By Jacob Lesner-Buxton
The California bay area has affinity groups for everything. If you have a problem, hold on, advocates from another community are ready to sweep in and help. Do you remember the Philippine Community for Gay Rights, United Students against Sweatshops, and Doctors for Immigrant Health Care Justice? Sometimes it’s great, like the May 1st rally for immigrants rights in 2006 and the Prop 8 rally of 2008 but. . . there’s a down side. . . These organizations encourage members to stand in solidarity with other groups but often ignore disability issues.
When I try to talk about the disability rights community at the meetings I often hear, “I would love to take part, but I am busy” or “I never knew about the disability rights movement” or my favorite, “We are fighting for all people — including you.” Another thing you lefty leaders do which I love is you tell me that, ‘if leave the group, then the disability perspective will be gone.’ Let’s get this straight, you’re too busy for my issues but you want me at the table. For what? So you can feel good that your group has inclusion? Excuse me, but I do not think or speak like all disabled people. I’m not here as a token. I’m here so you will realize our issues are important and do something about them, whether or not I’m in the room.
And, here’s a little tip: This guy you anoint as a representative of the disability community has a few flaws. You might want to check around before handing me that halo.
The bottom line is, as you talk to me about joining the “revolution” and tell me why disability history doesn’t belong at your meeting, my community is dancing for its life in California’s political arena.
You’ve heard of the limbo; it’s that dance where the stick is lowered further and further until every dancer but one falls to the floor. In California’s version of the limbo, instead of “How low can you go” our state officials sing “How much can we cut,” as they chip and slash away services to people with disabilities. During the California State budget process we face yearly attacks on attendant care, centers servicing the developmentally disabled, Medicare, Social Security and other important programs. Some able-bodied “advocates” watch this game, and sometimes make a speech or two, but far too few of you try to break the limbo stick and end the game for good.
The public doesn’t like seeing people with disabilities forced to play limbo. Often, when a newspaper reports on the game, the cuts to services stop. Government leaders know that, if more people realized how unfair the rules of this game are, they would be taken to task for being poor sports. You, Mr-self-proclaimed “fighter of the 1%,” could end this game forever, if you would help mobilize and educate people about disability rights.
There is one group who is doing something different. Lately, I’ve been working and offering advice toward economic justice for domestic workers. This small group of activists realizes that a disability advocate can do something other then be a symbol for inclusion. They show up at our events, include information on our community when giving presentations and, most importantly, let us share leadership in the work. “Including everyone’s voice” is more than a sentiment for them.
You want to sing solidarity forever with me? Take a hint from the domestic workers, spend some time on my front line. That’s how comrades grow.Aired on Pushing Limits, 7-22-2012 SHARE