4 Reasons Why Disabled People Should Support Black Lives Matter
Protest against Black Lives Matter
Since the murder of George Floyd by officer Derek Chauvin, people of all races, cultures, genders, ages and socioeconomic status worldwide have been speaking out in support of Black Lives Matter and against systemic racism and police brutality. Racism affects everyone, including disabled people. We should do everything we can to support anti-racism, and here are four reasons:
They showed up for us
The black community has been instrumental in the fight for the rights of people with disabilities. During the 504 sit-ins in 1977, approximately 120 disabled people occupied the HEW building in San Francisco for 25 days. They were unable to contact the outside world or bring in food and supplies. The Black Panthers came to their aid and provided the demonstrators with homemade meals daily, a completely altruistic act that provided the demonstrators with the resources they needed to keep the course. We must now join the black community in their current struggle, not only to repay their support 30 years ago, but to continue to struggle to improve the civil and human rights of all groups marginalized and oppressed by the state and systemic discrimination.
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Many black people are disabled
... which exacerbates the disadvantages they face every day. Every fourth black person has a disability. Half of the Americans killed by the police had a disability. Black Americans are two and a half times more likely to be killed by the police than white Americans. And that's just the tip of the iceberg.
Most people with disabilities cannot afford a strong defender. Some cannot contribute to their own defense and are wrongly sentenced or serve tougher sentences. Many are denied medical treatment and mobility assistance during detention. Many are separated or isolated for long periods during detention. Recently, excessive use of tear gas, rubber bullets, truncheons and physical violence against demonstrators, reporters and bystanders has made it clear that when encountering the police, people are often permanently disabled.
Ableism has a lot to do with racism
I'm not saying that skills and racism are the same, but there are many parallels between the experiences of blacks and disabled people. Disabled people regularly experience systemic discrimination. We were feared, pityed, ridiculed, excluded, and met with dislike, condescension, dismissal, and platitudes. Many of us live in poverty and have less access to education, work and health care. We have been misrepresented and underrepresented in media and entertainment. Our stories and accomplishments have been appropriated and used as inspiration and “sentiments” for non-disabled people. We and our disabilities have been fetishized, demonized and infantilized. And these forms of discrimination are increasing for people with black disabilities.
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Police officers, healthcare workers and people working in the legal system are under-trained and untrained in dealing with disabled people. After these experiences and with these obstacles, disabled people of all races and ethnic backgrounds should feel compelled to support other people who face similar problems and strive to build a society that is equal, includes everyone and accepts everyone.
What hurts hurts everyone
One of the best qualities of humans is the ability to work together and share ideas and resources to improve the lives of all creatures around the world. Whether someone is contributing to something that affects the whole world, or just a single person in their community, everything is important, everything is important. Every time someone is oppressed, marginalized, disabled or killed, they are not only denied the opportunity to grow and thrive. Not only his loved ones suffer enormous losses, but also their community (and perhaps even the world) suffers the loss of their own possible contribution to the future of human life.
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We are social beings with the capacity for great empathy and compassion as well as the knowledge and ability to create a world in which all lives are really important. We must continue to acknowledge mistakes, learn from them and grow from them so that future generations of all races, genders, ages and abilities can thrive without systemic social restrictions.
It is not enough to be outraged by racism and police violence. It is not enough to complain about experiences of discrimination. We can't just sit back and say, "I understand, but I have my own problems to solve" or "It doesn't happen in my country, so I don't interfere." We have to stand side by side with the black community, raise our voices with them, listen to their experiences, support their businesses, donate to their programs, pressure our governments to be accountable, and use our privileges to combat racism put an end to and discriminate against all marginalized groups.
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