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15 May 2008 @ 09:43 pm
apparently i'm in politics now...  

I can totally blame

hikarinotabi for this. he has been sending me these articles:

unpacking the white privilege knapsack
and
unpacking the male privilege knapsack

One of the things I’ve been noticing about both checklists that they are similar to the kinds of unconscious discrimination that goes on in the able-bodied community against the disabled community. It is slowly teaching me that all discrimination is the same discrimination, just with different excuses. I mean, okay, I sort of knew that, but it's nice to have it written down on paper

I'm not sure what it's like as far as race goes, but in the case of people with disabilities, people don’t actually consider it discrimination. People think that they are looking out for the disabled community, they’re only doing what’s best for us. It’s not quite the same as other discrimination, mostly because it’s generally well-meaning. Oh, there are some things, which you’ll see in the list, are just out and out wrong, but a lot of it is just a desperate want of people to make us as comfortable as we possibly can be, while reminding us how glad they are that they are not in our shoes. I’m sorry if I sound cynical, sometimes I just can’t help myself.

I grew up not thinking much about my disability, and trying to make myself as able-bodied as possible. Admirable I’m sure, to all you able-bodied people, but my disabled friends will be rolling their eyes at me right about now. Anyway, to that end, I wrote a list of what I would have to look forward to as an able bodied person. I have left out the physical complications the average disabled person needs to endure (physical therapy, childhood teasing, surgeries, etc) which sadly cannot be helped, and instead focused on the social structures in place, in particular the more ‘forgivable’ forms of discrimination, the people who ‘gosh darn it are only trying to be nice’. This is by no means a complete list, and I assure you everything on this list is true for me, or for someone I know personally. And yes, I am aware that in the cases of severe disability, some of these things can’t be helped. I hope those of you who had that ready realized what an excuse it sounded like, as most of the people with more severe disabilities are unable to adequately express whether or not they are aware of the discrimination against them. This is not a rhetorical case of ‘if the person being discriminated against doesn’t know, does it still count as a negative thing.’ I’m here telling you we do know. For those of you willing to listen, I appreciate it. I am an optimist, and believe it’s only ignorance that keeps these in practice. I hope things can change. If I am wrong about my assumptions, or you would like to correct or discuss something, please feel free to comment. This is the life I have seen from my siblings or able-bodied friends. I am not here to make accusations. So here goes:


For Want of A Better Title: Unpacking The Able-Bodied Priviledge Knapsack (Or Having It Unpacked For Us)

As a child, I was usually encouraged to have high expectations and work hard to reach my dreams.

I was not slowly weaned away from those expectations as I got older. When discussing my dreams and options for the future, I am less likely to be told to ‘be realistic’, and less likely to be expected to accept my limitations.

I was never considered to be particularly brave or admirable for getting through the day-to-day struggle of growing up.

As a child, I had ready access to heros of films/tv/books/comics, or other media or forms of popular culture that I could easily identify with. (I should add here my distaste for stories like Hedi and The Secret Garden, where the disabled children were miraculously cured or made ‘normal’ by the end of the story).

Similarily, as a child, I had access to toys with which I could play out fantasy ideals of my own hopes and dreams. 

Siblings, both younger and older, are not instructed or encouraged to learn to take care of me from a young age.

I am generally encouraged to socialize with many different groups and types of people, and not simply stick to my own ‘kind.’

I do not need to defend my right to attend public schooling, nor is my education at the mercy of what is ‘available’ at the time.

When pursuing extracurricular activities, I am not segregated into only select groups and activities. I am less likely to be forced into activities that I find understimulating and below my intelligence level.

As a child, my peer group feel comfortable socializing with me, and automatically assume they will find things in common with me.

I am taught that if I am discriminated against it is unacceptable. It is not my responsibility to educate or change a person’s false perception of me.

It is less likely that small children have ever been discouraged from asking questions about me, on the assumption that it is rude.

I am usually able to achieve any education, apply for any job, have children if I want them, live where I choose, and make most life-important decisions all without the aid of a third-party person (or agency) acting on my behalf.

In a situation where I do require a third-party person (or agency) acting on my behalf, (as with the case of making major financial decisions, going to college, family planning or buying or selling a home or vehicle,) generally these people take all of my concerns seriously, despite how inane they may find them. My ultimate decision is usually respected, and few attempts are made to sway me one way or the other.

If I am different in any other way, (ie, sexuality, suffering from mental illness such as depression or anxiety, or having ‘unconventional’ manners of dress, hobbies or interests) it will not immediately be attributed to and dismissed as my response to my own physical limitations.

When I am out in public, people do not go out of their way to try to do things for me that they would not do for anyone else. If I tell someone I can handle myself fine thank you, they will not hang around waiting to see if I’m wrong. 

I am not usually immediately perceived as being in need of assistance or a friend, simply by being somewhere alone. People do not try to befriend me or assume that I cannot stand up for myself when someone uses a derogatory term in my direction.

If I win an award, receive a commadation, or reach a goal, it will not be because of some form of affirmative action, or because the curve was set in my favour, or simply to ‘encourage’ me.

If I commit a crime or do or say something unacceptable, I am more likely to receive retribution for it. I am held responsible for my own actions and decisions, and those actions and decisions have consequences, which I am also generally expected to handle on my own.

I have expectations of myself. Holding myself to those expectations is considered to be a form of integrity, not stubbornness.

If I am lacking in ambition or the desire to make my own decisions, it is usually a cause for concern, and attempts are made to address it.

Congratulations or sympathy are usually in direct proportion to the event they correspond to.

If I am in a group environment to perform a task or complete a project, I am given tasks which I am capable of performing while also provide a vital function to the overall project. If I request a specific task it is taken for granted that I will be able to complete it without undue assistance.

I have the freedom and ability to move anywhere in the world, in any neighborhood or any city, without worrying if I will be able to get around, or if the systems in place to ‘help’ the public will be able to meet my needs.

I will almost never be accused of having money that isn’t mine, or that I did not earn. If I am on government financial assistance programs, I will be urged, encouraged, and assisted to get off such programs as quickly as possible.

If I have a physical problem, (ie, a stuck door, locked gate, being lost), I can feel safe and confident asking for assistance from an authority figure without having to worry about it being dismissed simply as my own inability to physically deal with the problem.

If I am up for an award or commendation I don’t receive, or fail to reach a goal, it will most likely be because of the quality of my work, whatever form of work that is, or because of the person I am. It will likely not be because of my appearance, or because someone assumes I must have been assisted, or that I cannot handle further responsibility.

When I am out with friends, my presence does not limit our activity options in any undue way. My friends do not have to stop speaking in the middle of sentences to avoid offending me, or make obvious attempts to change plans to fit me in.

When I am out with friends, strangers do not assume one of them is ‘in charge’ of me, or otherwise defined as a ‘caregiver’ of me.

With hard work, I am able to improve my financial and social situation and make positive changes in my life, equal to the positive changes made by those in my peer group who are equal to me in intellect, financial situation, and education

If I am rejected for a job or position in a classroom or anywhere else that might be considered as taking on responsibility, I need never wonder if someone who never met me decided I was incapable of handling the situation.

I can accuse someone of discrimination against me, and will probably not be told it was in my best interest.

When I experience success in my life it will not be thought to be some kind of miracle or any unbelievable strength or a point I set out to prove.

If I experience failure in life it will not be thought to be an understandable and forgivable flaw in the system of which I am part.

I am not subjected to a system where I am expected to be grateful to even be capable of voicing these opinions.

If I enter into a serious relationship with a person, it is my own business whether we are having sex or not, how often, and in what way. It is almost never assumed that I am asexual, or that the person I am with must have other girl or boyfriends, because I am not capable of satisfying them

If I enter into a serious relationship with a person who is bigger or stronger than me, I am not put in a position to defend that that person is not taking advantage of me in any way, and neither is the person in question required to defend him or herself.

If I enter into a serious relationship with a person who is bigger or stronger than I am, no one will wonder what s/he is getting out of the relationship.

If I wish to marry I can do so without it affecting me financially. The wedding itself will have a high cost, the cost of moving may have a high cost, but my day to day income will most likely not change, unless I decide to be a stay-at-home parent, or the marriage means moving far enough to change jobs. Even then, it’s my decision to make.

If I wish to marry I am less likely to be asked the questions, "can you take care of him/her?" or "can s/he take care of you?"

It is not likely my parenting skills will ever be called into question on principal. People will not see me walking down the street with my child on an ordinary day and shake their heads, and it is not likely I need to worry about people pitying my child simply for having me as a parent, or that the child will eventually feel responsible for me in any way.

It is likely laws did not need to change or be passed in order for me to marry or have children.

I have probably not been spoken to as if I were a child since I was one. strangers do not revert to simpler or slower speech or use exaggerated facial experessions or pet names when talking to me.

I can reasonably assume none of my children will ever be picked on or coddled or otherwise discriminated against simply because they have me as a parent.

It is unlikely anyone will say it is ‘unfair’ or ‘immoral’ for me to have children.

It is highly unlikely small children have stopped and stared at me in disbelief. I can go anywhere and know that most of the world is familiar with my physical makeup.

If a person uses a derogatory term in front of me, they do not assume I will do nothing, or that I do not understand what is being said.

I can feel confident in asking for assistance without worrying if it’s a poor reflection on others like myself.

If I have a complaint about my life, I will most often be able to make it without it being percieved as a bid for sympathy.

If I am in a group and discussing inequality, my opinions will carry weight beyond simply being a product of my  experience. If I am writing an article about disability it will not be seen as self-serving or narrow-minded, but forward-  thinking and charitable.

I am generally neither expected or requested to know or about discrimination against the disabled community. If, as an able-bodied person, I am aware of it, I am heaped with praise. If I am unaware it is not usually considered ignorant by anyone of importance to me.

The spelling mistakes in this article will not be considered either excusable because of or a horrible attestament to the work ethic of people like myself.