In the best world, I would have all the words for this. In this world, I can only approximate, which is why I’d like to say from the outset that I have no idea what it is like to be a person of color in this not-at-all-the-best world today. I have only knowledge and pitiful understanding of what black and brown people face every single second of every single day from a society who collectively thinks it is so much better than it used to be, or, worse, who insists that racism no longer exists.
That said, I am a disabled person. And I can tell you, as a disabled person, I am hella angry, and if my anger is anything at all like the anger of folks doing racial activism in this country, I know it and I feel it, at least a little bit.
If there was a movement for me as a disabled person to stop traffic on a freeway, to yell and scream and link arms and create a human wall of passion and rage, I would be there. That’s why, when people say to me that they don’t understand why everyone is so angry and has such a bad attitude, I just think, I know why. I’m angry like them; I know how it is, a little bit.
Here are some reasons I am angry:
1. I am 31 and have never had a steady job that pays me enough to live independently and with relative ease. You can say this is due to the economy, but it is mostly due to people not knowing how to work with a blind person, and not believing she can be an asset rather than a hindrance.
2. Because of this, I am 31 and have also never had reliable, consistent health insurance. It’s a good thing my blindness doesn’t actually present any day-to-day medical challenges.
3. Every time I leave my house, I have to decide if I’m willing to handle nosy questions, pushy offers of “help”, or harassment directly related to my presenting as a blind woman. If I want to live in the world that day, I have to make peace with the fact that this could happen at any time I am outside my house. If I just can’t deal that day, I stay home and a day of productivity is lost.
4. No one, on a bus or a sidewalk or in any building in any situation, has ever tried to intervene on my behalf when I am being catcalled, questioned, or harassed. People walk by. I imagine they either stare or look away quickly. If I want allies, I defend myself. That usually does not help.
5. Because of a world that is in no way created for disabled people, it takes me much longer to do simple tasks. This usually fits the narrative that blind people can’t do anything, so the narrative is perpetuated. Very few think about the problem as being about the rest of the world, not the blind individual.
These things are just the tip of why I am angry, and why I am more angry now than I was last year, or five years ago, and why I fight to keep my anger in check way more often than I’d like. This is why when I see people with immense privilege refusing to acknowledge that, I want to scream and stop traffic and howl with the injustice.
And that is why, sometimes, I am not very kind to people with that privilege, even if they are the people I love the most. I am not proud of this. Sometimes, my pain and frustration is such that I can’t separate the “privileged people who get it” from the “whole ignorant and privileged society.” It all mashes together into people that will just never, ever truly understand. The people I love the most get caught in the fire. No one is spared, because ultimately, privileged people, even those who get it, benefit from this system that keeps disabled people from the most basic livelihood.
As I said, I am not at all proud of my reactions, my pain, my anger, the fact that it drags down those I love. I ache for the hurt I’ve caused. I spend as much time yelling at myself for being an asshole as I do being angry, if not more. I am so, so sorry. I love you. Thank you for sticking with me. Please forgive me.
The terrible part, the absolute worst part, is that I can’t guarantee it won’t happen again. I can only hope for, if not the best world, a better one.