It’s easy to be proud when reading about the struggle in secret, unread history books
It’s easy to be proud when friends rock disability pride tees so much that’s it’s become the standard of fashion for your group
It’s easy to be proud when contemplating revolution (in bethany’s words, viva la gimp!) and you have the honor of knowing a leader who makes it her duty to love like no one has loved before
But damn, I can tell you it’s not always that easy to be proud
Like when one weekend, you’re meeting a friend at the mall and southern ableism again makes its grand appearance
You didn’t ask for its presence but still it comes—this time, in the form of gawking women with big hats and glasses
Wondering where your nurse is and who was irresponsible enough to leave two disabled girls unattended…
To them, the imaginary “nurse” is a big, powerful-yet-subservient black woman who is happy to play the role of Scarlett O’Hara’s “mammy,”or a modern version of the house slave. (Didn’t you know that’s why the Supreme Court ruled it’s okay to pay PCAs less than min. wage?)
To them, a PCA is not supposed to help us achieve a silly thing like independence, but rather to maintain the quiet traditions of looking over the “invalid”… whatever the hell that means.
It’s not so easy to be proud when as a typical college student, your friend is looking for work and the Bath and Body Works clerk laughs a little while handing her the application.
It’s not so easy to be proud when the second time, you go to Express and the clerk behind the counter has to be encouraged by a more-experienced associate to give her the application.
It’s not so easy to nod your head in support when you already know that your friend, who will wait two hours for the paratransit to take her to the mall next week (that’s public transportation for ya), will be told that the position has already been taken… even though the “Now Hiring” sign is still humiliatingly stickered on the window.
But these moments, these times when people make it so damn hard to be proud, is when we must practice pride the most.
This is when pride evolves from an appreciation of culture and identity to a new form of strength and resilience.
This is when pride evolves into an establishment of our personhood, here in this mall!
So maybe when you wonder why I choose not to play the happy crip waiting for your head-patting, kind word of affirmation
or a free tye dye tshirt at the dogwood festival
or a donut from a random man on the street
I am putting pride into practice.
(credit for inspiration to Zach who wrote a Breakfast of Consideration and to the annoying people at the mall yesterday.)
For more of my poetry, please click here.