Saturday, July 13, 2013


I can't tell you where this happened. Or when this happened. I have made official complaints to official bodies and am expecting an official response. I don't know if I'm allowed to talk about what happened, fully, during this process and I don't want to muck it up. I do want to tell you about an interaction that happened during the whole 'event'.

I was being barricaded from using the only accessible pathway to where I wanted to go. I was being told to do what I couldn't do, use an alternate pathway that involved two sets of stairs. I was loudly protesting that I couldn't do what they asked me to do and I didn't understand why I was being disallowed access to the accessible alternative. (I still don't.) One of the people involved was a security guard who was a black woman of about my age. She wasn't the person I was arguing with, she did not have the power to grant access, but she was carrying out the instructions she was being given by the powers that be. I could see that she was getting increasingly frustrated at the fact that I wouldn't shut up and I kept demanding to speak to those who could make alternate decisions.

At one point she made a comment about my behaviour and suggested I should quieten down. This sparked the following conversation:

To set the scene: Ruby and Joe were with me when this was happening, both of them off to the side watching.

Note: Ruby is not my granddaughter ... however, sometimes it takes way too long to describe our relationship so I use the word 'granddaughter' to shorten the discussion.

Me: What do you think my granddaughter is learning right now? Right now!!? Is she learning that people with disabilities have less options and that people can make arbitrary decisions to deny us our right to access?

Woman: No, she is learning that there are some rules that you have to follow even if you don't want to.

Me, incredulous: Is that what you would teach your granddaughter?? Really, is that what you teach her.

Woman: Yes, sir it is.

Me: You teach your granddaughter to be silent in the face of discrimination, to avoid conflict and accept what's wrong rather than speak out loudly and strongly. You teach her that?

Woman: I (pause) I (pause)

Me: I want my granddaughter to be Rosa Parks not Barbie! I want her to learn how to face down people who would stop her from having what's rightfully hers.

Woman: I ... (walks away)

A few moments later, she was back, she was on my side, and she helped me get done what needed to get gone, I still didn't get access but I did get a workable solution, not the best solution, but a workable solution. She ensured that those who were in power who didn't want me to have even that were told that I would have it, she would ensure that I would have it, that that was the end of it.

It felt like an important moment. Like a moment where two people connected on a different level. Two people who understood the struggle against oppression and bigotry - though both experiencing that struggle in different ways over different issues - both recognized an important bond.

It was like we became a coalition of two.

And that coalition was a force to be reigned with. One voice is just one voice but two voices is the beginning of a choir.


Tamara said...

My favorite stories are when you (or anyone) are able to open someone's eyes in the moment and see immediate change.

I just love, love, love, love, love this. :-)

Liz Miller said...

I am all choked up. You did a great thing, Dave.

Anonymous said...

Brilliantly chosen analogy, Dave. You made your point and forged a connection in one fell swoop. This is why I come here, day after day.


Colleen said...

Dear Dave:

"I want my granddaughter to be Rosa Parks not Barbie." I love it, absolutely love it!


Moose said...

This is my life. I'm constantly being told to shut up instead of making noise about discrimination. I'm told that people are "tired" of hearing about how things aren't equal for everyone. I'm told I must be "some dumb liberal" for wanting to be treated like everyone else.

It never ceases to amaze me what people will do to try to silence those who speak up against discrimination. I'm glad you were able to get through to this one woman.

One down, a zillion more to go...

jo(e) said...

I love this.

Jayne Wales said...

That will be something life changing for that security guard. We get immured in thinking in one way. Changing that rigid thinking by using future generations and hope changed her heart and mind. Brilliant story.