Saturday, July 29, 2017

The De-voiced Black Disabled Activist

"Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced."
James Baldwin

Image of the author in profile, an Afro-Latina disabled woman
with gray natural hair,  looking sadly at something in
the distance. Image rendering Prizma credit K. Cevik
Unless you are one of us,  a person carrying the label of being disabled while Black, you cannot possibly understand the visceral nature of moving through space with a target on your backs, and knowing your body is in constant jeopardy because you are both Black and disabled. It isn't the same if you are disabled with racial privilege. It isn't the same if you are another intersectional combination. Because there are those hundreds of years of struggle to prove we weren't chattel while simultaneously trying to prove that as disabled people we have a right exist as well.

There continues to be experimentation and involuntary sterilization and redlining and all the systemic racist ableism in between. So it broke my heart to see Dr. Perry's article Police killings: the price of being disabled and black in America even though I’ve included it below, not because it wasn't well written, nor because he didn't interview and cite Black disabled activists, but because he continues to benefit from our suffering and tragedy by having the privilege to be able to gain platforms for his writing while being neither disabled nor African American, having an education unrelated to disability rights or critical race studies, and operating from a position of privilege that a majority of Black disabled activists cannot.

That is the very definition of white privilege.

Nor could we possibly produce this thoroughly researched an article with this turnaround. Not with the meatspace struggles of surviving with the labels we carry that each day demands. Add to that those who have responsibility for families without equal access to services and supports, and there is not even a level field for competition.

This article may have been well-written but this was our story to tell and we were not granted the opportunity to tell it without appropriative white narration, and in a time of oppressive white supremacy, it feels extremely wrong that a white cis male with no background in disability or critical race studies should both write this and brag about gaining a payday for his writing about us without us, particularly since in the past he claimed to be an ally. He now defines himself as "accountable."

At a time when we have been handed a verdict that makes it open hunting season on myself and my disabled racial peers, unreasonable or not, it hurts me that we again end up nothing more than photographs and quoted content in our own story, analyzed, explained and narrated by an author (however kind and making an effort to present the topic to a global audience) who is neither our race nor disabled.  It is too much like profiting from our suffering. My mind understands the good intentions but my heart says good intentions pave the road to white patronizing patriarchy. Perhaps it is my fey mood and only now getting to read this thoroughly. But that, however wrong to others it may be, is how I feel.

Feel free to tell me how you feel about this article. I’ll come back to it when I’m less sad.

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