Posted to several relevant listserves
While this story of a disabled man dumped from his wheelchair by a deputy while in custody, hit the disability rights lists right away, and the major news networks carried the story, there was NO discussion of the issue, not one post, not one email on the matter on any of the left/progressive lists I’m on!!!!!
Amazing! Why the silence?
For video coverage and other reports:
Had Sterner been from a different demographic facing the same brutality might the story have found a leftist spin?
Why is brutality against people with disabilities (pwd) so brutally ignored?
The dialogue that I did find, on mainstream news lists, was appalling. Some pointed out that since Sterner could drive a car or had been able to fly to the Today Show he couldn’t be disabled, or that the deputy was such a nice person that she must have had a reason.
One argument (on a disability rights list, no less, argued that he was playing victim to complain about his treatment, and in doing so, was reinforcing the stereotype of pwd as victim. )
Brutal teasing of pwd is not protected under national hate crime legislature (it was just vetoed by Bush recently) though it is protected in California. PWD are often the favorite targets of bullies, both overt and covert, many of whom are “just the nicest people.” It is strange what pathological sadism the sight of a PWD can bring out in people.
Sonali, has been my friend for many years and as my disability progresses has shared with me a growing awareness of the marginalization and hostility towards pwd. In one discussion, she told she was in an office supply store, near the back of the store, by the photocopy section. An older couple with obvious visual limitations asked the clerk, who had been politely helping Sonali, where the check out was. The clerk repeatedly rudely insisted that the check out (on the other side of the store,) was in clear sight. (“It’s over there, can’t you SEE it!”)
It is important to note that the deputy who dumped Sterner, did so while other law enforcement officers watched.
Everyone knows that teasing the cripple, the retard, the freak is generally accepted on school playgrounds with relative impunity and most people participated in that cruelty. Yet when an event like this comes out, people seem so surprised.
So why the surprise?
I know from my own experience; I’ve been mocked by store clerks in front of their employers, had chairs “provided out of reach,” carts put in the way of my scooter or walker. Just the sight of the wheelchair or scooter seems to attract derision, with impunity. I’ve had similar experiences in airlines where attendants wouldn’t provide a seat for me so that I wouldn’t have to stand while waiting for a rest room (they have a special wheelchair for the aisle) and made mocking faces to each other, while condescendingly suggesting to me that if I continued to assert my rights they might call security. In one restaurant a waiter suggested that since the bathroom wasn’t accessible, perhaps I shouldn’t drink so much water. I have found that it is almost impossible to leave my home without some humiliating reminder of my place as a pwd, of my marginalization.
Here’s one example:
If I have so much trouble in establishments where I’m trying to spend money, imagine the attitudes of people with pathological power such as corrections personnel.
Also amazing is the accusation that we’re faking our disability. Here’s my own experience with such ostracism. Please note, the names have been changed, but many of those involved are among L.A. most respected activists! (if you go to the link, scroll down to the bottom to read the thread in order.)
The daily indignities became so overwhelming that it provoked me to start a blog on the subject http://inbedwithfridakahlo.wordpress.com
At a recent teacher’s conference, when I requested to have a seat reserved for me that was accessible I was told that there was plenty of room for me in the back of the room. An entire table of teachers began to laugh and ridicule my request.
This shouldn’t come as great surprise. Schools are among the most segregated (they call it special) placed for pwd. (The new high schools being built in LAUSD have massive staircases and no elevators, barring students with ambulatory disabilities from attending; barring teachers and staff with disabilities from providing education in a system that repeatedly complains that it can’t find or keep teachers; keeps parents from participating in the education of their children while blaming parents for not being involved with their children’s lives.)
In a society where power is privilege, even on the left, disability, perceived as weakness provokes hegemonic behavior and attitude so that one’s ability and one’s humanity is disregarded and one’s right to full inclusion dismissed and denied.
A dialogue on the left on this issue is long overdue, as are solutions to barriers to full inclusion at events.
Stairs are apartheid. There’s nothing SPECIAL about segregation.
Peace with Justice,
Plan for your future…….Support disability rights!