Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Social Justice is Everybody’s Issue

- By Keith Hosey -

I recently read a blog by Rosetta Thurman entitled “Racial Justice is Everybody’s Issue”.

I love the title because my favorite Dr King quote is, “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”. Rosetta had some great comments from speakers at a conference and mentioned the idea of embracing “white allies” in racial justice.

For my purposes, I would like to generalize “white allies” as “those social groups who share the majority of the power” – as in the disability rights movement non-disabled allies. I think the “white allies” in all civil rights and equality struggles are important; those allies have contributed a great deal to the struggles they believe in and add a certain legitimization to the struggle(s). In the Independent Living (IL) movement, we need people without disabilities to embrace our cause as much as we need those with disabilities to embrace it.

Differently than the African-American community or any other minority civil rights movement, the disability rights movement has always had many non-disabled advocates. Our cause grew out of clinically based non-disabled people speaking up for us… and sometimes that’s our problem.

The non-disabled will carry our torch, but sometimes we rely on them for too much. I had a friend tell me once (forgetting that I was born with a disability) that those who are born with a disability are more complacent than those who develop disabilities, but I have seen complacency on both sides of that fence. No mistake about it. We are still fighting a stereotype: “Shut up and be complacent” - and sometimes it's a self-imposed stereotype. If you don’t want that, then sometimes you need to “speak up and be heard”.

We need to remember to step side by side with the non-disabled advocates in our fight for social justice. But only people with disabilities truly know what’s best for people with disabilities. The Independent Living (IL) movement was founded on the expression “nothing about us without us”. Non-disabled are of great importance to the IL movement to help us in our struggle for equal access but people with disabilities are the most essential in the IL movement. So find your allies and either “Shut up and be complacent” or “speak up and be heard”.

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