If there was one thing that was very evident from the BBC interview/programme is that I come from a life of privilege. My experiences of being disabled in Africa were completely different to those of the other guests. Whilst I spoke of attending private schools in Harare and studying in Australia, my fellow guests on the show had a different story to tell. There was a time where I felt perhaps the presenter was disappointed that my experiences were different and were not supporting the other guests’ narrative but hey I could be wrong and making a judgemental statement here.
Growing up I never knew I lived a life of privilege. I went to school with other students with disabilities. It was normal to me that children with disabilities went to school. I was never exposed to the hardships that other children with disabilities in Zimbabwe face. It was normal to me that I went to study in Australia. My parents could afford to give me the best education they could. My siblings went to school and so did I. That was normal life to me. I never questioned it and nor will I ever because I believe that is the path God chose for my life. It was however at uni that my fellow countrymen started to point out to me that I lived a life of privilege. I could not understand this. What privilege did they speak of? We were all studying in Australia so where was the privilege? The constant comment I always received was “you private school kids.” In hindsight some of it was said in malice. Somehow I was supposed to feel guilty that I was educated.
Graduating from uni was normal to me, it was what after all uni students did at the end of successfully completing their degrees. What I did not know nor realise at the time was that even though this was very normal to me, it was in fact a life of privilege. Starting my blog completely changed my life because I began to actively look for different narratives of disability in Zimbabwe and what I found made me sad and angry. It made me sad that there are thousands and thousands of people with disabilities suffering. It made me angry that people with disabilities are discriminated against. My family did a very good job of shielding me from a lot of things so I really grew up in a little bubble.
Two years into my blogging journey, I began to critique a lot of things. I became what the cool kids call “woke.” I became consciously awake of the fact that I am an outlier, I am not the norm, I do not represent the average Zimbabwean with a disability. Yes I may be part of the disability statistics but I do not in any way, shape or form represent that demographic group. Yes I am part of the minority group of people with disabilities in Zimbabwe but I am not part of them if that makes sense. Our experiences of disability are completely different, they are worlds apart and that is because I am privileged.
If you don’t have to think about it, it is privilege.
There are so many things in life that even though I have a disability I do not have to think about. Despite the upbringing I had and the life my parents provided for me which I had no choice over, I acknowledge that I have privilege. I do not have to think about someone else cooking meals for me because I cannot see. I do not have to think about someone else speaking on my behalf because I am unable to speak for myself. I do not have to think about someone else running errands for me because I am unable to walk. The fact that I can see, talk and walk means I have privilege that other people with disabilities do not have.
The process of accepting my privilege was not an easy one at all because after years of being filled with so much anger about being disabled and constantly discriminated against, I realised I could no longer be ignorant to the invisible system of privilege I am part of. My upbringing and experiences have granted me opportunities that some people with disabilities can only just but dream of. The fact that I can sit at my desk with my unlimited internet and write this blog post shows my privilege. How many people with disabilities in Zimbabwe have the same resources? This is the reason why I constantly challenge anyone who calls me an inspiration because there is nothing inspiring about being disabled and especially coming from privilege.
However there is a downside to this privilege because there are some people who will always use it against me and not pay attention to the uncomfortable truth that after all is said and done, I am STILL disabled. I still face ableism every single day of my life. My privilege does not protect me from discrimination. My privilege does not protect from people’s stares on the streets. My privilege does not protect me from people looking at me with pity. My privilege does not protect me from the fact that some days I wake up with terrible back pain. I STILL face all the challenges that come with being disabled, my privilege can never shield me from that.
When you are part of a minority group yet come from privilege, it is your responsibility to fight for those who cannot fight for themselves.
So how do I feel about my privilege? Do I accept it certainly. Do I apologise for it absolutely not! One thing I have come to understand and accept is that I have a responsibility and obligation to use my privilege to raise awareness on disability issues, I have a responsibility and obligation to challenge and change society’s view of people with disabilities. I have a responsibility and obligation to fight for people with disabilities. I have a responsibility and obligation to use my privilege to dismantle ableism and oppression against people with disabilities in whatever way I can.