It is both shocking and disheartening to once again see how race is dismissed and overlooked in yet another important aspect of life. Race is the least explored topic within the disability community. Individuals who experience this intersectionality of race and disability experience race differently due to their disability and experience disability differently due to their race. If there is little space to feel safe to explore the topics related to being a Black disabled individual how do people find a community they feel heard and understood by? As we talked about in my previous post community is a huge part of positive identity development; which is vital in every aspect of our lives including our physical and mental health.
As you all know in the past few months the issue of race and inequity is at the forefront of our nation yet again. Racial inequalities have been the foundation of our existence for the past 400 years. Our nation was built on racial inequality and racist beliefs that continue in overt and covert ways today. I’m angry! I’m angry as a white disabled woman that I wasn’t taught about race and disability. Over the past few weeks I have taken it upon myself to explore this topic and it makes me disgusted. We live in a society that is founded on racist principles. People with disabilities as a whole have an 80% unemployment rate, but if you look at race and disability that rate goes up to 98%! Just like someone’s disability should not factor into the rights they are afforded, someone’s skin color should not be the mediating factor in how someone is treated, and yet that is the fact in every aspect of a person of colors life.
How are we going to shift and embrace antiracist principles within the disability community? It is our job and responsibility to do more! It’s not the job of Black, Latinx, or Indigenous People to educate us the white people with disabilities. It’s our job to be an ally and state this is wrong and to be a leader in changing policies so that people with intersecting identities are afforded the same rights. It is our job to create the space where people of color can feel safe and heard. It is time that we bear the responsibility and accountability. Every action we take is either racist or antiracist. There is no space to be neutral and sit on the sidelines. Our neutrality leads to oppression.
In my search I came across multiple videos and what struck me was one particular video from the late 80’s. As I listened and watched the video I could hear that everything being said is still relevant for today! This infuriates me! I kept hearing myself say, “what progress have we really made in the past nearly 30 years since this video was made?” This among countless examples demonstrate how committed we’ve been to the topic of race, even within our community that can understand the feeling of being discriminated against and having less rights than the dominant culture.
I then found another video from this past year. I was struck with one particular statement, “when you are faced with multiple identities the default is to erase the disability identity.” It is appalling that we live in a society that leads people to have to choose between their disability and racial identity. That there isn’t the space to hold and embrace various identities and that someone must choose which identity to dismiss. Each of the many identities and communities we belong to have so much value and are critical parts to who we are. Instead our racist, ablest society causes people to erase a part of themselves in order to manage the long list of injustices they must endure. We systematically attempt to discredit disability from who we are especially when it is connected to race. That makes sense…who wants the added burden? This must stop! Change is far overdue! I am making a pledge here today that my leadership institute will dedicate time, resources, and scholarships to address race and disability. It is imperative we mentor and provide safe forums where race and disability can coexist and be celebrated. If we are ever to be a healthy, truly free society we must be a society that embraces and holds everyone’s identity with equal value and importance and truly believe that their multifaceted, multilayered selves are beautiful. We are a community with a powerful voice that must speak up and support everyone in our community! We are united as one in support, love, and kindness. I ask each of you to reflect on where in your life you can be a better ally? Where are the areas you need to work on being not just not racist but antiracist?
Remember as we celebrate the ADA 30th anniversary, we have the rights and progress we do because of the hard-fought laws and legislation that came from the Civil Rights Movement! We have our brothers and sisters from the Black community to thank and it is our turn to take a stand and fight for their rights.
For additional resources explore these links
Organizations (w/further specified resources):
Statistics & Articles:
Disability Incarcerated: Imprisonment and Disability in the United States and Canada 2014th Edition - L. Ben-Moshe, C. Chapman, A. Carey, Angela Y. Davis (Foreword) https://www.academia.edu/34428650/Disability_Incarcerated_Imprisonment_and_Disability_in_the_United_States_and_Canada
Black Disabled Ancestors - Leroy Moore https://www.poorpress.net/product-page/black-disabled-ancestors
The Power of 504 (Open Captions Spanish&English) - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SyWcCuVta7M
We Can’t Breathe, The Deaf and Disabled Margin of Police Brutality - Short Film - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4M1TwT0pDgs
Haben Girma - https://twitter.com/HabenGirma
Leroy Moore - https://twitter.com/kriphopnation
Alice Wong - https://twitter.com/DisVisibility
Lydia XZ Brown - https://twitter.com/autistichoya
Vilisa Thompson - https://twitter.com/VilissaThompson
Kerima Cevik - https://twitter.com/kerima_cevik
Talila Lewis - https://twitter.com/talilalewis?lang=en