It's Beginning to Look A Lot Like Fun*Run Time

It's ALREADY that time of year again: The ADAPT Fun*Run for Disability Rights is April 22nd 2012. Maryland's fundraising goal is $8,000 this year. Yes, that's right, $8,000

Donate $1! Donate $10! Donate $100! Donate $1,000! JUST DONATE so we can FREE OUR PEOPLE! I thank you very much for your support!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

I am Not a Freak

"Almost always, the creative dedicated minority has made the world better." ~MLK Jr

When I saw that this month's DBC was being held in conjunction with MLK Jr Day, something deep inside of me got mad. I wasn't upset that the carnival is Monday. In fact I thought that was a great idea. I don't have anything against MLK Jr at all. In fact, ADAPT has long considered his birthday (today) to be "Freedom Day." We're down with him. What angers me is why some people aren't down with us.

I don't know how people viewed Black Civil Rights leaders during the 1960's, when everything was going on. I wasn't around in the 60's, I'm 25. I imagine things were viewed differently depending on which geographic region of the country you resided in at the time. What I do know is that now, in 2011, and for at least the last 20 years, Malcom X, MLK, Nelson Mandela (yes, I know he's not American) have been regarded as national heros, while I am regarded by some people as a freak.

Please explain to me why blocking a bus with a powerchair is different then refusing to get up from the front of a bus. Please explain to me why yelling outside of an inaccessible McDonald's (that link is in Mandarin, use Google Translate) is different then refusing to get up from a lunch counter?

Did people tell MLK to just "be nice?" Not just people, but Black people. HIS people. I'm sure some did. I've been looked down upon by other PWDs, wheelchair users, been instructed to "be nice." I've gotten in arguments with certain PWDs (those old friends), who don't agree with how or why I do the things I do, so often that we no longer speak. Being nice in my experience rarely gets you what you need, your civil rights. IN YOUR FACE does.

MLK Jr said
We who in engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive.
I'd have to agree with this. People are scared of people with disabilities. Especially people with very visible physical disabilities and significant psychiatric disabilities -- people who cannot pass. People are scared, fearful of what is different; of what they do not know. By making our very visible selves even MORE visible we are intensifying this fear. I get that. That explains why TABs get nervous around ADAPTers, but that doesn't explain why some PWDs are put off by us. We're not any more different then they are.

I think PWDs are put off by me (us) because by hanging out with people who do things such as handcuff themselves to the White House fence, I challenge their reality, how they were raised, the ways they think are the "right" ways to be a PWD. Don't call attention to your disability. Don't ask for "special" treatment. Be nicer then other people. You should be grateful for what you do get. Etc.

My parents taught me not to settle. My parents taught me separate is not equal. My parents taught me that sometimes to get what you need you have to stop being nice and start being FORCEFUL. My parents taught me this when I was 5. And my mother wonders why I'm so into ADAPT... But that's another topic and story entirely...

The theme for this carnival is "let your freak flag fly." I'm different. I'm a radical. I challenge not just the "norm" but I also challenge the "atypical." ADAPTers call ourselves "wild and weird ones." I wear that label with pride. But I'm not a "freak" in the way that people who judge me intend that word to be meant.

Why are Malcolm X, MLK Jr, and Nelson Mandela national heros but not Ed Roberts and Justin Dart Jr? We are the same. We do the same. We're not freaks. We're also a very creative dedicated minority hell bent on making the world a better place.


Penny L. Richards said...

I find myself countering the "nice" a lot in conversations about my son. As in: "Isn't it nice that he can ride the schoolbus?" "No, it isn't nice, it's his right." Long version: The services he accesses aren't about anyone being nice; he has rights, and someone had to be not-nice to secure them. And someone has to be not-nice every day to preserve them.

In recognition of that, we'll be marking the first official Ed Roberts Day in California this week, on January 23.

Anonymous said...

Amen! The whole "sit down, shut up, be nice and be grateful for what you have" logic always winds me up. It is especially insidious when it is used by the privileged to pit one minority group against anther. (ie: "Look how bad XXX groups has it. You don't hear them complaining all the time!") as if oppression could be funneled into this one-size-fits-all monolith. Progress made for one oppressed group is indeed a good thing, but it does not necessarily mean the end of the oppression for other groups. - G

Cheryl said...

Penny, thanks for delurking during delurking week! This should be an interesting carnival!

IDEAS said...

Very true. Progress isn't made by sitting quietly in the corner and watching the world go by. MLK day is a great reminder that it's important to speak out (LOUDLY!)

Cheryl said...

Thanks for commenting Emma!

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