that to mock the fellow with a disability but to demonstrate how that sounds coming from me. It's not a strategy, it's a set up for being teased, ridiculed and maybe even worse.


Frank_V said...

At fifty-three years of age and counting, the older I get, the less impressed I am with "human intellect". And why is it the meanness displayed by that line jumper is tolerated?

Unknown said...

shows why your teaching about self advocacy and disability pride are so important!


ABEhrhardt said...

At some point, we're all out-classed in the mean department by someone - and it's going to be institutionalized in the States these next years.

I hope some of the other people in that line got over their startled laughter response, felt ashamed of themselves, and spoke up for the man whose mother wasn't there.

Not everyone can defend himself all of the time.

Ron Arnold said...

Sorry to see that the fellow was humiliated like that. He appealed to the highest authority he knew though didn't he? Isn't that what we're taught to do in school? Tell a teacher? Tell someone in authority? I agree wholeheartedly that this fellow could advocate for himself more effectively . . . but I don't know that it's his Mom's fault - because quite frankly, I think it's a systemic thing. (Wait for the police. Tell a teacher. Let the law handle it. The Principal will take care of the bully.)

I mean . . . if we were all effective self-advocates, what would the role of government actually be?

Unknown said...

Really great point! Side note, can I just say that if my husband is acting particularly out of line, I do let him know that I will tell his mother on him and sometimes I do!

Unknown said...

Excellent point! Side note, can I just say that sometimes when my husband is acting particularly out of line I threaten to call his mother, and sometimes I do!

Unknown said...

This post makes me uncomfortable.. Saying out loud that he was going to tell his mum about the rude man was "socially inappropriate" in our (childish misogynistic) society but its an unfair leap to make all those judgements about him, his skills and relationships, just because of him blurting that out. He 'clearly has skills' and can 'use his own voice' but that doesnt mean hes obligated to do that all the time in every situation, anymore than someone without intellectual disabilitys is. There are several things his words could've meant besides the interpretation that he wanted/was used to his mother fighting his battles for him, and even if he did 'run out of strong' at that point its not a reason to judge him for not making different choices

Mary Nau said...

I feel reflexively wanting to further the voice-over by imagining I'm on the same line and turning my fury on the asshat. I'd be all too glad to use my voice to amplify the fellow's voice who got cut in line! But agreed, and reminded again, that personal sovereignty can be strengthened far better by using one's own voice skillfully. I'm still P!$$€d.