The other morning I did a visualization exercise (so relaxing) of me going to the city. I stepped out of my building, turned left then turned left again. I crossed the traffic lights and walked to the tram stop to wait for the tram. It is at this point I made an observation, no-one on the streets looks like me. I made an observation about something I was thinking about how crazy right? Kinda like Inception the movie. LOL I just wanted to throw that in.
Where was I before I distracted myself? Oh yes the observation! As I walked to the tram stop, I noticed that there was no-one like me on the streets. No black person. No disabled person.
That…that was heavy!
I took a deep breath to take it all in. That was really me, a black disabled woman in a white country.
Why was this observation heavy? It made me realize that there’s no where I quite fit in, I am always in the middle of two worlds-the African community and the disabled community.
I absolutely love the diverse African communities in Melbourne. My soul is always on fire whenever I am around my African friends discussing African politics, decolonizing the mind, racism, diversity…etc and every other African topic under the sun. Whilst I find such discussions very stimulating and exciting, I often sit there and hold myself back from actually saying whats on my mind. For example when my fellow Africans complain about the lack of diversity say in the media or the fashion industry, I always want to bring in the fact that people with disabilities are also excluded but I always hold myself back. I have this constant battle in my head over this. Do I say something? And if I do will that particular contribution be accepted by my people or will I be told this is not about disability issues? By the way this has happened several times before. The classic response when I do say something is always silence, you can tell people are taking in my contribution but quickly revert to the discussion at hand. Afterwards I always wonder why I bother?
This bothers me a lot, it really does. It feels like I have to hide and silence a part of me. I can discuss any other topic except disability issues. Whilst the silence bothers me a lot, I have come to accept it and do not except much to be honest. Is this the best way to deal with it? Probably not but for my self care I choose to no longer force certain conversations with people with no shared experience.
Now over to the disabled community. One would think being disabled makes you fit in right? Yes and no. Yes because of the shared experience, I can easily relate to the disabled community’s struggles. On the other hand no, I do not fit in with the disabled community simply because of the colour of my skin. For example I can’t even mention racism in such circles because there is no shared experience about that in that community. On many occasions I want to attend disability events but the thought of attending such events by myself and potentially being the only black person with a disability in the room scares me. Scares me because I genuinely do not want to stand out like a sore thumb which I already do wherever I go.
So how do I reconcile the two worlds? Is there a point where the two worlds can intersect? The answer is no. There is no place where these two worlds meet. I cannot say for example “bring or force” the disability agenda in the African space simply because people just wouldn’t understand. How do I even begin to tell organizers of African events to make their events accessible and disability friendly when I am probably the only person with a disability who will attend? At the same time I cannot “bring or force” racism and discrimination in the disabled community because no-one will understand.
At this point let me make it very clear that this is NOT a woe is me blog post. NOPE ! Not that ! This is me simply writing what’s on my mind. However way anyone chooses to interpret this is up to them.
Sometimes being black and disabled in a white country bothers me a lot but I am at peace with it. This is the hand I was dealt so I am going to play with it to the best of my ability.
In conclusion yes my existing in both worlds bothers me at times but guess what I am at a point in my life where I am OK with it. I really am. Sure I will have days and moments when I will be angry about it but I am at peace with it. This is the hand I was dealt so I am going to play with it to the best of my ability.