Sunday, January 25, 2015

Whispers of Ableism

My definition of ableism: the mindset or assumption that everyone that has something that society categorizes as a disability is in fact (fatally?) disabled by that something. 

There are a few things that we talked about in class that struck me, probably because in crafting my personal definition of ableism, I thought of these things. First, I specifically chose "mindset" and "assumption" over ignorance. I know that was brought up, but I am a big believer in the three things you can know: things you know you know, things you know you don't know, and things you don't know you don't know. I feel like the term ignorance has a very negative connotation, thus implying that you know you don't know something and actively choose to not educate yourself. When discussing disability rights and ableism, I feel that ignorance is the wrong term because most people don't even know that they don't know what's going on. In all honesty, unless someone is actually faced with a "disabling" position on a regular basis, chances are they have no clue what (isn't) going on.  On the flip side, there are those that actively do choose to ignore and not educate themselves on this topic, and those people I believe one can term as ignorant.

I also felt it was important to describe disability as a social construct. We didn't really touch on that topic in class, but I am sure it will come up heavily in the future, so I'll sit back on those thoughts until we come across it more directly.

The third thing that got to me while thinking about this definition is that having ableist thoughts (I admit readily that I know I have them from time to time) automatically makes the disability a fatal(?) thing. I'm really not sure that fatal is the word I'm looking for, but it's about the right strength for such a description. Obviously, being physically, mentally, or emotionally "disabled" in some way does not kill you, as fatal would imply, but is allows the ableist person to believe that that person does not matter or is dead to the issue. I really hate to think that this process occurs within my own mindset, but I know it does - and I also know it's from years and years of conditioning to not care. Society, family and friends, and media do this with many, many topics, but the active disclusion of disabling conditions and fearmongering definitely is something that must be actively battled. Just as battling the mindset that we are not doing damage to the earth and that global warming does not exist - is there an -ism for that? Geoism perhaps?

But the battle for conservation is a public battle.. it is taken up in boardrooms, at public rallies and protests - with heavy media presence, and at political scenes including within platforms for elections. But ableist thinking, reasoning, and actions are not battled publicly. There are definitely battles going on, but in the background, and I think our discussion of how the ADA was passed is a perfect example: things are being done to advance an anti-ableist society, but it is being done in hushed whispers, which allows ableism to continue because it's still something that we shouldn't talk about. Talking only in whispers actually condones ableism because we're saying that although it might not be politically correct to act in certain ways (maybe), it is okay to think that way. And that thought process condones and expands ableism. Until we can disrupt that cycle, ableism will continue and we will continue to fight battle after battle, putting band-aids on an ever-expanding virus.

1 comment:

  1. There is a term for willful ignorance, it is ignoramus which has an even more negative connotation than simple ignorance. The talk in whispers as all true of other systems of hate discrimination and oppression such as racism and sexism.