I’ve been thinking a lot about the topic of community lately and was surprised when my mother brought it up in the car today. My friend once described a time where she felt like the universe was bringing all these little pieces together for her and I feel like that’s happening now with me and Community. Topics of community are everywhere I go, whether it’s a book I’m reading for class (The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, a story of a Hmong family and their clash with the US medical establishment), seeing the mainstream media pump out divisionary stories about workers of color clapping while ICE raids terrorized their fellow workers, seeing how I have failed to be community for other people, or meeting new people who challenge my beliefs in what community is and can mean.
After spending the summer living, dancing, and struggling in the space between various movements, I’ve been wondering if the way the disability community talk about disability pride is really inclusive of all people and as radical as we like to think. Yes, I think the fact that we are redefining what society claims as “good” is amazing and much needed. We’re completely flipping the script. But if we [or I] go to cross-movement events with a superficial disability rhetoric that ignores war, violence, poverty, and other ways disability is used as a way to oppress people, is my disability politic really all that radical? Or how about when I talk about disabled people and am only addressing issues that only those on top face— doesn’t that promote the whole assimilationist idea that we’re valuable contributors because we’re everything society already claims as good, instead of expanding the window of what is good or normal? How is it that when we do talk about outreach and diversity, our goal is often how to outreach to such and such community, instead of how to incorporate the issues of that community into our politic and build a two-way relationship?
Of course I believe in disability pride as a lifestyle or as a tool to reclaim our bodies. That’s extremely militant. I’m just wondering if the way we are going about it is really about resistance or even if resistance is what we as a community want. Maybe to talk about what we want as a community in this way isn’t even right, after all we’re not some monolithic group of people, as evident with both the support and anger around Sarah Palin and whether she could be called a disability advocate.
I liked what my 80 year old Halmoni had to say about community in the car today—that community was a group of people working and living together to fulfill their duties and accomplish a goal. With her definition, it explains why she left Korea 15 years ago to come to North Carolina…not to chase the “American Dream” but to support her daughter in raising a family. She exists, lives, and works for her family, for her community.
My mom also had a good point about community today—that community is something that organically [naturally] happens when people are together. (She used the idiom “birds of the same feather flock together.”) This goes against the grain of my thinking in that much of my organizing has been an intentional effort to “create community”. It makes me wonder if disability culture is something we can intentionally create or if it is something we must let happen while becoming community to each other. I suppose it could be very well be both, after all plants need water to grow, culture needs celebrating…
And this may seem silly, but I feel the need to have a disclaimer. This post in no way is speaking for the Disability Rights Movement (DRM), people of color in the DRM, queer people in the DRM, young people in the DRM, or disability culture activists…. just some thoughts I had, folks. Curious and very open to hear what people have to say on this topic!