Does Black Disabled Lives Matter?
It's the hash tag heard around the world, where it's not a mere fad. It's a rallying cry for the African Disapora's wishes to see law enforcement abuse, police brutality, and hate crimes cease. The call to fight back against corrupted powers seeking to destroy the black community.
While the black community is seeking to prevent another Sandra Bland, Michael Brown, Charleston Nine, or Freddie Gray from happening, I can't help but to ponder the following strings of questions in my mind:
- Whose black lives matter? All? Or "non-disabled" only? Any national news coverage on disabled black people being victimized by police brutality?
- Are there any black disabled people in the movement? Is it accessible and inclusive? How do they contribute to #BlackLivesMatter?
Those are silly questions on the surface. Of course ALL black lives matter, especially all black victims of hate crime and police brutality. However, I cannot help but to ask those questions. I have good reasons to question the disability community's involvement in Black Lives Matter.
One night, I was enjoying a late night McDonald's run with fellow disability rights activists and we shared our discontent with our overall impact on national movements like Black Lives Matter. The lament wasn't our abilities, or lack thereof, to participate in actions. We may have various backgrounds, disabilities, and daily challenges. But all of us in the car are activists in our own right, all of us have attributes that can be essential to a social movement (e.g., charisma, hospitality, artistic skills, abundance of resources (including money), social media marketing, etc.), and most of us pursued post-secondary education at own point.
It's not our abilities that are in question. I discovered in that time alone how my the disabled in the black community are sick and tired of feeling muzzled and babied when it comes to fighting for basic civil rights and opportunities. Also add little mainstream media coverage of disabled blacked harmed by police, and almost no marches or rallies to protest the monstrosity, to the mix. In this year alone, I heard the horrid stories of Kayleb Moon-Robinson, the 10-year-old autistic girl in Jefferson Parish, LA, Troy Canales, and Jason Harrison. Not only those victims of police brutality are black, but they're also disabled in some form or fashion. In fact, they had no voices of their own; they need voices from family or community just to prove that they're no immediate threat to law enforcement. In America, harming the elderly, the disabled, and the youth is a sin. I thought that America, including Black America, would be pissed to the point of rallying, like Bland, Gray, and the Charleston Nine. I got disappointed: only petitions for freeing Kayleb and no large-scale action/rally for others that I mentioned.
Some would quickly point out that organizations cannot rally for every single victim of police brutality and mainstream media can only air stories that are appealing to the masses (even if it is a tragedy). I agree with both. Furthermore, the mainstream news can only do so much, this I'll leave them out of this conversation from here-on-out. On the other hand, I cannot help but to assume that Black Lives Matter or any affiliated org appear to be pro-black ableists only, considering media coverage and the swift, large-scale responses to police brutality nationally and globally (like Bland, Gray, Brown, Martin, and Charleston Nine). I know the movement is not really trying not to exclude people with disabilities. I just wish that we, the black community, can put as much energy into justice for Troy Canales as we do for Sandra Bland in a global and national scale. That way, it can ensure that ALL black lives matter, and not have it appear to protect CERTAIN black lives.
And now to my other important question: where are people with disabilities in the movement and how are they involved?
Again, it's a stupid question on the surface. But I must ask the question to see how inclusive and accessible some of the actions are. I'm certain that there is a plethora of black disabled activists, speaking out on blogs and social networks. However, I wonder if actions are accessible and inclusive to black activists with disabilities. Some desire to not only air their discontent with the treatment of the African Diaspora online, but also go out into the streets and contribute to social movements.
But do organizations think about how people in wheelchairs may need transportation to and from actions, how many sign language interpreters will be on site, which volunteers will be willing to be nurses for those who may need medical attention or nourishments, and other accommodations and services that may be requested? I'm not suggesting that Afrocentric pegs don't care about the disabled. Yet, it is important to consider those who have special needs and accommodations so that they can utilize as much talent and power as possible, no matter what condition they may have. Otherwise, pegs may run the risk of losing people due to feeling excluded in the planning process because of their disability.
No worries, there are ways for Afrocentric orgs like Black Lives Matter to be as inclusive as possible:
- For starters, if someone disabled children and of color (especially black) faced police mistreatment, don't just give commentaries on social networks. Whip out the petitions. Meet with legislators and organizations who are willing to fight for your cause. Write an op-Ed about the matter. Organize marches, protests, etc. Utilize our freedoms and powers in the First Amendment; the black disability community can sure use the support.
- When planning for actions, consider all the possible accommodations and services to provide to people with disabilities, even if there's no one with disabilities in planning committee (though it will be nice to some in the committee for insight and different inputs). Look to see how accessible is the place to people with disabilities. Provide materials in many formats, such as large-print, close-caption, and Braille. Get a few sign language interpreters. Provide medical assistance via volunteer street nurses. Also ask an expert or someone with an disability for advice when it comes to finding ways to make actions accessibility and disability-friendly.
The Black Autst
Sent from my BlackBerry wireless device from MTN