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I had a bumper sticker that read, “If you’re not angry, you’re not paying attention.”

October 14, 2011

In light of the controversy over an ableist post on Stratejoy, I figured I would provide some resources in addition to my commentary Molly published on the post itself.

Wikipedia’s definition of ableism is: Ableism is a form of discrimination or social prejudice against people with disabilities. It is known by many names, including disability discrimination, physicalism, handicapism, and disability oppression

One reason it is important to recognize ableism is because it perpetuates systems of oppression.  This means that when we are blind to discrimination of others’ difference, we enable a culture that discriminates against those people.  When we don’t speak out against discrimination, we implicitly suggest that those people aren’t important to us.

This was my point in writing my email to Stratejoy.  The blogger in question refuses to recognize that her prejudice further enables discrimination of people with disabilities.  (I might add, Molly fully acknowledges the severity of this post. I know she’s rethinking her choice to publish the post. I disagree with its publishing but I don’t think it should be taken down at this point. This discussion needs to be had and Stratejoy has become that forum. So, thank you, Molly, for allowing this discussion to take place on your blog.)

The blogger’s reasoning to give a child with disabilities up for adoption relies on stereotypes of people with disabilities: that they can’t contribute to society, can’t be independent, and can’t “live well.” This confession was made without any sense of compassion, self-reflection, warmth, or humility.  Her response to me was simply trivializing, essentially attempting to render my point insignificant.

People with disabilities are not insignificant.
So, to make this a productive discussion (and because I simply can’t let prejudice have the last word), I have provided some resources for those of you unfamiliar with the term “ableism” and how you can empower those who do “live well” but live differently. My list is in no way complete or exhaustive, so please share any resources you have in the links as well.

Resources
This
is a beautiful story from my hometown about the first job of Emily, an effervescent young woman with a disability. Be sure to watch the video.

Consider getting involved with the Special Olympics. Find a local volunteer opportunity.

Pledge to end use of the R-Word.

Read up on the U.S. government’s website dedicated to people with disabilities and consider calling into the monthly conference call.

Brush up on the Americans with Disabilities Act.

If you’re in the Chicago region, attend a free training workshop sponsored by the Family Resource Center on Disabilities.

StopAbleism.org – Thank you, Canadians.

Bitch Magazine asks: “What is Ableist Language and Why Should You Care?

#4 here is perfect: Ableism can be accidental. This doesn’t make it okay.

Feministe sums up the argument beautifully: If those of us who purport to believe in social justice don’t act as though language, cultural narratives, and casual prejudice matter, how can we expect to convince anyone else that they do?

19 Comments leave one →
  1. Stephanie permalink
    October 14, 2011 11:02 am

    Bravo, Renee! I love it when people offer solutions to initiate change! I must say that in working with individuals with disabilities, I, myself, am the one who is learning. I feel sorry for people who may never have those opportunities for growth, whether by choice or happenstance.

    I personally am a fan of BestBuddies http://www.BestBuddies.org.

  2. October 14, 2011 11:06 am

    Thank you for posting this. Thank you for standing up yesterday. Thank you for voicing your opinion – the opinion of so many of us – so much more eloquently and strongly than I could have because that post yesterday left me without words.

    And not only are you standing up, but you’re offering resources and encouraging others to educate themselves. As someone whose life has been changed by someone who lives differently – my uncle Cary, my second cousin Brian, the countless people I have photographed during the Special Olympics and more – I sincerely hope that someone was educated yesterday. And they want to learn more. And they want to make a difference.

    • October 14, 2011 11:28 am

      I totally agree with Erin. THANK YOU for so eloquently and strongly replying to the post when I was left speechless as well.

  3. October 14, 2011 11:19 am

    “When we don’t speak out against discrimination, we implicitly suggest that those people aren’t important to us.”

    I disagree. And the bumper sticker? I disagree with that also.

    I didn’t agree with the post in question. I read it and thought, “Yeesh, I didn’t know people thought that way and that is, most certainly, not how I would handle giving birth to a child with a disability.” Then, I moved on. I know what my opinions are on the subject and how they compare to the original blogger’s.

    But I am not an activist by nature and I don’t think I should have to speak out against something to show that the matter is important to me. Discussing it with my husband makes it important to me. Praying about it makes it important to me. But I’m not the kind of person who often takes a public stance on things. There are a few things I am passionate about – American Deaf culture, for example – but even then I’m not often speaking out about it because that’s not a productive method for me. Instead, I choose to actively participate in my town’s deaf community and if people see me and are inspired, that’s great. If they see me and are still apathetic about deaf culture, then that’s their choice.

    I am not easily angered or offended and I don’t feel that makes me an uncaring person or a person who isn’t paying attention. It’s just who I am. It is easy for me to let everyone have his or her own opinions whether I agree with them or not.

    I’m not saying it’s wrong to be an activist. We need people who are. And I do agree that the post shouldn’t be taken down at this point. I also appreciate the further resources. But some of us are not good at speaking out and are best at serving in our own quite ways.

  4. Sarah permalink
    October 14, 2011 1:15 pm

    Thank you for this post and sharing links to help inform people. I know a girl that throws around the word “retarded” like it’s a softball. Everything is retarded to her. Even after I explained how offensive that was to me (being that my brother is diagnosed with PDD/NOS and mental retardation), she still didn’t get it.

    Thank you for this. Really. Thank you

  5. October 14, 2011 1:41 pm

    I don’t think I have the right words or enough words to thank you for stepping up and speaking up, and for being such a clear voice and further, a resource.

  6. Sarah663 permalink
    October 14, 2011 2:21 pm

    Renee, as someone who has dedicated her life to working for the rights of people with disabilities, your post made me, a fellow SMC-chick, so proud. Amen, sister.

  7. October 14, 2011 2:30 pm

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for posting this. I didn’t read the post in question until later last night and wow. I can’t even express how angry and upset it made me. It always surprises me when I come across ignorance and discrimination and reading that I was just shocked that someone would actually think that, would actually give up a beautiful child just because they were born with a disability. I know it happens all the time but I, maybe naively, like to think that people today are better than that. It’s one thing to be scared about the unknown, it’s another to be completely closed off about learning about it. So thank you for not only speaking out for them, but for giving resources.

    Having dated a paraplegic, I would always (and still do) get questions about what it was like. Aside from him being in a wheelchair, it was really no different than dating a normal, fully upright and mobile person (except he could always beat me going down a hill). He is one of the most successful, put together, driven, truly good person I have ever met yet he recently told me that a girl he was dating for the past few months was embarrassed to be seen with him in public. He said he had never felt insecure about his condition until those moments he was with her. Now this is totally different than the situation in discussion here since he was not born with that condition but no matter who it is or what they have, by treating them like they are different makes them feel like they are different when really, we should be embracing them and lifting them up, instead of putting them down.

    I hope I made some sort of sense here :) Anyways, thank you Renee.

  8. October 14, 2011 7:36 pm

    You are amazing. Thank you for being such a strong voice in the blogging community.

  9. October 14, 2011 8:47 pm

    YOU GO GIRL!!! My wife has a disability, she has BiPolar Depression and severe anxiety and she cannot work. People have told her to buck up and just “do it.” Well, it’s not that easy when you are trying to work, have a panic attack and have a seizure. She is also one of the bravest, kindest, most amazing-est person I know. Her love for me and our friends is priceless. Her open-mindedness is gorgeous. Her attitude about life is amazing. And the way she deals with her disability and tries her hardest to overcome the challenges it presents inspire me – oh did I mention I also, technically, have a disability? OCD, depression and separation anxiety.

    People, whether they are not yet born, are children, are adults or elders – with disabilities – can ROCK this world just like any one else.

  10. October 14, 2011 9:26 pm

    Thank you for your articulating your thoughts and the thoughts of so many of us yesterday and today. I wish I had the words.

    “This means that when we are blind to discrimination of others’ difference, we enable a culture that discriminates against those people.”

    And when we enable that culture of discrimination it leaves the door open for other groups to be discriminated against, whether it be based on gender, ability, sexual orientation, or race.

  11. Krys permalink
    October 14, 2011 9:44 pm

    This is amazing. My best friend spent three years working at a nonprofit serving people with developmental and physical disabilities and I’ve learned a lot from her in that time. Because of her experience with so many amazing, hardworking people, I stopped using the “r-word” and now find myself calling people out for saying it. People are people and EVERYONE deserves to be treated with respect, regardless of level of “ability” (able-ness? I don’t know what word I need here!).

  12. October 16, 2011 9:58 pm

    I was both infuriated with the message in the Stratejoy post, and blown away by your response. Eloquent and informative as always Renee. I’d rather write my response here, and that is:
    I have a cousin who is a drug addict. She has spent her life cheating the “system”, is living on welfare and has given birth to 3 children. One of those children is being raised by my aunt and uncle, the other two have FAS and have been taken away by child services due to her inability to parent. My cousin is not a positive,contributing member of society, yet was raised healthy in a middle class family.
    Two years ago I met John. He is a deaf person with a disability. I met him on the bus we both took every morning. He works at Walmart, and goes to a community college in the area, where he teaches and is a student. John taught me to sign and showed me pictures of awards he was given at school. He is one of the happiest people I know. He is also loud, walks with a walker and gets stared at. But he wakes up every day and brings a smile to so many faces. I do not know John’s life story, but to hear that there are people who would have given up on someone like him the second he was born makes me sick to my stomach. His disability makes him different – and absolutely incredible. I could go on, but what I want to say is that a contributing member of society has nothing to do with your appearance at birth, and it is beyond unfair to label the beautiful soul you’ve created as unworthy of your time.

  13. October 17, 2011 2:37 pm

    Cheers to you Renee for speaking out and up about this issue. Like so many others, I was horrorified by what the blogger wrote. I understand fearing the responsibility and struggle that might come with raising a child born with some sort of disability, but what saddened me was the idea that a child born with a disability wouldn’t live a good life or contribute to society. The blogger would do well to spend a day, or even an hour, at a special olypics event and see if she could walk away unchanged or feeling as though the participants didn’t contribute something to the wellbeing of her heart.

  14. October 17, 2011 7:30 pm

    You email to stratejoy was great and I don’t think you could have said it any better. Thanks for this post and getting the word out.

  15. October 19, 2011 12:46 pm

    I didn’t see the original Stratejoy post that prompted this, but this post is awesome – great list of resources. My cousin is getting her MA in education, but her bigger picture goal is to eventually start her own school for students with disabilities, because there are so many ways (education being a significant one, as with so many things) in which we, as a society, perpetuate limits. Often we are doing this unwittingly and half the battle in removing the limitations that we are creating is making ourselves aware that we are doing it and changing the way we approach these issues.

  16. Jasmine Williamson permalink
    October 24, 2011 5:53 pm

    This is a wonderful and inspiring article, I volunteer regularly with the special Olympics and would also like to encourage anyone interested to check out the link I’ve attached below. This is a link to the incredibly inspiring story of Carly Fleischmann, an autistic young girl who was misunderstood for years until it was discovered that she could communicate intelligently and profoundly via type. She’s also writing a book about her life and she’s a star in the autistic community. I hope I’ve turned some of you into Carly fans! Ableism is such a huge problem in society, especially among young people. There could never be enough blogs and websites brandishing ableism and hopefully someday we really could eliminate it.

    http://carlysvoice.com/

  17. June 3, 2012 12:38 am

    Hola! I’ve been following your web site for some time now and finally got the courage to go ahead and give you a shout out from Porter Tx! Just wanted to say keep up the excellent work!

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