I wish I could come up with some clever reaction to the recent deaths of disabled peoples in the last few months. It would make things easier. Instead, I’m going to make your lives a bit more difficult and ask one simple question: how valuable are disabled lives when they’re not inspirational?I once described ableism in terms and stereotypes everyone could understand, but I seem to have been talking to a wall. So, I’ll be blunt. You, as an able-bodied person, are conditioned to watching people like me die over and over again and not to question a thing. You feed yourselves story lines where disabled people are used for their inspirational capital and discarded once the protagonist has gotten where they are meant to be in life. You describe our suicides as freeing and peaceful not even realizing that same rationale was used to murder 19 disabled people in their home at Tsukui Yamayuir En. You think our lives fade to black and some upbeat pop song with a gratuitous string section plays. You mistake being unable to hear with dangerous defiance and shoot us in front of our homes.
And while you can feign interest in our well-being by putting us on stage and touting your own push towards diversity you fail to realize you in turn are conditioning us to be extraordinary, because anything else and you will become disinterested. We’re the ones required to rise above our disability rather than you rise above your bigotry. And let me make myself clear here: it is bigotry. Bigotry is a disabled girl living without friends and the instant she decides to die, the people that could have uplifted her in life deciding to throw her a goodbye party. Bigotry is posting and reposting photos of disabled children that are cute “in spite of” their disabilities as though the same people would not be upset to be told that their own children are cute “in spite of” being dark skinned, being a redhead being –fill in the blank. Bigotry is making fun of a disabled person in an election cycle and having it being the only reason it is discussed by your opponent. Bigotry is turning disabled bodies into inspiration porn so that they, in turn, have to out perform their disability to be seen as a person.
You may not understand why ableism is a problem or may even categorize it as one of those lesser bigotries, but never be naive enough to think that it is a nonviolent –ism. Just because those that are ableists smile while burying us alive doesn’t make breathing any easier. Just because they retroactively demonize us by questioning the rights we exercised in the first place—like having the audacity to drive without being able to hear or protecting our children in our homes–doesn’t excuse the fact that lives are being lost.
Do you really think it’s better to be dead than disabled? Is that why your children are dying from diseases thought to be eradicated through vaccines? Is it why you blast Obamacare even though it allows people like me, with pre-existing conditions to be insured? Does my disability inconvenience you? Does my need for accessibility make your life difficult? Does asking you to move your car from in front of an accessible curb annoy you? Does asking you to move your sexual escapades from the handicapped stall so that I may use it offend you? Am I dangerous to you? Does the fact I carry crutches threaten your well being? Do my spasms cause you pain?
I know why your comfortable with me dying and complacent in your bigotry. It’s because I have the audacity to live and live well. It’s because I want to live in the sunlight, not hidden away in shame. It’s because I refuse to be pimped out for your inspiration only to be wished away when my needs annoy you. It’s because I demand representation not just on my television, but in my government. It’s because I sit next to you at job interviews and college orientations rather than at home where I’m not your competition. But most of all, the reason why your so complacent with our deaths, is because we terrify you. We exist somewhere inside you, you are just one day, one movie, one trip to school, one marathon, one concert away from becoming just like us. And the truth is, you don’t know if you’d survive living in our wheelchairs or on our crutches.
If you want to take a minute to rail against society’s new obsession with being politically correct, with having this ever moving line of propriety move before your very eyes, I won’t stop you. After all, it is difficult to watch progress in the periphery when you’re hell bent on standing still awash in your ignorance.