Monday, March 21, 2011

You're Not Really Disabled

Since going public with the fact that I have a disability, I have written a lot about the difficulties that I have encountered with disableism, and people who are TAB. Today, I would like to shift the conversation to talk about the policing that can sometimes occur in disabled communities. I recently discovered that a former co-worker of mine who is also disabled, decided to declare that my disability is not real. I have not actually seen this woman in 3 years and she is making this determination by hearing from others that I now use a mobility scooter.  It seems that for her, only disabilities that mirror hers are considered valid. I must admit that upon hearing this, I was absolutely enraged. Honestly, what right does anyone have to decide the validity of someone else's disability.  Simply because I was formerly able bodied, does not mean that this is a status that I was able to retain. I think that I found it especially shocking, because this is the kind of attitude I expect to encounter with people who are TAB not disabled.

I spent much of the evening last night thinking about this, trying to understand where this attitude originated   It occurred to me, that there are Blacks who like to play blacker than thou and this is absolutely divisive.  It stems from self hatred and White supremacy.  It is highly likely that my former co-worker, did not realize that what she said was disableist, because she has internalized many of the negative stereotypes fostered by people who are TAB. The idea that there is a good crip and a bad crip keeps us focusing on each other, rather that surging forward to demand accommodations and subsistence levels of income through government programs.


I really believe it is also worth mentioning that insurance companies play a large role in the good crip/bad crip model.  We all pay our premiums in case something happens, but the minute it does, these insurance companies are on the case, searching for a way to prove that we are faking our disability to avoid paying.  I personally know people who are afraid of doing various activities when they have a good day, for fear that they will be declared a faker. There is also no room for those days when due to circumstance, we are forced to push ourselves. This winter when my son had to test for his gold belt in karate.  It is our custom to go to a specific restaurant before testing, and then head to the dojo.  Since the dojo was only a mere three blocks away, I foolishly decided to walk with my family.  The end result was that before I reached the dojo, I was in tears, and was unable to leave my couch or be active in anyway for three days.   Sometimes as disabled people, we are forced to make decisions to be active in specific ways, but few will think about the fact that this movement comes with a great sacrifice or pain.

We are told not to be like those people - those people who are supposedly abusing the system and so we police each other.  We willingly declare that someone's disability is false and that they are looking for a payday, as though anyone gets rich living on disability payments.  Some are so desperate to prove that they can fit in, that they play the super crip to hilt.  That is exactly the role that my former co-worker took on and in fact continues to do.  There is nothing shameful about asking for an accommodation, there is nothing wrong with admitting that there are some thing you just can't do, and finally there is nothing wrong with obvious signs of one's disability.  Life is not a fucking sprint; it's a marathon. Finally, deciding that others are not disabled, will not win you any points with the TAB crowd.  A sell out is a sell out no matter what the marginalization is. I don't know why it took me so long to see that it can happen in the disabled community, considering that I have seen in it in the other two marginalizations to which I belong-- perhaps I was just hoping for better.