Photo Description: a person, whose face cannot be seen, is wearing a white tee shirt with the words: WHY BE RACIST, SEXIST, HOMOPHOBIC OR TRANSPHOBIC WHEN YOU COULD JUST BE QUIET?

I am writing this post feeling cautious and I think that I’d like to begin to ask you to read it with caution as well. Please understand that I am not attacking and I do not wish to attack the teenager who made and wore the tee shirt in the picture. Further I think the kid who did this has his heart in the right place and, further, has the courage of his convictions and I think that’s extraordinary. Even so I want to use the sentiment stated on the tee shirt to talk about a much larger issue.

Spending a little time reading the comments on this young man and the shirt he wore was really instructive. It again showed the incredible divide between those who decry ‘political correctness’ and those who felt that the young man had a real point to make. Some saw it as an attack on free speech and others saw it as advancing a more compassionate world. This is to be expected. In total I read over 300 comments about this shirt, its creator and the sentiment expressed. Not once did anyone say ‘Hey, great shirt but maybe ableism or disphobia should have made the list. After all, the mocking of a disabled reporter and the recent beating on a man with an intellectual disability has been in the press a lot recently. But it didn’t make a difference. When I posted a couple of comments regarding the oppression of people with disabilities, the replies to my comment included someone who said that the including “fake issues” would “water down the effect of the statement.” Fake issues? Water down?

The constant erasure of the oppression faced by people with disabilities from public discourse is one of the most worrying aspects of  being involved in the fight for disability rights and the battle for full inclusion. The shirt is great, good for him, but the fact that no one sees an obvious omission is so disheartening. That people with disabilities face discrimination and violence and exclusion is well documented. That people with disabilities have a history of being erased which includes forced removal from public streets and public schools and public access by being thrown, against their will, into institutions where abuse reigned supreme, all done with the permission of those in society who had control and those in society who didn’t wish us to live in our home neighbourhoods, is evidence enough of our status as outsider, and the degree to which we need to be on guard, our freedom is considered a gift not a right.

I recently looked at hate crime statistics regarding people with disabilities and found that, where that information is collected because we are included, it’s going up. Pretty much everywhere. And there is no alarm, there is no warning bells going off, because people seem to refuse to admit or are wary of admitting that we face prejudice and violence and exclusion.

Watching the news here in Canada about Meryl Streep’s speech at the Golden Globes caused me so much distress. On every news station where it was reported, with the exception of one, the clip of her speech began with ‘violence begets violence…’ and the context of where that statement came, the mocking of a disabled reporter, was clipped out. It wasn’t seen as important that viewers saw the ‘why’ behind the statement. This was done in showing a speech where the press were called to a higher standard of reporting. Is that irony? I don’t know I don’t really understand what irony means. What I do know is that the wilful erasure of “disability” from minority status, from statements about oppression, from the mainstream media is concerning.

They took us out of society.

They welcomed us back reluctantly.

Now, they simply speak and act and live, like we don’t exist.

The ultimate act of violence.

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