Reflections

White Fragility Makes Calls for True Disability Inclusion Ring Hollow

On any given day ending in “y,” traverse to the comments section of any black disabled person post speaking their existence, and you’ll find a white disabled person “all lives matter”-ing themselves into a tizzy. Take my word for it. While the rest of society seems to have at least open the floodgates to conversations on white supremacy and fragility, people seem to not believe the same dynamics exist within the disability community—even though we reflect the entirety of the world around us. The erasure of black, indigenous, and disabled people of color is rampant even despite the ardent calls for inclusion from the disability community at large. It would seem as though white disabled people demanding inclusion appear to be advocating for it so long as disabled people of color are quiet about their experiences and exist only to bolster the numbers behind their argument.

Black, Indigenous, and disabled people of color experience the world at the intersection of racism and ableism, and no matter how uncomfortable it is to hear, we as a community must listen to and validate those experiences. Often in marginalized groups like the disability and queer community, white people use their singular marginalization to talk over people of color. Often when disabled people of color voice their concerns or experiences, they are met with “here, we’re all the same” or “we’re are marginalized.” While those sentiments may be true, the discrimination they’ve experienced can never be at the hands of racism or be due to their skin color. Responding to disabled people of color this way in a moment when they’ve decided to share their experiences can only be seen as an attempt to silence them about the racial issues facing the community.

Black, Indigenous, and disabled people of color are dying because they largely aren’t seen in society. While the disability community has seen great strides in representation, many of the speaking roles we see are of disabled white men. I mean, I’m happy for Steven Way, but his experiences don’t accurately reflect my own. When I bring this up within the disability community, I am often told, “it’s good for everyone—” translation: disabled people of color should wait their turn and be happy with what they have.

This silencing technique isn’t new, especially from liberal pockets of society: forgo the needs of people of color for the sake of the marginalized group as a whole. White women have forgotten that black women gave critical support to the suffragette movement. White queer people erase Marsha P. Johnson from Stonewall and the Pride movement. Disabled people seem to have forgotten the aid they received from the Black Panthers. Particularly as black people, we are always told our time will come as soon as the most privileged within our ranks get theirs only to be abandoned by allies when it really matters.

What makes it worse is that those within our own racial groups also ignore our experiences forcing us to fight for inclusion on two fronts. Because the language of racism and race science so often delves into lesser capacity, and disability, representations of disabled people of color are seen as the “weakest links” and ammunition to keep the entire race marginalized. We are often forced into our own corners if we’re not isolated entirely.

We cannot continue to call for inclusion that is one-dimensional. And, I refuse to accept scraps from the disability community only to be told we’ve all made it. So often, it is Black, Indigenous and people of color, particularly women, and queer people that carry entire movements on their backs only to be abandoned when it matters. We are told to toil emotionally, tirelessly, and without complaint or recognition of the racism we experience—even at the hands of the community we’re fighting. I cannot continue to accept this as the party line. I won’t. And, if you’re really interested in and fighting for disability inclusion, you shouldn’t either.

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