Can We Stop Contributing To Ableism Under the Facade of “Equality”?

I have noticed something this last two weeks that quite honestly, bothers me.

It’s no secret America (and the world) is going through a massive push towards better equality for people of color. I have noticed this justifiable social movement has sparked shaming within the chronically ill and disabled communities, and that shaming is not okay. I have seen too many advocates accuse other advocates of staying silent, supporting racism, and not being an ally to POC because their insta grids, stories, blog posts, or timelines are not filled with posts about eradicating racism.

Come on, we should know better. You do not have to put your health at risk to be an ally!

We should understand mental health, and boundaries; we should understand some conditions make stress overwhelming; we should understand some warriors are fighting their bodies and don’t have not enough energy to constantly post beyond sharing their story; we should understand PTSD, and triggers; we should understand that each person will be affected by this in their own way; we should understand that each advocate can choose to post what ever they want to post about and not be shamed as they receive enough shame as it is and that’s why they are vocalizing their stories; we should also understand that each advocate can fight racism in their own way.

I am a lot more observant than I appear I guess (or maybe I’m paranoid?) and I think I know when a certain post is a sideways remark about the way I run my R.A.R.E. Community. The R.A.R.E. Community has one rule that it seems some advocates can not agree with-we address accessibility politics only. The R.A.R.E. Community was created to be the place I personally couldn’t find, where I could share factual information about rare diseases and my other conditions without having others with ulterior motives censor it. I know I am not alone in how I see the world, so I made the R.A.R.E. Community a social network, meant to be one of uplifting support and positivity as personally I can’t stand the negative energy that stems from the divisive hatred some people feel okay sharing on the existing social networks.

I can’t speak for the majority, but I can speak for myself-I can’t believe in this day and age, my friends face hatred just by being born. For some reason, I feel other’s emotions way more than the average person, maybe it’s because I am an empath. But I have found myself so overwhelmed with so many emotions I can’t describe. I had to redo a lot of things in my life because of the stress that the state of the world has caused me—while I myself do not have to experience the hatred like others do on a daily basis, seeing it in my job and on social media causes my mental health to become a rollercoaster ride.

My job as a journalist makes my social advocacy more restrictive than someone who doesn’t work in media, and this is something I am open about with advocates I collaborate with. I tried to be vocal and use my platform to shine light on the racism in the way I could, but I kept being told I wasn’t doing enough, or my work was going to fail as I wasn’t inclusive enough. The safe place I had spent thousands of hours and dollars creating was no longer safe for me. The advocates who said this to me knew my entire life story, my disabling and mental conditions, my high stress job, my family’s past traumas, and the fact that my family had just lost our papa. I couldn’t even begin to process the grief due to the 20 hour work days I was pulling between breaking news, R.A.R.E., trying to make everyone happy, and being triggered from prior experiences. This caused a serious mental breakdown in both me and my husband.

What made me fully break down was the fact that the two people who were saying I wasn’t being supportive enough knew that less than a month ago I took racism into my own hands and started calling the FBI and reporting websites that perpetuate racist and antisemitic ideals as a hate crime. I reached out to women I found on the site, and had them report it too. The same person who thanked me and told me she never had a friend do that for her is the same person who told several people that then decided to threaten and harass me that I bullied her for being in an interracial marriage...all because I tried to explain to her and a few others why I was not jumping on the bandwagon and making a public statement until I could fully process everything; my family was also dealing with PTSD from my job and the loss of a loved one at the same time, and I can not address hot button issues like others can. I begged them for help right now as I could not handle everything on my own. I can’t tell you the amount of times I was offered help from people, but when I really need it the most, I was told I was out of line. I wound up making the public statement myself anyway despite my mental state, and I still received multiple threats, not to mention countless slanderous lies were spread. I am grateful for the advocates who helped me make it all end as soon as possible. Only a few stood by me, and they risked their own mental and physical health by doing so. They too received harassing messages. So many advocates that I worked hard at building relationships with had to step back from being affiliated with me for the sake of their own health.

No disabled advocate should ever be harassed by another “disability” advocate-do you not realize you are the bully when you do that? Do you not realize when you shame other disabled people for not doing what you think should be done, you are no better than all the other ableist people you claim to fight? You think a safe place should be safe for every person but not the ones who have different experiences that you don’t personally understand? Why is it okay for you to try to force me to do something I am personally not comfortable with? I know I am not alone in that sentiment, as I know a few of us who have been so scared to say something about this.

I repeat-you do not have to put your health at risk to be an ally!

We can choose to be vocal about what ever political issue hits your heartstrings if it means it does not sacrifice our mental wellbeing, and you can also choose to not vocalize your feelings too. It is okay to choose to not post public statements and choose to fight racism behind the scenes. There are many ways you can help the fight against racism;

  • support POC businesses by buying products from them

  • support POC artists by buying their artwork

Or if you are like me and financially can’t afford to buy unnecessary purchases, you can......

  • report hate crimes and websites that perpetuate hate speech to the FBI and fight racism at the source

  • collaborate with advocates who are POC and help them grow their following/brand

  • Write your feelings as a blog where no one can tell you how to feel or what to say

You do not need to feel pressured into attending a protest, or posting content that doesn’t feel genuine to you. You don’t need to use any hashtag. You can help in what ever way you can, even if it’s gently correcting your elderly family member’s unconscious racism while you are with them, every little bit truly helps the fight. It starts from the ground up.

I do not like confrontation, and I do not like hatred-two things I see a lot of every single day in my job.

After realizing no matter what I do will never be enough for some person on this world, I decided it’s okay to be an advocate in my own way. I do not need to follow any trend to be a good advocate, I need to follow the advice that gives me the best quality of life.

That’s how you properly advocate for yourself and all disabled warriors; I know the intentions are meant well, but if we continue to share the ableist notion that staying silent on social media is complacency, you are doing more harm than good without even realizing it.

I choose to keep my social media my safe place, and the only politics I stay vocal about are related to accessibility. And that’s okay! It’s my own personal choice and if you don’t like it, you don’t have to. But you don’t have to be spreading lies and ableism for the sake of proving your point, you can just choose to unfollow me if that goes against your core values.

You don’t have to do your advocacy the way I choose to do mine, but on the same token, I don’t have to do mine the same way you do yours. I tried to be vocal on more hot button topics, and I just can’t do it. There will always be someone who disagrees with me on hot button politics, even if it’s common sense. There will be someone who thinks I didn’t say enough or I could have said something better, no matter how long I spend thinking of the right thing to say. I don’t like the potential for conflict, so I choose to not put myself in that situation anymore. BUT that doesn’t mean I contribute to systemic racism. It means I understand my mental health is number one, you can not help someone if you can not help yourself.

If I preach about self care and boundaries, then I must follow through with my own advice. It’s as simple as that, no shame.

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