Friday 16 September 2022

No longer Complicit in Ableism


There's many things that disabled people become resigned to. We live in a world designed by and for non disabled.

In 2020 the world watched George Floyd take his last struggling breath in what clearly was a racially systemic action. Whilst we lived, we watched the reality of a negative continued action; this time it sent a ripple of "No more" across the world.

What can only be seen as a revival against oppression George Floyd's death, discrimination and the #BlackLivesMatter movement affected millions of people worldwide. Visibly and emotionally impacting a generation to the core.

As a white man, I will never fully understand what being faced with racism is like. Yet, I will listen fully to those affected by it.

It is for that very reason that I write. I need to speak up with how I'm affected by ableism around me.

I'm a 40 year old man who has, for 27 years, been seeking something better; a presence of inclusion in a world I'm excluded by.

Over the years I've spoken to others who have told me stories of their experiences, how that has impacted them and being resigned to it.

That was until I was met with ableism at a Christian event that was promoted as Accessible. Not just structurally but with new accessibility options and equipment. After reading the programme and checking the website the comparison of promotional expectations verses the actual experience left me feeling dirty; it was promotional propaganda for inclusion without positive execution.

It isn't enough to shout inclusion, it NEEDS to be shown.

It highlighted EVERYTHING happening around me and what I've become complicit to.

Part of me wanted to be resigned to this but I couldn't drop it. I couldn't allow myself to be resigned anymore. Something just broke inside me.

This wasn't personal, it wasn't a "me thing" and it wasn't an isolated issue. This was, without doubt, an outdated, short-sighted and uneducated discrimination. What should have been accessible wasn't and the impact wouldn't just impinge upon us but others as well. Purely because our disabilities we, with disabilities, were being told to sit somewhere different that put us at a disadvantage compared to non-disabled people.

Everything overwhelmed me. Every systemic ablest action, presented with Implicit and Explicit Ableism, resulted in me feeling like an ostracised freak.

If I just acknowledged and tolerated it I felt like I was being dishonest to myself.

On December 1, 1955, in Montgomery, Alabama, a 42 year old, brave and courageous woman refused to give up her seat to be moved to another area solely based on her minority. Rosa Parks was the spark that ignited the racial movement for equality; to which I see our experience as no different.

As I write this my internalised view is wrestling with societal values. I'm questioning the reality of what I've just written: "Mart, did you really just compare yourself to Rosa Parks?!" 

However, we're similar ages, being prejudiced against our specific minority, being asked to move to our disadvantage and being left in a situation where we couldn't tolerate it further.

Rosa Parks later said:

“People always say that I didn’t give up my seat because I was tired, but that isn’t true. I was not tired physically… No, the only tired I was, was tired of giving in.”

It's exactly that. I'm tired of being complicit in outdated extraneous actions.

It affects every aspect life. Going out of the house, having to plan a route to manoeuvre uneven surfaces, encountering inaccessible buildings that serve everyone else whilst being sat outside shops and dwellings. Constantly having people patronise, act and speak in a way that highlights their implicit and explicit views, becoming invisible where accompanying non-disabled person is addressed instead whilst also allowing how all of this affects our self-image. Finally, living in a world where people will physically move you because you're in their way, or finding out that non-disabled people's lives are prioritised over yours. I don't have the strength to keep tolerating any of this, and why should I?

Discrimination happens all the time and no one asks why. Including disabled people who are resigned to their reality; ultimately becoming complicit and perpetuating ablest cycles of burying ourselves under historic tradition than accepting who we are and the need for change.

No one sits and questions what we HAVE to go through on a daily basis, the larger impact it has physically and mentally or the elevated risk just to exist in an ablest world. (People with disabilities were found to be more than twice as likely to report suicidal ideation, suicide planning without attempt, and suicide attempt compared with people without disabilities)

In many ways I'm the wrong person to be taking this up. I'm a middle aged man taking up my cross to fight for something that seems to be every day nature; it seems it should be a young person's action but I'm left remembering those in history, who stopped, at a similar age and said "No, no more!".

Something ignited a now passionately raging fire inside me, a conviction to no longer be complicit. As a good friend the other evening, when they too were stating they couldn't continue, said quoting Hamilton:

If we don't stop it, we aid and abet it.
I have to resign!
Somebody has to stand up for the south!
Well, somebody must stand up to his mouth!
If there's a fire you're trying to douse,
You can't put it out from inside the house!
I'm in the cabinet, I am complicit in watching him
Grabbing power and kiss it.
If Washington isn’t gon listen to disciplined
This is the difference, this kid is OUT!

So instead of continuing this 27 year cycle I'll be embracing the countercultural call for change. Will you continue or are you ready to say "no more"?

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