Disability: Crutch, Scapegoat, and Shield

CW: Ableism, racism, Nazis, and centering of disabled voices.

 

Notice I gave a content warning for centering of disabled voices. I’m not doing this to be cheeky. Abled people think they not only have the right, but the obligation to center themselves in the disabled narrative. After all, disabled people are weak, feeble, befuddled and delusional; the disabled narrative is obviously too heavy for us to carry, too complex for us to understand. We’re no doubt extremely grateful that abled people can take over that burden for us.

After all, abled people are the experts in our narrative: they have a degree, or a disabled family member, or they’ve so angelically dedicated their lives to “helping us.”

When disabled people try to stand up and say, “Well, actually, you’ve got it wrong,” abled people get absolutely irate. They call us names, shout us down, then block us on Twitter and go around subtweeting about what problematic assholes we are for not getting the disabled narrative “right”.

Part of the problem here is that the disability narrative doesn’t get much press. Disabled people are trying really hard to get our seat at the table, but the table isn’t accessible. So those “experts” have so kindly decided they’ll be martyrs for our cause and sit in for us.

Consequently, even those who consider themselves on the forefront of the social justice movement don’t know what “neurodiversity” or “ableism” or “neurotypical privilege” are; they still insist on person-first language, and use phrases like “wheelchair-bound”, because they’re listening to the “experts” and not to disabled people themselves.

Another problem is the complexity of the disability narrative itself. “Disabled” is a wide swath of identity including both physical and mental disabilities. Most of us who consider ourselves disabled become a little lax in educating ourselves about disability. We think we know it all already, so when another disabled person says something we don’t understand, we tend to lash out.

Disabled people of all kinds are tired of this shit. I, personally, am completely done with it. So, I’ve given you your content warning. If you can’t handle disabled voices being centered without flipping out and being ableist, please go elsewhere on the internet where we can’t distress one another.

Thank you. Moving on.

Disabled people are the receptacle for a huge amount of bullshit. Abled people use us as crutches, scapegoats, and shields.

I’m not just talking about abled people on the right. The left is just as guilty.

Let’s start with how disabled people are used as crutches. The irony of this metaphor—an abled person using a disabled person as a crutch—is intentional. Yes, it’s is exactly that painful, awkward, and incapacitating.

So. If we’re thoughtful people, we know white people are to blame for electing Trump (and other leaders of his ilk around the white world). What most of us don’t realize is that we white folk used disabled people as a crutch to help get him elected.

Most disabled people wouldn’t vote for someone like Trump. After all, we know the violence behind the “personal responsibility” narrative. People have been trying to get us to pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps since the dawn of time, and all that’s happened is we’ve ended up on our asses in the dirt, with abled people shaking their heads and blaming us for not trying hard enough.

Disabled people know what will happen to us if Medicaid and other safety net programs get cut. A lot of us remember what it was like before those programs even existed in their current forms. And we know that, even if we can access those programs now, they provide the absolute minimum in benefit to us, leaving us in a position of perpetual instability.

Trump’s presidency is a literal death sentence for us. But our identity has been hijacked and used against us to elect him and prop him up.

Abled people see disabled people as burdens and fakers; victims and villains. Which part of this spectrum a specific disabled person will fall on depends a lot on factors like their race and how they’re disabled. For the most part, disabled people of color are more likely to be seen as villains: as dangerously crazy, or “fakers” who are working the system, while white people are infantilized and seen as helpless victims. But it is by no means that simple. All of us tend to be seen and portrayed as ALL of these things, even by a single individual, and all in the space of one sentence.

For instance, we’re spoken of as creatures created by cycles of poverty and abuse, brainwashed by victims’ complexes, who only need a chance to do “useful” and “productive” work so that we can get our “dignity” back. We’re not only brainless, childlike victims, but also conniving villains who are working the system, and only abled people can save us.

Trump claimed he was the only one who could create opportunities to get disabled people back to work. He’d bring back the jobs. He’d purge the “welfare” roles of all the lazy fakers who were draining the system. He’d put a new system in place and make us all reapply for aid, so those fabled disabled people who are really in need could get even better support. Plus, the military veterans who weren’t “strong enough to handle” the atrocities of war would have a new and improved V.A.

All of this rhetoric gets disabled people both going and coming. Not only are we fakers, but we’re weak. We’re not only burdens, but we have to bend over backward to prove to abled people that we’re worthy of being burdens, if we wish to get what we need to survive.

And this narrative helped elect Trump. Abled people thought they were helping us by buying into this bullshit narrative.

Abled people on the left also want to use us as a crutch to counter Trump’s agenda of dismantling Medicaid and Medicare and the safety net. I’m much more willing to be used as this type of crutch, but I really wish they’d give actual disabled people a seat at the table, instead of letting experts speak for us, and letting unethical reporters write both inspiration porn about disabled people “overcoming in spite of”, and sepia-toned tragedy pieces about how we get ourselves stuck in a cycle of welfare culture because of our infantile inability to see our way into a better—abled—way of life.

Now, let’s look at how disabled people are used as a scapegoat.

We’ve all noticed how, when someone commits an act of violence, they’re called a terrorist if they’re a person of color, or mentally ill if they’re white. All rational people know how this hurts people of color. Fewer people see how this hurts the neurodiverse.

Being neurodiverse or mentally ill has absolutely nothing to do with being violent. Say this again, because I’m almost positive you still don’t understand: violence and mental illness are completely unrelated things.

Committing an act of violence doesn’t mean you’re mentally ill.

Being mentally ill doesn’t mean you’ll commit an act of violence.

People who commit acts of violence are not statistically more likely to have a diagnosed mental illness. Mentally ill people are MORE likely to be hurt BY neurotypical people than the other way around.

Neurotypical people are the violent ones. Not us. Some of you reading this won’t believe me. Google is your friend. Do some research about the percentage of violent and other crimes perpetrated upon neurodiverse people as opposed to by them (and/or read some of the blog pieces I’ve wrote on this in the past), because I speak the truth.

So, calling white terrorists mentally ill is a cop out: it’s white people saying, “NOT ALL WHITE PEOPLE!” It’s white people thinking that people who commit those acts are somehow different from them. We white people can compartmentalize and “other” that hate and racism as “crazy”, so we don’t have to think about what ideas we ourselves might have that support and feed into the toxic mindset of a violent racist.

People on the left also call Trump “mentally ill”. He’s not. He’s just a dangerous asshole, and this isn’t the same thing at all. “I’m not trying to insult neurodiverse people,” is the answer I get when I speak up about this. “I’m just saying there’s legitimately something wrong with the dude.”

No arguments here about that. There is legitimately something wrong with him. But that “something wrong” isn’t “mental illness” because despite what people think, neurodiversity isn’t “something wrong” to begin with. At all. Just please, stop. Neurodiverse people are not the trash barrel where you can throw all your goddamn issues. Instead, try dealing with them and admitting that “sane” people do very, very horrible and irrational things.

Disabled people are also used as a shield, which is sort of a hybrid of a crutch and a scapegoat.

I saw this a lot yesterday, during that Nazi march. White people said a lot of things like, “I understand that what they’re doing is wrong. But think of things from their perspective. Maybe they’ve suffered abuse. Maybe they’re mentally ill. Maybe they’ve had to struggle to pay the bills because their parents are disabled.” Etc.

Disability and mental illness are not shields that you can put up so that accusations of racism/bigotry will bounce off. It pisses me off that abled people try to blame neurodiverse people for being the perpetrators of all violence and racism, and then they also think they can shield white people from accusations of racism because of their supposed mental illness and disability. Abled people are exhausting.

Mental illness and racism have nothing to do with one another in the same way that mental illness and violence have nothing to do with one another. Mental illness and/or trauma will not lead someone to be a bigot. Those sick and dysfunctional ways of thinking are not neurodiversity. They’re just bigotry.

How abled people can be so fucking ableist and then accuse disabled people of being the root of all evil is just fucking aggravating.

I’m done with it. Please stop. For the love of GOD.

Elizabeth Roderick is an author and neurodiverse activist. She’s busy writing books, which abled people think is inspiring while simultaneously thinking that she’s a burden on society and should get a real job in order to get her dignity back. If you want to support her in her undignified and childish inspirational pseudo-work, you can find her on Amazon.

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One thought on “Disability: Crutch, Scapegoat, and Shield

  1. Hmm, several thoughts.
    Most importantly, Mental illness is not a risk factor for violence ONLY if you do not consider substance abuse/addiction as a mental illness. Alcoholism is a strong risk factor for violence, Amphetamines are a risk, and PCP is the most evil drug I’ve ever dealt with. I nearly killed a PCP patient in the ER at South Coast Hosp. to defend the nurses. (Thank you USMC for teaching me how to choke someone unconscious with my bare hands.)

    Also, there is a strong correlation between mental retardation and incarceration, but I see that as a “canary effect.” It’s well documented in LA that criminals like to have someone stupid along then can send out the door toward the cops while they escape out the side door. While the cops are busy handcuffing the dumb guy the real criminals head home.

    Finally, I would like to talk — opine — about the problem of American religion and disability. There is a strong tendency in America to say that God rewards his faithful followers. The corollary is that people with disabilities must have offended God. That is totally against the words of that kid from Nazareth, but we all know, he’s a brat. So American religion just goes on enabling the successful.

    (Talk to Samaritan Women? Really? And his attitude toward rich people? He’s a brat. Sorry, I’m supposed to capitalize references to God: He’s a Brat.)

    Liked by 1 person

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