By Carol Cleigh Sutton: For Complete Post, Click Here…
Listening to the other presenters, many of whom mentioned ableism, but most especially to the names being read – for more than an hour – during the Disability Day of Mourning, something I’ve known for years snapped into focus and demanded to be written: Ableism is Violence.
The problem is Abled Chauvinism. Like men vis á vis women, the severely abled are deeply, violently, wholly convinced, indoctrinated, certain of their superiority over us in all things, at all times and in all places. It goes beyond privilege and leaves microaggression in the dust. Early feminists said things like, “I may be a woman, but that doesn’t make me disabled.” Well, these wheels upon which I sit make me disabled. That doesn’t mean that anyone is superior to me in any meaningful way. I would concede that many people are my superior in, for example, athletics. Athletics, though, is not a meaningful area of pursuit for me. But most severely abled people would come off far behind Marcel Hug, for example, so even that is not an area of unequivocal abled superiority.
A lot of people think of ableism, if they think of it at all, as a softer, gentler form of discrimination. Some believe that it is in some ways beneficial to disabled people. I’ve even been told that it is not really like racism or sexism because, “no one would actually harm a disabled person.” No, just murder us and then sympathize with our murderers. Ableism is violence. It is real violence done to real people. It harms and it kills.
As I write this, I can hear them saying, “yes, but it comes from a place of love.” I explain about the leavings of a male bovine. They say, “yes, but it’s really for the best, they were suffering.” I cry bullshit. “Yes, but their lives were a burden.” BULLSHIT! All of these attempts at rationalization are the violence of ableism trying to hide its ugliness inside the trappings of compassion. Their ‘compassion’ is poorly disguised contempt. It is ableism. Ableism is violence.
There is jingoism, chauvinism in the severely abled’s attitudes towards us. I remember an interview I saw with Ed Roberts. Ed recalls being told by everyone around him that he couldn’t have a life, an education, a family or a career and how he tried to kill himself. Then he got some control back and it all changed. He decided to live and he got all of those things and created structures to help others get them as well. Yet, he recounts being met with frank disbelief when talking about having a rich, full life. There is pervasive, pernicious, ableist belief that life with disability is unremitting suffering, sadness and pain. This belief that our lives are horrific and any sane person should rather die, this is the core of the BDTD (better dead than disabled) movement. The very fact that there are large, multi-million dollar organizations promoting this filth, this violence is an affront. It is hate. It is ableism. It is violence. It needs to stop.