Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund (DREDF) released an emphatic message of solidarity in support of people of color. DREDF is one of the oldest and most impactual disability rights organizations, was a major force behind the passage of the Americans with a Disability Act, and has been and is an active advocate for equal rights of people with a disability to education, housing, and communities in general. The movement for equal rights and equal access for people with a disability has shared much with other civil rights movements, and we have worked hard to make sure that the independent living movement reaches out and embraces all groups. Disability knows no racial boundaries; disability knows no gender boundaries; it knows no national origin boundaries, religious boundaries, and it affects people young and old. Because of the “equal opportunity” nature of disability, most in the movement have tried to go the extra mile to be sensitive and inclusive of all groups.
As violence erupts in response to the initial violence of the killing in Minneapolis, and the media attention focuses on the sensational images and emotions that unfold, I sincerely hope that most reasonable people will keep attention on the very real issue of racial inequality in this country, and not go down the divisive road of sensationalized extremes. When we are distracted from the real problem, nothing gets done, and those that oppress win.
Many of us in the disability world have either experienced or will experience discrimination of some sort at some point in our lives; disabled people of color face that same discrimination and so much more every day. I firmly believe that our fight for equality and acceptance of disability as a natural human condition cannot succeed unless we stand in support of equal treatment for all groups. We simply cannot expect overall equality for people with a disability, if the diverse people that experience disability are not treated equally. Come together in support of each other, and we can win; stand apart in divisiveness, and we will surely lose.
Best to all… Mark Leeper
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