Can a person of color with a disability (or disabilities) also be a person of privilege?
Privilege is defined as a special right, advantage or immunity granted or available only to a particular person or a group of people. Disabled people of color need not apply.
I have not always been a person with a disability. I have been called, referred to, classified as, and relegated to non-personhood as crippled, physically challenged, handicapped and disabled.
The above adjectives have one specific thing in common: THEY ARE ALL CONDITIONS. Anything or anyone considered to be a condition gives those who enjoy real personhood the option and authority to do with it or them whatever they darn well please.
I say this not to be glib or reckless. This is my truth as well as my lived experience.
At the age of 17 I gained my personhood within myself. Once I recognized and believed I was no longer a condition but a real live person, my life changed. I began to lead instead of follow. I began to love my name, who I was, the body I was in, the heart I possessed, and the hard work I had been doing.
I stopped mistreating others. I stopped allowing others to mistreat me. Although I walked with an uneven gait, I walked proud with my head up and with purpose. I valued the few honest relationships I had, and from a troubled heart truly began the journey of loving my family members.
My one failure was that I drank too much of the Kool-Aid and believed in the “American Dream.”
The “American Dream”: All men are created equal. Get your education, follow the Ten Commandments, treat others the way you want to be treated, work hard. If you work hard and follow the rules, you will be noticed and promoted to management and more money. Hard work will get you far and rich.
The “American Dream” I found and understand for persons of color with disabilities is not only a dream, but a true-to-life nightmare. The ongoing heavy hand of White Supremacy steeped in oppression and degradation of “the Other” operates well in this country. We are not equal, as the facts below will show.
Since most of us view the world as a top-down society, people of color with disabilities remain below the bottom rung of the economic ladder. Nearly 40 percent of African Americans with disabilities live in poverty.
African Americans with a disability are more than twice as likely to have not graduated high school as African Americans without disabilities: 25 percent to 11 percent.
Fourteen percent of African Americans have a disability.
Only one in four African Americans with a disability are employed.
Sixty-seven percent of African Americans with a disability are unbanked or underbanked.
What portion of diversity, inclusion, full inclusion and equity is this, 27 years after passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act?
The above facts are from the National Disability Institute September 2017 report “The Intersection of Disability and Race.”
Kenneth Brown is a longtime contributor to the MSR through his column “Able Not Disabled.”