By Jacob Lesner-Buxton
Featured July 20, 2012 on KPFA’s Pushing Limits.
The bay area has affinity groups for everything. If you have a
problem, hold on, advocates from another community are ready to sweep
in and help. Do you remember the Philippine Community for Gay Rights,
United Students against Sweatshops, and Doctors for Immigrant Health
Care Justice? Sometimes it’s great, like the May 1st rally for
immigrants rights in 2006 and the Prop 8 rally of 2008 but…
there’s a down side…
These organizations encourage members to stand in solidarity with
other groups but often ignore disability issues. When I try to talk
about the disability rights community at the meetings I often hear, “I
would love to take part, but I am busy” or “I never knew about the
disability rights movement” or my favorite, “We are fighting for all
people — including you.”
Another thing you lefty leaders do which I love is you tell me that,
‘if leave the group, then the disability perspective will be gone.’
Let’s get this straight, you’re too busy for my issues but you want me
at the table. For what? So you can feel good that your group has
inclusion? Excuse me, but I do not think or speak like all disabled
people. I’m not here as a token. I’m here so you will realize our
issues are important and do something about them, whether or not I’m
in the room.
And, here’s a little tip: This guy you anoint as a representative of
the disability community has a few flaws. You might want to check
around before handing me that halo.
The bottom line is, as you talk to me about joining the “revolution”
and tell me why disability history doesn’t belong at your meeting, my
community is dancing for its life in California’s political arena.
You’ve heard of the limbo; it’s that dance where the stick is lowered
further and further until every dancer but one falls to the floor. In
California’s version of the limbo, instead of “How low can you go” our
state officials sing “How much can we cut,” as they chip and slash
away services to people with disabilities.
During the California State budget process we face yearly attacks on
attendent care, centers servicing the developmentally disabled,
Medicare, Social Security and other important programs. Some
able-bodied “advocates” watch this game, and sometimes make a speech
or two, but far too few of you try to break the limbo stick and end
the game for good.
The public doesn’t like seeing people with disabilities forced to play
limbo. Often, when a newspaper reports on the game, the cuts to
services stop. Government leaders know that, if more people realized
how unfair the rules of this game are, they would be taken to task for
being poor sports. You, Mr-self-proclaimed “fighter of the 1%,” could
end this game forever, if you would help mobilize and educate people
about disability rights.
There is one group who is doing something different. Lately, I’ve been
working and offering advice toward economic justice for domestic
workers. This small group of activists realizes that a disability
advocate can do something other then be a symbol for inclusion. They
show up at our events, include information on our community when
giving presentations and, most importantly, let us share leadership in
the work. “Including everyone’s voice” is more than a sentiment for
You want to sing solidarity forever with me? Take a hint from the
domestic workers, spend some time on my front line. That’s how
Drawing inspiration from our sisters in New York and their victory of winning the first Domestic Worker Bill of Rights in the U.S. This is the historic graphic they used throughout their campaign. California is so close to being next…will you be a part of this victory?