The Call is Coming from Inside the House: White Supremacy and the Disability Community

Excerpt: During the insurrection at the Capitol building, white supremacy was all I could think about. While many were contending with the implications for society at large, the moment was a perfect distillation of how white supremacy manifests itself in the disability community. As Madison Cawthorn, a wheelchair user, was riling up insurrection outside of the capitol building at Trump’s “Stop The Steal” rally, Senator Tammy Duckworth, another wheelchair user, was inside the capitol building escaping the violence that led to 5 deaths. A disabled woman of color was fleeing the harm a white wheelchair user had caused to seize power.

“Talking about race in the disability community is divisive.” This was one of my first interactions on social media. I was talking about my experience being Black and disabled, and a white disabled person saw this as a threat. Talking about race in the disability community had no place in the discourse, according to this person. During my time as a disability advocate, I have witnessed as disabled people of color, myself included, elevating the need for more representation of diverse disabled people, only to be met with “well, any representation is good for all of us” and told we need to wait our “turn.” I have also given talks around the country on disability and race and watched as white disabled people left the room as I discussed these issues.

While the conversation has, over time, shifted to elevating more Black, Indigenous and People of color, white supremacy is still a major problem for our community. And, while we, as a collective, would like to believe such discussion is behind us, we cannot ignore that racism is deeply rooted in the disability community and that we are currently contending with its effects as representational politics become a self-inflicted wound. We have settled for harmful representation, because the white disabled men who permeate media representations, political offices and organizational charts were better than nothing at all.

Ableism has always been the best way to perpetuate white supremacy under the guise of “progress for the disability community” and now, more than ever, white disabled people are presented with a choice: white supremacy or disability justice. You cannot have both. Your actions furthering the goals of white supremacy directly harm the disability community with the hope that you, alone, can be saved by your privilege and proximity to abled whiteness. (read more on the website!)

Source: Imani Barbarin