She was mean. She went on a racist rant. She represented the worst of Canadian society, a side that we don’t like to show to the world. Yes, racists and bigots live here too. We aren’t all the warm, wonderful, welcoming types that is the stereotype. We love this image. In fact for our 150th birthday a Canadian company has a line of products that have the word ‘nice’ followed by a little maple leaf. Yeah, watch this video, we aren’t so nice. You will note I’m not linking to the video. I do this on purpose. I don’t want to promote hatred, even promotion through curiosity, and therefore will not spread it.

Here’s the thing about this woman that leads to this post being written. She was on a scooter, she’s a woman with a disability. Now this is a fact about her. It has nothing to do with her behaviour. Even so, I know that, you know that, others stubbornly refuse to learn that fact. So in the comment section her disability came up a fair few times. I’m pleased to say it wasn’t the theme of the comments but it did appear.

What was interesting to me was how those making the comments responded to the incident. There were three ways that appeared most frequently. I’d like to look at each of them:

1) “She’s disabled, she should know better.” This is a hard one for me because in my heart, if not my mind, I so agree with this. If you have experienced prejudice how can you practice prejudice? But, let’s think about that assumption. If a child went to school and the teacher, prejudice, had ‘the experience of bigotry’ on every lesson plan, what do you think the learning outcome would be? For me, ‘compassion for others’ isn’t my immediate response. We place a burden on those who experience prejudice because of difference or disability. We expect them to use psychological alchemy to turn hurt into gold. People who experience the constant drip, drip, drip, of prejudice have enough to deal with in just coping. To demand that they be better people because of it is a bit rich. Yeah, she should know better, but so should every other person on the plant. Children at the age of three know that name calling and rude behaviour is wrong. It’s a lesson learned young that doesn’t stick through to adulthood.

2) “At least those women (the people she was being racist towards) are working. They are paying to feed her and her fat ass.” The assumption here is that all people with disabilities are on benefits and that people with disabilities are never taxpayers. The assumption, too, is that contribution to society is ONLY done through work and the paying of taxes. What’s odd here is that these comment makers are decrying prejudice while practicing prejudice. They are showing what they think of disabled people. They are showing the assumptions made of heavier people. This kind of commentary frightens me. It shows that the idea that we are ‘use-less eaters’ as that noted model of disability compassion, Hitler remarked, is still around. I know that they say, whoever ‘they’ are, that as soon as you evoke Hitler, you’ve lost the argument. Please understand that I’m not suggesting, in any way, that those who made these comments have anything to do with Nazism, I’m suggesting that that hateful idea about disability is dangerous and it’s been used before by tyrants to justify our deaths.

3) “That poor woman with a disability must be lashing out because of the deep hurt from not being able to walk.” I looked away from my computer screen and keyboard to ensure that, if I projectile vomited I wouldn’t muck up the electronics. I hate this so much. Life with a disability is such a drudgery, such a meaningless wander, such a dreadful pain … oh, stop it. Yes disability isn’t the easiest journey. When you are denied access, when you are assumed helpless, when you experience the daily drip, drip, drip of prejudice, it’s not fun. But the state of being disabled isn’t for me, and isn’t for a number of people, a thing that we would wish away. We are who we are made, we are who we become, we simply are. I know that’s not where everyone is, I understand that. But this assumption is that we are all people who bear the daily pain of wheeling rather than walking and it hurts us to the core. I call BS!

One final thing I’d like to say. I always find it odd that when an article appears about someone bullying another person, or someone acting in an overtly racist manner, the comments are all in support of the victim, and they all decry bullying, and then they set out to attack, in every means possible, the perpetrator, even if that means becoming ableist, or racist, or sexist, or homophobic. Odd. And that I don’t understand.