maybe next year

Today I’m recovering from HK on J (Historic Thousands on Jones Street), a march to the North Carolina statehouse where 5000+ people rallied for change, specifically around the 14 Point People’s Agenda. My face is embarrassingly sunburnt to the crisp and for some reason all swollen—to the point that one eye won’t open—but I’ve learned to go better prepared next time.

I want to say that it was the most empowering event I’ve been to in a long time. It definitely was powerful (and cool to meet and be around people, like running into Y!). Still, I’ve never felt more invisible in my life and being invisible is draining (I slept 16 hours afterwards and I normally sleep 5-7). Although representing the “people”, there was no mention of my community— unless you count us as diseases under the healthcare point. The location, though historic, was completely inaccessible and while people had to stand on the hillsides because of a lack of seating, the 15-chair row around me and my friends were empty. When people were passing out pamphlets or asking for support, it was like there was a wall around where we were sitting– time after time they’d do every row until they reached ours and then without eye contact, would quickly scurry away. Are disabled people really all that scary?

Maybe part of the problem was that my community wasn’t present. Though we get disability issues, we don’t talk a lot about other issues, like worker’s rights, immigration, and racism (at least in my state). And with 75 sponsoring organizations of HK on J, none were disability organizations. Where were we?

I’m not sure if me wanting to see disability on the table is actually me being a sucky ally and not being able to centralize other communities. There is a very good chance of that. Maybe I have to understand that communities have different concepts of disability and respect that. I need to remember the word disability is often subconsciously seen as white because of how it’s been represented in the media— the white privileged male manual chair user,—representation of disabled people of color within our movement and how the definition of disability changes with communities. Still, it would have been nice to have recognition that our human rights are violated every day and that we are a community.

A few friends and I are going to get an appointment with the organizers so we’ll see, it might be better next year. Still, I had to write it here because I need some kind of record that HK on J wasn’t all that I had hoped because in a few weeks my mind will probably revert to glorifying this event in the way I wish I could right now. I needed it that much.

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12 Comments

Filed under community, disability, intersections

12 responses to “maybe next year

  1. Liz

    Try not to take it personally Hun. I think people fear the disabled because they feel they will embarrass themselves. When approaching a disabled person they aren’t sure how much use the person has of say their hands. Are they going to hand you something you can reach for? Most want to avoid feeling that embarrassed or stupid. I’ve been at some of The Divine Miss Jimmi’s shows and his disabled friends attend. I always make a point of socializing with everyone but I’m more aware thanks to you and Jimmi.

  2. yeah i hear you, it’s just really frustrating when it’s from people who consider themselves civil rights activists and progressives.

  3. I think it goes way beyond simple embarrassment. People in the main culture really don’t even consider PWDs when planning their events unless we’re there in their faces, and even then, they still sometimes leave us out. We’re invisible to them for a variety of reasons, and I get upset when I hear people trying to make excuses for other people’s/group’s mistreatment and/or exclusion of our community. Let’s call it what is, and work together on ending it! Kudos on your efforts to make next years event better!

  4. Sometimes, I hate people. They are so stupid.

  5. Liz

    Sorry folks, I can only speak from my perspective and I am sincere. I wasn’t trying to make excuses for anyone.

  6. It’s just that so-called progressives and civil rights activists are sometimes the worse offenders when it comes to people with disabilities. They understand their own issues and concerns, but not ours.

    Liz, I apologize to you. I didn’t mean to come off so hard. It’s just that embarassment, fear, and discomfort are often reasons people use to exclude other people, or groups of people. For those who would wonder how one treats people with disabilities — treat us as regular people, the same way you’d want to be treated — with dignity and respect. If you don’t know what to say, just say hi. If you make some kind of mistake, we’ll let you know, and correct you, usually nicely. There are primers out there on disability etiquette, and if people want to know something, just ask. I’m not directing the last couple of sentences to you, Liz, because hanging with Jimmi, I know that you have common sense on how to treat people with disabilities. I’m just speaking in general. I was just reacting because people get stupid with us, and we are so often told not to take it personally. Besides, embarassment can lead to discomfort, which can lead to fear, which often leads to hate. I have seen it all too often. Anyway, enough with my explanations and rants. The bottom line is: I apologize.

  7. i need to be writing a proposal but my thoughts!!

    i appreciate you as an ally, liz. : )

    thanks for everyone’s comments.

    i would know how to address this situation if it was a mainstream culture group (like where liz mentioned) but since it’s another group of oppressed people it changes everything. too often our community uses the privilege we have and don’t do what we ask other communities to do for us. (i.e. a crip conference having a “diversity party” and having every straight white disabled male feeling entitled to be in that space…)

    i spent a lot of time this weekend with a really cool, really militant old school crip activist and it was so bizarre how he was so quick to compare our oppression to that of pocs. a friend of mine and i chatted about this (check out her very awesome blog here: http://www.ironjawedangel.blogspot.com) and she said some brilliant things, like how we’re so oppressed we’re not even on the list of oppressed people and how this affects our need to have other communities recognize this (even if it’s by using privilege as a tool).

    i just want to make sure talking about this and trying to get them (NAACP) to consider reframing their conception of disability rights is done in the right way.

    as far as how that is, i’m not sure…

  8. Actually, I hate people’s stupidity. There seems to be no end to it.

  9. I have noticed this too, and I have lost patience with excuses – hey, can you maintain eye contact with a person of a different race, of a different gender, of a different economic status, of a different religion? You can? The majority of people can? Then jump on board the “We are actually humans too train!” – How about this, if you approach me, I promise, if you talk to me and look at me as an equal I will not stare at your crotch or breasts. Nor will I attempt to grab the same – I wonder if you wil get the same promise from able bodied people who have been drinking.

    I am a WEE bolshy today as they used to say. And yeah, tired of living in the “bubble” – the one where everyone is so damn uncomfortable – are we back in kindergarden and there is a cooties scare?

  10. I don’t think you’re scary. You’re kinda cute actually . . .

  11. elizabeth—LOL. that’s definitely going into my quote jar (no literally, i have a quote jar…)

    love ya, lastcrazyhorn!

  12. 🙂

    You should check out my latest thing-a-day . . . which also happens to be my latest blog post . . . 🙂

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