Monday, December 24, 2007

Could You People Hate Us Any More Than You Already Do?

Before you claim that I have no reason to believe that it isn't pity that non-disabled people feel for my brothers and sisters, make sure you take the time to explain this sort of hatefulness.

I really shouldn't have gone and read that article and the comments people left. I am crying and I know I shouldn't be. Everyone assumes that I'm immune to this sort of thing. I am, mostly. I mean, I've heard all sorts of ableist remarks in my lifetime, but what person with a disability hasn't? I can usually spit out of all sorts of sardonic responses when this stuff occurs. Everyone has something that you can use to shoot them down if they really get out of line. That's usually enough for interactions involving one person or a small group of people. However, I've never learned to be emotionally equipped to take the sort of hatred I just read without breaking down inside for a minute.

You know, people with disabilities really take a lot of shit off of people. We put up with the casual use of words like "retard", "nut job", "lunatic", "vegetable", every damned day. We generally don't go around blowing up any nursing homes prisons just because we know how inhumane they are even though some folks have no problem with this sort of "direct action". We put up with shitty housing, illegally inaccessible government buildings, and condescending store clerks every effing day. We are raped and told that it was our own fault. Yet, we still put up with that shit.

Many of us just don't have the energy to fight every instance of injustice that we personally experience. Taking on the entire ableist system is more than most of us are willing to do. But here's the thing: Why should we have to do it? Why aren't YOU people fixing yourselves? Why should we have to stop you from trying to eliminate us completely?

And please don't give me that bullshit about it all just being a big misunderstanding. It's not. You know it and I know it. You hate us. You REALLY hate us. You teach your children to hate us. You blame us for making you hate us. It doesn't matter what we do. You'll hate us anyway. It doesn't even matter if we're related to you, even if you're the ones that made us the way we are. You want us to die or, better yet, never be born at all.

And you know what? I get it. I'm not going to be able to change your minds. Okay, then. But do you have to be so vicious about it? I mean, at least the most of the racists and classists are usually willing to keep their resentment to themselves. But you? No, you couldn't be that considerate. You grow indignant any time we dare point out the mere fact that we are, ya' know, human too.


Anonymous said...

ugh. this shit is just horrific. i don't know where this profound level of hatred stems from, I really don't--i have never seen such hatred as the hatred i've seen on the internet against disabled people--total strangers have NO PROBLEM telling disabled people right to their faces that they don't even think they should *exist*. and you're right--I think there's a difference in the virulence directed at able-bodied people of color and disabled people--i've been made inhuman by different people, but there have never been days long debates on whether or not i even have the right to be alive, you know?

Lisa Harney said...

Part of the problem... well, okay, it's not the problem, but the problem's visibility... on the internet is that people on the internet lose filters. Things they'd never say to anyone face-to-face get posted casually because there's a lack of accountability, because you don't have to look them in the eyes and speak the stupid.

I'm not saying that people don't carry these attitudes when they don't speak them, or that it's necessarily less of a problem when they conceal them, just that the internet makes it easier to be a complete asshole and reveal your true feelings.

And... I guess I can talk all day about what hatred looks like, but I can't really say that I know where it comes from. There's a lot bound up in it - everything from beliefs like "If you have faith in Jesus, he will cure your ills" to stupid stuff like if you die from cancer, you "gave up" and "stopped fighting," that is the idea that being disabled is somehow your fault, that it's something you chose, but I guess I also get the impression that maybe choosing not to lay down and die is seen as a bad thing somehow.

annaham said...

Hi, I got here from Feministe.

As someone living with both cerebral palsy and fibromyalgia, the reactions to this story made me so sad; and even more so when I remembered that an awful lot of people hold these sorts of horrendous attitudes--that people with disabilities, and their issues, should not concern "healthy" people or inconvenience them in any way. And if you choose to "live with" your disability, that is painted as giving up, as not trying hard enough, and as deliberately inconveniencing other people. Additionally, we seem to have a conception of the mind as having ultimate power over the body; if you're disabled or sick and you're not getting better, you are somehow failing or not trying hard enough. I get a lot of this sort of thing from people who do not seem to understand that "invisible illness" does not equal "making shit up" (ie: "If only you ate the right things/were more positive/took this medication, you could CURE your fibro!").

I've often wondered if those of us with disabilities are such a threat to some existing social order that we need to be hated, shunned, constantly reminded that we are somehow lacking in humanity, or inhuman.

Anyway, fantastic post, and I am definitely adding you to my blogroll.

Kay Olson said...

Lisa, as much as I certainly don't want to see the hate, I do think the invisibility of the net is instructive. When you can see the outright hateful things people say about disability and disabled people, you can highlight the lie that people just want to be kind or are only trying to help or that pity isn't dangerous. I think the vast nondisabled population would have no way of seeing beyond the pleasant face elsewhere if not for the hate blatantly here on the net.

Book Girl said...

Thank you, Bint, thank you so much for writing this, you said everything I wanted to.

And that hate, it can be felt by a PWD's own parents, but they can hide it behind all the sentimental ablist BS. That hate nearly killed me again and again. I was a 12 year old child with cerebral palsy who wanted to die because of that hate, and because there was no one there to tell me how wrong it was that people felt that way towards me. I am a 33 year old woman with cerebral palsy who has to fight every day to get the poison out of me that the world forced into me.

Lisa Harney said...

Kay, absolutely. I mean, it's expressing what's already there - this whole attitude that society must be protected from acknowledging disabilities, let alone the people with them.

The ability to see this (and, really, any kind of) bigotry in its full glory just shows what a lot of people are really thinking when they try to put on that mask of niceness when face to face.

It's like, I've noticed that a lot of bloggers with disabilities have comment moderation on - to the point that I am surprised when I comment to a blog and the comment is posted immediately. I know why this happens. Amanda Baggs, Elizabeth McClung, Bint here, have all talked about the purely nasty things that get submitted but not approved.

cripchick said...

you know what's horrible? i almost didn't post about the comments because they were SOOO hard to read. i literally felt deflated after that and knew others would too if they read them.

amber from FRIDA sent me a story about a disabled woman fighting for custody of her children and the comments there are the same. i think a lot of times society likes to think they are being "fair" or open-minded because they view disability individual by individual, but if you look at every case of abuse or injustice that comes out, they all have the same comments. we're always not worthy. we're always incapable. we always should just go away and leave society alone. it never ends. i think that's why i found that i think that's one reason i couldn't really respond to rndo on bfp's blog, so glad you did. i'm so tired of having to prove myself and my people to others who will probably NEVER "get it".

it makes me glad to know so many disabled bloggers brought light to this. we have a lot of great allies too. that makes it all better.

Book Girl said...

And pity and hatred are two sides of the same coin, neither is far from the other in the minds of those who feel that way towards us.

Lisa Harney said...

Oh god, Rndo. The fact that Rndo professes studying medical ethics is just plain terrifying.

KMTBERRY said...

I think tha HATE comes from FEAR (doesn't all hate?). But it seems more blatently obvious in threads like the one you reference here.

Becoming disabled is something that can happen to anyone at anytime. One car wreck, one crazy cell, a DNA trigger, even just tripping and falling. I think the haters are just terrified, terrified, of how tenuous health is. Seeing disabled people and interacting requires that they FACE it, and SOMEHOW, instead of humanizing, it has the opposite effect on them (perhaps because of cowardice? Or Laziness?)

THank you for blogging!

Magniloquence said...

I think another facet of the problem is that popular conceptions of disability create these awful false dichotomies. Either you're Absolutely Helpless and need to be cared for every second and probably oughtn't leave the house, or you're Medically Fixed - you may use a chair or take some pills or not be able to see, but you've done whatever the Approved Treatment is, and therefore *poof,* you shouldn't need accomodations or anything, because you've been Treated.

(Heaven forfend you should have something that varies over time, or something not highly visible, or something with largely palliative and not curative treatments. Try talking about that to some people, and it's like you turned purple and started flying.)

My current job is pretty disability-unfriendly. Aside from some truly nasty politicking (culminating in the administration slashing all references to the ADA from our Personnel Policy, removing any text about hiring despite disabilities, and explicitly stating that they get to dictate what "reasonable accomodations" are*, when and if someone invokes their need), there's just this kind of bizarre blindness to what disabilities actually entail.

We have one man, for instance, who uses a wheelchair. Most of our buildings aren't wheelchair accessible. Our facilities people like to hang things (like the mailbox, the sign-in sheet, and.. pretty much everything else) up high, where even a person of middling height (I'm 5'7"ish) has to actively reach up to reach the tops of things. I keep telling them that they need to move things so he can reach, but they laugh at me. (We've also got a woman who is significantly under 5' tall, and they laugh whenever I suggest we put things where she can reach them too.)

When we had our Christmas Eve party, it turned out that the building we had it in wasn't accessible, and after several minutes of sitting around in the cold trying to get in, he left in disgust. Our Admin Director (who had booked the place) was outraged. How dare he just leave? It's mandatory! He could have been carried inside! Someone could have picked him up! He could have sat outside the door for fiev hours and listened to the program!

Never mind the fact that he was a grown man who didn't like to be carried. Never mind the fact that he's heavy enough that it would have required quite a bit of doing to carry him up the (substantial) number of steps there. Never mind that we're legally required to make things accessible in the first place. Never mind any of that, it's his fault for being stubborn. I almost screamed at Admin Guy for saying that.

(Thankfully, some coworkers he actually likes/respects told him off, politely, and the Big Boss came down pretty hard on him. Of course, his response was "well, what if we put a board down so he can ride up that? We could put down a sheet of metal over the stairs." He just doesn't want to go through the trouble of finding somewhere different to have the party next year.)

I mean, on the one hand, that reflects the tenor of my workplace pretty well - anything that keeps you from giving your life to this place (having a family, living far away, having a disability, having religious duties, whatever) is your Own Stupid Fault, and something you're Taking Out On The Organization You Selfish Selfish Person.

On the other hand, it also seems pretty clearly to be a product of the false dichotomy thing that keeps popping up. Since our coworker isn't too disabled to work, he must not really be disabled at all. Likewise and conversely, if someone is "disabled enough" to require accomodations of any sort, then there's this feeling that they're this crazy Other. Which, as has been pointed out, leads to all sorts of dehumanizing and just-plain-shitty behavior.

... goodness that turned out long.

* Yeah. For that particular thing, one of their "reasonable accomodations" (in response to a request to work from home two days a week as a result of back-related problems that don't allow frequent driving or riding in a car, and for a person whose drive is 1 - 2 hours each way) was to suggest that the person uproot their entire family to move close enough to the agency to walk, so they wouldn't have to drive. Suuure.

Kay Olson said...

Magniloquence: Stories like yours about the inaccessible holiday party convince me that the only way lack of access will ever be truly addressed is for those able-bodied workers and friends of the guy in the wheelchair to go home too. In solidarity. Yeah, it's risks the wrath of a superior and employment and all, but wheelchair guy didn't get to make that choice. It's similar to speaking up about a racist or sexist remark or action. If allies allow it to occur and continue unchallenged, they are not allies.