For a very long time I have been quiet about the double standards by my people towards disability issues but today I choose to speak out. This morning after listening to a voice note from a friend I realised how over the last two and a half years I was bullied into silence for speaking my truth about disability issues. I used to be very vocal on social media and call people out on their ableist and ignorant opinions. Some people labelled me angry. Some even said just because I am passionate about a movement I should not call people out on their ignorance. Slowly and slowly I retreated to my corner and became an observer. There were so many times I came across ignorant and offensive disability posts instead of addressing them, I would just log out. I had convinced myself to “stay in my lane and mind my own business.” However today I am saying ENOUGH IS ENOUGH.
I am tired. I am frustrated. I am disappointed AND I am fed up.
I am fed up of the double standards by my people towards disability issues. Day after day on my timelines on different social media platforms I see people campaigning for the rights of every minority group except those of people with disabilities. Before you argue that people are entitled to fight for causes of their choice let me ask this question? If you as an African man, if you as an African woman do not fight for and alongside your brothers and sisters with disabilities who will? Where is the Ubuntu that everyone speaks of when people with disabilities are still excluded?
I have quietly observed how on social media every minority group is allowed to share their experiences and those that oppose them are immediately called out. Whenever topics such as as gender equality or sexual violence against African women are mentioned, it is always in the context of able bodied women, no-one mentions women with disabilities. In some instances when we women with disabilities bring attention to this exclusion, we are trolled. I vividly remember a time last year when I was trolled on Twitter for my opinion on feminism and disability. Now instead of people seeking clarification on what I meant, I was rudely told how wrong I was. The message was loud and clear, we are not interested in accommodating your opinion. What hurt about this was the fact that my experience was invalidated.
Another experience is from a few months ago when someone labelled my tweets on disability issues as an “ambiguous rant.” I felt so powerless to respond to this so all I did was block and unblock this person so we could stop following each other. How dare my lived experience be reduced to a mere rant yet every other African woman is allowed to “rant” about her experiences and issues? Just a few days ago a friend tweeted about how intersectionality is actually not being practised but remains something in theory. Myself and another woman with a disability were the only people who engaged her on the topic. Less than two days later the topic sexual violence against African women trended on my timeline. I really wondered why the lived experiences of able bodied women trend and yet those of women with disabilities never do and I came to one conclusion: DOUBLE STANDARDS.
Yes that’s exactly what it is double standards. Again someone can argue saying people are entitled to fight for causes of their choice but hear me out for a second. No person with a disability ever chose to be born with a disability so that they face discrimination everyday just like no black person ever chose to be born black so that they face racism and oppression, just like no woman ever chose to be born a woman so that she faces harassment; it’s just the way life happened. Since I did not choose to be born with a disability why am I being silenced? Why is my voice not being listened to? Why are my experiences as a disabled African woman not being acknowledged? If we are all for transformation, equality, intersectionality and diversity why do these double standards exist?
If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse, and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.-Desmond Tutu.
If you are a human rights advocate but do not fight for people with disabilities, you are choosing the side of the oppressor.
If you advocate for the rights of African children to education but exclude children with disabilities, you are choosing the side of the oppressor.
If you advocate for gender equality and women’s rights but exclude women with disabilities, you are choosing the side of the oppressor.
If you choose to ignore the oppression and suffering of people with disabilities, you are choosing the side of the oppressor.
If you address patriarchy only in the context of able bodied women, you are choosing the side of the oppressor.
If you advocate for equality, transformation and diversity but exclude people with disabilities, you are choosing the side of the oppressor.
The choice is yours to either choose the side of the oppressor and continue with these double standards or you will join us people with disabilities in our fight.
Be found on the right side of history.