A good friend and I spent the afternoon chatting about our experiences in the disability community and how they were impacted by white privilege. A lot of people refuse to believe white/heterosexual/male/class/disability privilege exists but it is everywhere because it is subconscious [hidden but there]. If you can’t speak the same language or think like the dominant culture does, it’s going to be much more difficult to squeeze through the door. It’s pathetic that we have to have such an oppressive hierarchy within a movement that is supposed to promote the “nothing about us without us” philosophy.
I saw how alive and active the “good ol’ boys club” was when I was living in DC this summer; especially during this one instance when we were asking an elder for help and the elder addressed my straight white male friend while completely ignoring my Latina friend and I. Or how about the time this summer when other young people and I were asked to speak at a rally (as an afterthought of course,) and wrote a piece about how our community values the opinions of nondisabled “professionals” instead of viewing our own people as experts. Right before we were about to read it, we were kicked off stage so a Congressman could speak. Oh the irony.
I know I probably play a part in perpetuating this hierarchy [continuing this problem] as I am able to hide behind white, classist, heterosexual privilege when it is convienient to do so. My polite, Asian schoolgirl personality has become so natural that I don’t even notice I am doing it, until people tell me they love my laugh, I am counting the “Oh-My-Gosh-I-Can’t-Believe-They-Said-That”s in my head or am at home angry at myself because I didn’t say something about a certain topic. People have told me that I have a talent for making people feel comfortable but I’m starting to wonder what can be attributed to my personality and what should be attributed to my ability to slide between multiple identities as a person of mixed race and other identities. In our conversation today, my friend said he puts on the “happy-go-lucky black guy” front when he needs to. I’ve seen him do that and it’s definitely not him either.
I don’t mean for this post to alienate people. I’m just tired of having to tokenize myself into the “youth” stereotype just so I can be involved. I’m tired of people complaining to my deaf friends about the costs of interpreters when they don’t mind funding their own PAs or other accommodations (of course then they wonder why deaf people aren’t as involved). Most of all, I’m tired of going to events and seeing the same “emerging leaders” being selected to participate when I know there are so many people back home who WANT to participate but just can’t even get in the door.