Privilege isn’t always in the eye of the beholder, but we already knew that. It’s a hard, immutable fact that many non-disabled do not see their privilege.
They don’t see how their privilege allows them to navigate the world with ease and without concern, how the world itself, in every atom, every conceivable way, is built for them – that other sphere, that different world, is built for them too. In both worlds, tangible and intangible they wield power – they make the rules.
The rest of us – the disabled, the discarded – are told to follow them. Because why wouldn’t we? What do we have to lose? Have we no shame? Our lives, after all, hold little value – and, therefore, wouldn’t be harmed or reduced by abstaining for that, sometimes, ill-defined, greater good.
Of course, the non-disabled gaze processes it as such. Privilege is invisible when you wield it unthinkingly, unquestioningly, routinely. It seeps into your very being. Non-disabled people are trained and conditioned to recoil from the notion that they have the privilege of being – everyday, common, expected, they are the plan, the draft, the outline for all.
In every world – they are placated. Naturally, then, in their view, there is no need for adaption because the world was formed thus, ever in their favour. Adapted to the non-disabled person’s every whim. to shout “boycott” is to accept, perhaps, for the non-disabled, a mild inconvenience. For the disabled, it is to accept exhaustion, illness, numerous additional barriers, and the possibility of sustaining an injury.
Think of the privilege which runs through all of these campaigns – and the expectation of compliance. The newest one: when Elon Musk purchased Twitter – the boycott was tagged, typed and retyped into the void – ALL CAPS and all indignation.
Think of the privilege it would take to leave Twitter as a form of protest – as a community. We couldn’t do it.
Consider the unsustainable boycotts – all the products and services that the non-disabled have told us to discard – from wet wipes to Amazon. We may understand and agree with the passion, outrage, and collective opinion, but our bodies and minds simply cannot afford the further cost.
To cut so impulsively and recklessly is to accept the disabled as collateral damage – the human cost – but that is a sentiment that is meant to be thought about, deeply, intensely, privately but not uttered, isn’t it? Privilege is the ability and willingness to shun and shame others for their choices without realising that they are not preferences but essentials – for life.
Twitter would be an impossible personal and professional loss. When I left academia, I didn’t know what to do. It was a role I was told would protect me from the worst stigma even as its foundations continue to be eaten away by ableism. Unfortunately, I had no options – my disability hindered my job search, and as the pandemic took hold, my options were further minimised by a need to shield. It was a challenging time – I felt like a failure, and I was failed by so many.
I, essentially, started from scratch at 28. I wrote an article for free for a charity, hoping to add something more, always more, to my CV. I was told that I had a gift for it and that I should pitch to other publications for paid work. I was given a list of potentials – The Unwritten somewhere in the middle.
I remember a little spark of hope. Anyone searching for a lifeline – even the most ambiguous, unlikely lines – has felt it. I searched for the word pitch because I didn’t know what it was to pitch. So, I painstakingly, meticulously researched pitch formatting – where to pitch, how to pitch, why to pitch.
The one constant across all the websites was the idea that you needed a Twitter account. I didn’t have one then. But it became the most invaluable resource for advice and support from fellow freelancers and editors.
Through Twitter, I have learned so much. It was a baptism of fire mainly because I initially read the comments and inexplicably and naively played: Russian roulette dick pick with my DMs – but I have learnt a skill, a craft, and, inexplicably, gained a career. In addition, I have found a community.
The disabled community on Twitter has become a place of safety when the world around us has sharpened its collective knives. On issues such as COVID-19, we have seen so much stigma and discrimination exposed. What value to put on a single human life? We’re told that a life with a disability can be bartered down. As the world tells us, we are imaging it, but what about, but maybe, but it’s only – our community has reminded us of our value. It states firmly that there can be no bartering with human life.
What would it mean to lose it? We would each lose a support network, reassurance, vital resources, and lifelines. It would also mean losing so many disabled journalists – whose observations and voices remind us – that our lives matter. We aren’t inspirational or tragic. We’re just trying to get on with it – in our little corner of the internet.
It’s a privilege when non-disabled scream “boycott!” mindlessly into the void. Twitter has given us a deeper understanding of a shared history, a place to share worries and concerns, seek and give advice, and raise funds. In this place, the very essence of humanity has been sustained. It’s a lifeline – of our own making, forged by our own hand.
Let there be no doubt: to scream “boycott!” mindlessly into the void is a privilege.
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