​Racism in the Disabled Community

Posted by Nila Morton in Life After Paralysis on October 04, 2022 # Lifestyle

NilaWhen I first started to connect with the community, it helped me accept my disability more because I was around people who understood what it meant to be disabled and the issues that society has placed on us. I did not feel like I had to hide parts of myself to make other people comfortable. I could talk about my life in my wheelchair, wearing a BiPAP, express my frustration with ableist people, and share moments about me being sick without fear of judgment. Relating to the disabled community even enlightened me on different kinds of disabilities, especially invisible disabilities.

With such a great community, there are moments when it could feel unsafe and uncomfortable. Racism is a big issue in the disabled community that isn’t discussed often. I believe it isn’t discussed because white disabled people often are given a platform to display their opinions on issues that personally affect them. There are only a few black, indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) who are disabled that have a platform that displays their opinions on disability issues that affect everyone and different races. Outside those few, white disabled voices seem to only matter most. Using mostly white disabled voices can give an unrealistic perspective about living with a disability because most won’t admit the fact, that they still have more privilege than other races regardless of being disabled. For instance, I am a black disabled woman who experiences racism and ableism every single day. If I’m being discriminated against, I will never know if it’s because of my disability, my race, or both. White disabled people have the ability to know when they’re being discriminated against because of their disability.

One of the examples of racism within the disabled community was back in June and July. Two amazing black artists, Beyonce and Lizzo, were called out for using the S slur (spaz) in their songs. I do believe in holding people accountable for using ableist slurs and being ableist, but the way many white disabled people went about it made me feel uncomfortable. I and many other black disabled people felt disrespected when seeing white disabled people be racist about the situation. It seemed the focus wasn’t even on the slur anymore, but an opportunity to be racist towards two black women. Some were even given an opportunity by journalists to voice their opinion on the matter. We have been excluded from the conversation and not given an opportunity to express concerns about the situation. Other black disabled people and I wished this could have been a discussion about the slur to educate those inside and outside of the community and give grace to Beyonce and Lizzo for not knowing about the slur.

Experiencing racism in the disabled community has caused me to feel very excluded and feel that my existence doesn’t matter at times. It did open my eyes to understand why many Black disabled people do not include themselves in the community. I thought it was them feeling ashamed of being disabled, but it was more about not feeling included in a community that was supposed to understand how it feels to be excluded from society. I started to connect more with black disabled people, especially those in wheelchairs, because I wanted to make sure our voices are heard. Our perspective about disability is unique because we have certain experiences that white disabled people don’t have. Those experiences must be acknowledged to show the intersectionality of race and disability.

I do not believe that all white disabled people are racist, but I do feel that the conversation about racism in the community needs to be talked about more so BIPOC who are disabled can feel safe and comfortable in the disabled community.

My name is Nila Morton. I’m a 23-year-old woman in a wheelchair. I have a bachelor's degree in Psychology and hope to become a Clinical Psychologist one day. I love being around my family and friends. I have a dog named Chloe, who is the light of my life. My favorite things to do are shopping, traveling, trying new restaurants, writing, and reading. I hope that every day I inspire other disabled people to not be ashamed of their disability and to live their life to the fullest.

Social Media:
Instagram/TikTok/Twitter: @nilanmorton

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