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Yesterday when I was browsing through Facebook, there was a video/article posted by The Mighty. The Mighty posted the video (that has gone viral) to ask its members how they feel about the video and how they want The Mighty to handle this type of information in the future (meaning do they want us (as members) to see kindness to disabled people as heroism, or should we expect kindness).
I didn’t answer The Mighty on Facebook, but I couldn’t stop thinking about their question and how I feel about it. Yes, the young man in the video did a very kind thing, but it makes me sad that he is being called a hero for being kind. Have we really become so self-centered and cut off from one another that a decent act between two human beings is considered heroism?
Also, he is being considered a hero for comforting a disabled man. This is one more example, in many, where people without a disability get to take credit for being kind to the “other” “lesser” “needy” And in this way I don’t like it at all.
People without disabilities are seen and heard in every public space and in every room. We see them as the lead characters on television. We see them in every job, and at every dance, and at every restaurant, and at every event. They are in magazines, and newspapers, they are in government and in the boardroom. They are not under-represented or invisible. They are not fighting to get access or be heard. They are front and center in our culture. They are always the heroes.
I want to see disabled heroes. I want to see someone with a mental illness win some of the prestigious writing awards and residencies. I want to see people in wheelchairs as CEO’s and covered on the front of major magazines. I want to see disabled entrepreneurs and artists. And I don’t want them to be great, because they are disabled (like isn’t it amazing that someone with a disability can do this? No.) I want them to be great because they are great. There are many disabled writers, artists, athletes, business people that are worth being spotlighted, because of their accomplishments not because of their disability.
I read an article recently by a disabled young woman and she wrote that “The disabled are not here to inspire you.” I think when considering heroes and success this is important too. Someone with a mental illness isn’t inspirational just because they get out of bed and dress in the morning, or take a shower. The disabled aren’t inspirational just because they have a job.
Disabled people are as competent and talented as anyone else.
When we get to a point when kindness is described as an event between two human beings and not a healthy individual and a “special needs” man, and when we get to the point where the success of the disabled is the norm and not the exception, that is when we have reached a balance and one group isn’t seen by the other as less-than or inspirational just for being.
We have a long way to go.