I recently had a conversation that left me feeling a bit rattled. Without divulging too much information, i was basically told that i should not compare disability issues in my home country in Zimbabwe and Australia where i currently live because they are two different places and if people in Zimbabwe treat me badly it is as a result of this constant comparison. This statement in a way “justified” the discrimination that people with disabilities face in Zimbabwe. I then went on to try and explain why i compare the two countries but it all fell on deaf ears as there was no attempt to try and understand what i was saying. There are two issues i want to address from this encounter, the reasons why i compare the two countries and the lack of empathy from the non disabled sector.
Why do i compare?
As i stated before in a previous post, i was raised in a “normal” environment, my family protected me a lot and i grew up without experiencing any discrimination. It is only until seven years ago when my eyes were opened to the discrimination that exists in my home country against people with disabilities. Moving to Australia opened my eyes to the fact that people with disabilities can live independent lives, they can travel on their own without any assistance, they can work, they can live on their own…etc I think you get the picture. I never really thought much about disability issues because i had easy, i always had family to count on. As far as i was concerned i did not want to identify as having a disability, i created a certain stigma around it. I was young and naive, i did not know any better then i moved back home for 18 months between 2010 and 2012 and that’s when reality sunk in. The reality that i was after all different from those around me, for the first time in my life, i was the big pink elephant in the room wherever i went. I began to encounter discrimination from my fellow countrymen wherever i went including church. I was frustrated, i absolutely hated my life. I was told i had a victim mentality from those i tried to speak to about this frustration. I was told to not just complain about things but instead do something about it. It is only upon my return to Melbourne in 2012 that’s when i started to compare the two countries. Why did i compare? Why do i still compare? Because i have had a taste of both worlds and i now know and understand the injustice people like me face in Zimbabwe. Some people must disagree with me but the lack of empathy from the non disabled sector is the reason for this discrimination and injustice that people with disabilities face.
Lack of empathy from the non disabled sector.
Empathy is putting yourself in another person’s shoes and viewing the world from their eyes. I find that very few people have empathy towards people with disabilities and make an attempt to understand us. We are viewed as wanting pity or as having a victim mentality but have people ever actually ever stopped for a minute to think about what the lives we live? Do people in my home country ever stop think how people on wheelchairs travel when there is no proper public transport system that accommodates people with disabilities? Do people ever stop to think about how our houses are not designed for people with disabilities? These are the questions that the non disabled sector needs to start thinking about cause frankly speaking as i stated above this lack of empathy is what drives the discrimination and injustice against people with disabilities. If people stopped for a minute to consider life from our worlds, then maybe you will create a conducive environment for us and maybe just maybe i might stop the comparison.
Rule of thumb: those in a position of privilege, don’t tell those with no privilege (a) what to be offended by (b) how to feel when offended-@janine_j
It actually took a lot of guts for me to write this post because i was really finding it hard to express myself. Lesson to take from this: A person with experience is never at the mercy of a person with an opinion. The fact that people have different opinions about my disability does not in any shape or form take away my experience nor does it deny the existence of my experience.
My experience My story
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