Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Not Minority, Not Majority

I had a conversation with a woman of color that has left me annoyed not with her specifically, but with the whole way our society conceives of prejudice and marginalized group status. It went something like this:
I asked, "When a person of color comes into a room and sees me, do they see me as a member of the majority culture?"
"I'm not recognized as a member of a marginalized group?"
On my walk home, I made a sort of mental list. Before I share it, I want to emphasize the fact that I don't believe in comparing types of oppression, saying one is "worse than the other, nor do I think I understand what it means to be a member of a racial minority. This was just a quick mental exercise.
People of color are thought to be inferior.
Add child-like and dependent and you have the attitude disabled people face daily.
When a person of color gets a job, promotion, or into a great school, it is viewed as aresult of affirmative action.
Same with Disabled people.
People of color are discriminated against in housing.
Um, us too.
People of color, especially men, are viewed suspiciously as if they are about to commit a crime.
Disabled people, on the other hand, are often thought to be contagious and therefore given a wide birth. Not the same, but...
Poor women of color are judged for having children with the posed question being, "How can you have another kid if you can't take care of the ones you have?"
Disabled women are asked, "How can you havr a kid? You can't take care of it."
People of color were taken from their homes and enslaved.
Disabled people were just institutionalized and forcibly sterilized. Don't even get me started on sheltered workshops.
Because disability is perceived as a result of a difference linked to an inability, it is not given the "status" of marginalized group membership such as race, gender, sexual orientation, or religion. Lack of this recognition of marginalized group status places disabled people in a unique position for we are not seen as members of mmajority group culture by members of the majority and we are not seen as members of a minority by other minorities.


Holden said...

It has been my experience that minorities, in general, unless they have a disability, are for the most part clueless about disability. And disability rights being part of civil rights, forget it. Even the ones who claim they know about disability have been just as clueless as a any other person without a disability. Even in academia my run-ins are often jaw dropping.

Jen said...

Holden, for a dog, you are really smart.

My recent experiences with the trans community have shown me a tendency to be more likely to see the connection between their marginalized group status and disability. Not always or even half the time, but way more than with other marginalized groups I've encountered.

I'm beginning to wonder if there's something to be learned by examining what it means to be trans and what it means to be disability side by side. The trans issues related to becoming a target gender -- the transition part -- touches upon similar territory because disabled bodies are no more like nondisabled bodies than a trans person is like their target gender when they first start transitioning.

I have to think about this more before I can make actual sense. *smile*