If we’re honest we see how our comfort works. Privilege recognition is a vital part of this but so is knowing where ease of habit must necessarily end. For instance, I’m blind and as I’ve traveled the world I’ve met thousands who turn awkward and even become tongue tied at the sight of a blind man who journeys largely on his own. I transform the comfort of others into “the place where ease of habit necessarily ends.” I never plan to do this.
White people who don’t see how their privilege sits atop their mental comfort will never grow.
Ableism isn’t distinct from racism or homophobia. It rests on the assumption that people not like yours are disturbing and you’ve the right to demean them. Or worse: consider the astounding statistics concerning police violence against the disabled, who of course, hail from every background. The story becomes tragic when the disabled are black:
“Sandra Bland, Eric Garner, Freddie Gray, Tanisha Anderson, Deborah Danner, Ezell Ford, Alfred Olango, and Keith Lamont Scott were all Black and tragically killed by police. They also have one other thing in common: they were all disabled.
As police brutality against Black people continues to be in the national spotlight, the reality of police violence against disabled people—especially Black people—is less-often discussed.”
Anti-racism and anti-ableism are also connected. I remember how, a couple of years ago, when I was trying to get a taxi in New York City, a driver raced away from me because I had a guide dog. This is illegal but try doing something about it. A second cab pulled up. The driver said: “Hop in!” As we drove I learned he was from Egypt and his daughter was deaf. He’d come to America for better accessibility and educational opportunities for her. We had a tremendous conversation.
I can’t tell you how to be you; how to sail the coast of your own comfort where the water turns shallow and you feel panic. I can’t tell anyone how to live or what to do. Honesty forbids it. I scarcely know how to live myself. But I do know this: being interested in others is the antidote to the discomforts which leverage suspicion and hostility.