I am a bigot.
This acknowledgement causes me pain. I’m making it public because I want to change.
Sometimes it’s hard to be intentional in your interactions and even harder in your interpretations of your world. The instantaneous judgement you make of another, the judgments that happen, seemingly before thought, certainly without thought, those, where there is no time for intentionality.
We were driving home after work. We were approaching a very busy intersection. There is construction, the road narrows, cars are everywhere. Because of the construction and because of the slow traffic there has been an increase in pedestrians zig zagging through the cars from one side of the road to the other. We’re used to this and Joe is very cautious before moving forward. They can dash out right in front of you. Often we say things that are quite vulgar when we get startled by the sudden appearance of a fellow human in front of the grill of our car. But that is usually that.
Yesterday, the same thing happened.
With a difference.
Or rather the pedestrian had a difference.
She had Down Syndrome.
She stepped in front of our car, waited and then dashed through two more lanes of heavy traffic, just like all the other pedestrians have done over the weeks that this construction has been going on. She made it safely to the other side.
My instant reaction?
Well, it wasn’t to swear or make a nasty comment like we do with other pedestrians who scare us that way.
I immediately questioned if she should be there at all! Who did the travel training with her? Didn’t she recognize the danger? Why wasn’t she crossing appropriately at the lights? That’s the safe way to cross this road. Has anyone monitored her skills and seen that she was no longer following safety rules.
Now, no one who crosses the road like that is following safety rules and not one other person that we’ve seen do this has made me question their right to be in the community on their own without supervision. But, her disability prompted me to put her in a special category where suddenly her freedom was up for grabs. Where her right to make the same decision that hundreds of other people do was eliminated. Where liberty, and choice and rights were no longer part of the equation.
What the hell?
In my defence I was sick about my reaction moments after I had it. I recognized that I was seeing her differently, thinking about her differently and evaluating her as a citizen differently.
How do I expect to challenge people’s preconceptions of what disability means, if I haven’t managed my own.
My own instantaneous thought showed me the depth of the bigotry and prejudice I hold.
I’m lost, I don’t know how to fight this.