I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me. Ralph Ellison
There are so many places I would have rather been this week – like rallies, protests, volunteering to help in some way. George Floyd was murdered in Minneapolis and I live in the Twin Cities. This was hard for me to not be able to show up in the same way I have for disability rights rallies at the Capitol. I’m someone who has a higher risk for getting wacked by Coronavirus so not able to take the risk of being around so many people. But, I feel the energy, the passion, the determination that this time meaningful change needs to happen.
This week, I’ve been trying to learn. I’ve been trying to learn more about institutional racism, intentional racism, history, the human experiences of people of color.
I’m sorry that it took until now for me to try to better understand the experiences of so many black Americans or people of color who’re terrified and horrified by the police. I struggle to imagine what it’s like to walk or wheel on the street, knowing at any moment, you could be killed or wrongly arrested. As a young white man with a visible physical disability, I’ve always felt safe if I would need to ask for help from a police officer. I can’t imagine the fear of just living day after day. To feel fear of the police and this whole system of people who are supposed to be there to help and protect all of us. I’m sick of the unfairness.
The things I can relate to are invisibility. I do know what it’s like when people don’t hear me or listen to me. I know what it’s like when people talk over me or ask someone else to decide what they think will be best for me. I know what it’s like for people to think they know best about my reality. As I’ve been advocating for disability rights, I need to also know that there are many other people who also haven’t been heard or are talked over or decided for. It’s time to listen to people of color and black Americans to understand what’s happening and to be allies.
As we talk about how to bring about change, please include those of us with disabilities – we cross all boundaries – racial, religious, socio-economic, generational, gender, etc. Did you know that in America, 1 in 4 black, 3 in 10 American Indian or indigenous, 1 in 5 white, 1 in 6 Hispanic people have disabilities? [CDC Adults with Disabilities: Ethnicity and Race infographic]
As we think about how we can have a more inclusive, fair, and just society – in schools, health, wealth, housing, and law enforcement – please don’t forget about people with disabilities. Coronavirus and the unrest from the past 2 weeks have shown the cracks that many of us fall into – especially, poor, disabled, black people, indigenous and people of color – let’s take this opportunity to create communities that work better and more fairly for all of us.
What I’ve been reading and watching
Here is my reading and viewing list from this past several weeks. If you know of writing or work from disabled black authors or artists, please share. I want to learn more about experiences of people of color who have disabilities.
- Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison is not to be confused with the HG Wells novel, The Invisible Man. I’m reading this on BookShare but you can find it at your library or or favorite bookstore. Invisible Man summary from Good Reads
- Becoming a Parent in the Age of Black Lives Matter, Clint Smith, The Atlantic
- Ibram X Kendi: Stamped from the Beginning video – powerful and Stamped from the Beginning is on my reading list
- Why Cities Are Still So Segregated, Let’s Talk, NPR – short video that explains red-lining and disparities in schools, health, wealth, and housing
- Minneapolis’ long history of policing black and white communities differently, PBS News Hour video
- Late Night with Seth Myers: Amber Ruffin Shares a Lifetime of Traumatic Run-Ins with Police video
Since I posted this, I discovered a post on where to donate to help black people with disabilities. “Having a disability, whether it be physical or cognitive, puts Black people at an even greater risk of arrest or violence by the police.” Check it out and help if you can! Nylon – Where to Donate to Help Black People with Disabilities