One of the most important takeaways from Daniel Goodley and Katherine Runswick-Cole’s article Becoming dishuman: thinking about the human through dis/ability can be boiled down to one word: embrace. Embrace the differences around you, embrace your differences, and embrace the fact that people with disabilities are still people. They still have desires for things that people without disabilities have such as love, happiness, and independence. Daniel Goodley and Katherine Runswick-Cole state that “We are people, individuals in our own right, with preferences not just for tea or coffee but also for other elements of our lives such as where we live, what we do in the daytime and who we would like to share our lives with”. In my opinion, the world gets so caught up in dehumanizing people with disabilities by treating them like they are lesser people in an attempt to “help” them. Society forces a person’s identity to be entirely reliant on their disability rather than who they are as a person.
My twin sister has down syndrome so this article definitely hit a nerve with me. The article talks about very real things that anyone who has a disability ,or someone who is close to someone with a disability, has experienced first-hand. The constant staring, the assumption that they need help with every single task, and the assumption that they are stupid or less than a “regular” person is something that I have personally seen. It’s such a normal thing for so many people. Someone with a disability does not get to speak for themselves often. So many people ask questions to someone with a disability and accept an answer that an entirely different person gives. People with disabilities often have their opinions and personal wants or desires completely ignored because they are immediately deemed less valuable than those without disabilities.
I don’t think that the authors of the article necessarily want the reader to challenge the term disability, but rather the people who believe that the term literally means “not able”. Those who believe that people with disabilities are lesser people and that they need to be “cured” or “treated”. Those are the ones who need to be challenged. Eli Clare writes in his article Stolen Bodies, Reclaimed Bodies: Disability and Queerness: “the disability rights movement has created a new model of disability, one that places emphasis on how the world treats disabled people: Disability, not defined by our bodies, but rather by the material and social conditions of ableism; not by the need to use a wheelchair, but rather by the stairs that have no accompanying ramp or elevator”. The disability rights movement focuses on disability being how the world treats disabled people. An unaccommodating and quite frankly unsympathetic society is the true disability in the world.
i) Normative narratives
I thought it was interesting that so many people, including myself, wrote about a story in which they were on a vacation or a trip somewhere. Karley wrote about a story where she was on a trip to Las Vegas and she saw some people who did not have a home, Tamantha wrote about a time in which she was in Berlin and saw some people who did not have a home, and I wrote about a story where I was in Hawaii and saw people who did not have a home. It seems that for many of us, we don’t see people who are homeless in our own town, even if it’s right in front of us. The times where we notice that there is a class difference is when we are brought out of familiar territory. I personally did not notice any class difference in my town until I went onto this trip. Karley, Tamantha, and I all realized on these trips that we don’t worry about where we are going to sleep that night and what we are going to eat. It was a wake-up call that shows how tough some people have it.
The normative narrative that seems to be apparent in all of our stories is that we kind of ignored class differences until we had no choice but to look at it. I don’t think we ignored them on purpose, but I think they just went right by us because we didn’t experience it. We were all on trips, a luxury, where sightseeing is one of the main things that you do, so when you are making a point to look around at everything, you begin to see everything.
It’s also such a common thing for people to feel guilty and try to ease that guilt. A normative narrative that often comes from things like seeing a class difference or seeing homeless is the expectation that someone better off will help. If everyone thinks that someone else will help then nobody will end up helping. It is a fairly common thing to brush off other people’s hardships because it does not directly affect you.
ii) Creating counter-stories: Disrupting normative narratives
I could not find a story that disrupted the normative narratives above so I am going to use personal stories or examples. I don’t want to sound like a saint or boast or anything, but I disrupted one of the narratives In my own story. I remember that I gave the homeless man a bottle of water. It is not a massive deal, but I went out of my way to give that man a bottle of water rather than telling myself that someone else will help. I know that a lot of my classmates probably do charity or volunteer work, which disrupts that narrative as well. People who do charity or volunteer work are doing something to help those in need rather than hoping someone else does it.
Sensoy and DiAngelo’s Is Everyone Really Equal highlights many common phrases that those in the upper class say often say to feel better. “We live in a classless society where anyone can make it”(167), “Sports and sports scholarships offer minorities a way out”(168), and “people just need to work hard and not expect handouts”(171) are all examples of the types of problematic phrases that the book tackles head-on. All of those phrases are said with the “it’s not my problem” mindset. All of those common phrases also plant the idea that those experiencing poverty or homelessness are doing something wrong and that it is entirely their fault. This is obviously a very problematic mindset to have. We as a community need to ensure that the generations coming up are educated so that we can try to avoid classism in the future.
Growing up with three sisters around you all the time is not a walk in the park. I spend the majority of my time with them because my brother is usually playing hockey. My two older sisters often find joy in practicing their “skills” on me. Those skills ranged anywhere from forcibly painting my nails to forcibly putting makeup on my face. I usually don’t even care that they do that to me. They’ve gone the whole nine yards today. Literally everything. My clothes, makeup, and nails were all done to their liking. Prancing around like I was the newest Miss Universe, I heard the garage door open. My sisters start laughing hysterically at me as the garage door hums in the background and a panicked look takes over my face. My mom and dad were home.
I didn’t care about my mom seeing me like this, but I sure care about my dad seeing me. I always acted like a stereotypical “man” around my hockey playing, farming, and motorcycle riding dad. I think to myself “I can’t let him see me acting like a girl, he will be so disappointed in me”, so I violently jumped down the stairs to get downstairs as quick as possible. As soon as I got to the bottom step of the stairs, the door opened, my dogs came rushing into the house, and the hard footsteps of my mom and dad echoed above me. I ran to the bathroom, took my clothes off, put my regular clothes on, and tried to wash everything off of me. I think I got most of the makeup off but I couldn’t get the nail polish off. My sisters came down to help me after finally calming down from their laughing fit. They took the nail polish off and I thought to myself “this was a close one, I can’t keep letting them do this to me. I can’t get caught by my dad”. My parents brought home some Dilly Bars from Dairy Queen and I want one before my family eats all of them. So I go upstairs with my sisters and grab a Dilly Bar.
As I’m sitting on the stool at the island, my mom asks me what’s on my face. I can feel my face getting red hot and I turn my head away from my dad who is now very obviously trying to see what’s on my face. My sisters start laughing at me which makes my face feel even more hot. I tell my mom “nothing”, finish my Dilly Bar, and run downstairs to keep scrubbing my face.
I can’t see. The sun is shining through the windows and going directly into my eyes. I put my hands over my eyes and turn away from the windows to realize that I am on the floor. I lay on the carpet for a moment confused until I remember that I am not at home; I am in Hawaii. I get my bearings and remember what we are doing today. I quickly jump up and put shorts and a t-shirt on. I shared the room with my brother but I knew better than to wake him up, so I quietly open the door and go to the kitchen. Everyone in my family is already awake and chatting in the kitchen so I decide it is safe to stop creeping around. My brother joins us about 10 minutes later. As soon as we all finish eating our breakfast, my mom briefs us on what we are doing today. She tells us that we are going to a place called “The Children’s Discovery Center”.
I sit and just wait for my mom and dad to do whatever things they had to do to prepare five children for a trip to some sort of museum. We leave our Airbnb and get into the car that my parents were renting for the trip. We are on our way. Me and my siblings spend the time jamming to music and noticing the beautiful scenery as we drive. We arrive at the center and find a place to park .That’s when I notice something peculiar.
I ask my mom if this place is super busy or something because some people were camping on the street next to it. Actually, a lot of people were camping on the street next to the center. My mom tells me that they are homeless. I’ve never seen homeless people before so I can’t help but stare a little too long before my mom smacks my arm and tells me to stop staring. I notice that these people are struggling to even live while we are indulging ourselves with a trip to Hawaii. I don’t have any money to give to any of these people, but I do have a bottle of water with me. I run over to a man sitting on a blue tarp with a small dog next to him. I don’t know what type of dog it is because it looks like a mixture of a bunch of breeds. I give him the water, he thanks me with a smile, and I run back to my family. People that work at the center greet my family at the door and give me a weird look before quickly switching to smile and saying hello. My parents pay for us to go in, and the man with the dog quickly disappears from my sight.
Laying in my bed, I decided that I was going to get off of YouTube and go watch something on Netflix instead. I’m aimlessly scrolling through my options on Netflix even though I know what I am going to end up picking. I clicked on Brooklyn Nine-Nine. I’m on episode 16 of season 4; the episode is titled “Moo Moo”. I always love the pre-theme song skits that they do on the show, and this one in particular consists of Charles and Terry wearing the same clothes to work and having an argument over who looks better. I skip past the theme song because I’m tired of hearing it for probably the thousandth time. The Episode goes on normally until Terry, who is a sergeant for the NYPD, gets stopped in his own neighbourhood by a police officer solely because he is a black man in a good neighbourhood.
The Episode continues to Terry being told to not file a report against this officer because It would only hurt Terry’s career. The episode then tackles the terrible issue of police brutality and systemic racism. At one point in the episode, there’s a disheartening scene where Terry’s two young daughters ask about the racism that their dad faced. The episode ends and I sit there just thinking about how they changed the normal mood of the show by tackling a very serious issue. I continue to sit there and think about how I will never experience mistreatment based on the colour of my skin and I will never have to explain to my children that they will get treated differently because of what they look like.
I think to myself, “there’s no way that this happens as often as the movies and TV shows say it does”. So I pull out my phone to look into it a little more. I find hundreds of articles that talk about racism involving the police as well as articles about white privilege. I read about all the benefits and advantages of being white and realize that I have a lot of those advantages. I used to think that my place in life had nothing to do with my skin colour, but those articles help me realize that my skin colour does affect my place in this world and how I am treated. I can’t do anything about my privilege and advantages because I can’t control how other people treat me, but I can use my advantages to help other people. Every time I watch a movie or read an article about racism or privilege, I remember that time when I realized that I am going to use my privilege and my voice to stand up for those who are often ignored or mistreated based on things beyond their control.
Reece-Self Story 1
I was always so cold in here because I never listened to my mom about dressing properly. I sat next to my twin sister Nikki. I reluctantly decided that I would share one of those candy bags that I got at the concession for $1.25 with Nikki. My mom bought me the candy bag when she was getting a cup of hot chocolate during periods. I never liked the blue whales so I would always leave them for Nikki and eat anything sour in the bag. The startling sound of the crowd erupting with yells and claps around me caused me to gasp and allow the gummy to prematurely make its way down my throat. My brother had scored with 3 minutes left in the third period, and even though I don’t understand the game any more than to put the puck in the net, I clapped and yelled with all of the other families of the players. My oldest sister sat a few rows above us because, as my mom always joked, “she was embarrassed by the yelling”. I waved at my brother in an attempt to get his attention but he was in the middle of a standing dog pile of his own teammates. I looked across the ice to see my dad clapping and standing on the bench along with the other 2 coaches. My other older sister wasn’t around to watch my brother’s game today because she was at school practicing for her lead role in the musical.
The game ended and I had just wanted to go home but I had to stay late as usual because my mom was the manager of the team and had to talk to the coaches and some of the players after most games. I have a few friends that are around the same age as me that went to the games, so we started playing mini-sticks in the hall until all of the players would join their parents in the lobby. The players on my brother’s team, the warriors, took forever to get ready, but the parents didn’t seem to mind. I got bored playing mini sticks, so I gave the stick back to my friend because he had let me borrow it. I decided to stand next to my mom in the circle of parents. I didn’t even know the names of the parents that I was standing next to, but they started talking to me and asking me questions through their winter jackets that they had zipped up all the way and scarves that I have never seen anywhere else than draped around their necks. We only lived about 10 minutes away from where the rink was, so I decided that I was going to act more tired than I actually was so that I could fake fall asleep in the car so that my mom or dad would have to carry me inside.
My brother finally walked out of the dressing room with one of his teammates and Nikki ran straight up to him to give him a hug. I had to act cool because his teammate was with him, so I just nodded at him and turned to my mom and told her that he was finally ready to go. We all stood in the lobby of the rink, with some of the players now standing with us. I pulled on my mom’s jacket, faked a big yawn, and asked her if we were going to leave soon. My mom and brother said goodbye to everyone and we walked to the car. My dad followed us out to the car shortly after we walked out of the rink. I watched him walk to the car and leaned my head against the window when he opened the door. I listened to my mom and dad talk about the game with my brother on the way home. Their conversation continued all the way until we started to pull into the driveway. I realized that we were almost home, so I quietly moved into a more comfortable position, and closed my eyes.