Privileged

We live in a world of priviledge. White, Male, Able bodied, and sexual are merely a few. My awareness of my disability became a journey into the cryptic world of truth. This is a part of what has lead me to become a reporter for a local paper. The staff understand that due to my limitations I cannot always “do it” but in turn I understand they have questions about who I am. My questioning mind seeks information out, and I never stop analyzing. This means I also have some very high standards for my social interactions with people. I know what I like, and screw you if you cannot maintain a consistent approach.

Having a diverse friend base, this does at times cause internal friction though I have only told the people I am rejecting to go away. I resort to the screw you if I cannot get through to them with the concept that I am not their friend. This as an adult has occurred with two people repeatedly. Today I told my fiance about a woman, Cynthia McKinney who was kidnapped in a foreign country. He hadn’t heard about this. I admit since we rarely watch the TV this isn’t a surprising factor, though when I mentioned that not many others had, excluding the twitter users and bloggers none bothered to talk about her capture, he was floored.  He then said the most wonderful thing, for it filled my heart with joy that I live with a man who is aware of his privilege. “It’s disgusting. We have these rules, that allow people to do that crap and feel better. It’s a band aid over a slit throat that’s dirty, old, and infected. Sure, we think we’re fine but our body is dying.”

Our body is dying. I think on privilege often. Neither of us can ignore it. As a disabled woman, I run into privilege daily. If I leave the house it is there. Yesterday, I was told just how convenient my wheelchair is because it has a sunshade. In my brand new effort to not be Super Cripple, I said, “Absolutely, I only had to break my spine, become homeless, and develop an allergy to the sun in order to have this convenience. Want me to help you get one? I am sure I can find some way for you to become disabled.” I said it with a smile. The cold knife of sarcasm caused the cashier to falter, she looked down, and then I was invisible. She handed MY change to my fiance. He tried to correct her and pointed to me but she just set it down.

i made a choice to use the cutting words, yet this is not the first time that this same cashier has said this. She doesn’t seem to remember that she has done it, and I don’t need to be exposed to her ignorance each time. My fiance and i talked about it before I went home by myself, wanting the sun on my skin and knowing that the side walk was safe between the shopping center and the house.

He asked, “Are you okay?”

I replied with a frown, “Yeah, well no. I am so tired of that same behavior. I think I may write the store manager about it, though the other employees also do the same stuff.” Each time we go in, I have someone leaning on my chair, patting my head, and in general am treated like a child. This is a national chain, and my fiance having worked there knows that Walgreens prides itself on how it’s employees are given sensitivity training. With a higher than average rate of ableism in this store, I think the trainer was flawed.  Every time we go in, I am required to educate someone. It is a burden. I usually just need a cool drink to lower my body temperature so that I don’t faint. I may actually just want to get a candy bar. Why am I forced to deal with their ableism? I cannot do so in silence, or it will get worse, but it is exhausting.

He nodded, “Maybe you should offer to retrain them. For a fee.” I laughed but seriously am considering this. I also plan to detail for the management just how much we buy at their establishment. My fiance is lumped into a new category with me. Each time we are out he is given the pitying look by someone, and often has mostly older persons (yes, an entire generation of people oblivious to privilege exists) whisper to him how nice it is that he takes care of the wheelchair woman. Most actually say “Stupid cripple.”

Sometimes I relish his responses, how can I relish the pain and shock his refusal to blend in with other people causes? I think it’s the freedom it feels. I almost feel like I don’t have the right to do this and that is when I start super cripping. It’s a stolen moment of equality, a moment which by all rights is mine, but has been taken from me by the limited acknowledgment of generations before. My favorite response to a person doing this was actually a few days ago.  He was more frustrated than I was, it was July 3rd and we had to get food. Sprite was tucked up in my sun shade and was very miffed that we hadn’t gone home, but without food there would be consequences. All of the local stores were closing early.

I had just cursed someone out (I really said the”f” word) to get her to keep her hands off of me, and it took the threat of bodily harm via the Scooter to get her to step back. I was seething, then my person, my wonderful person comes and gets what we need off of that aisle. He doesn’t know it’s the same woman, as we are walking towards the next section she sidles up to him, I allow this because I am sure she’s about to tell him how evil I am. She says, “It’s so nice you can tolerate that thing.” Thing. Dehumanized in one sentence. He turns a bit red with rage, but she’s about my mother’s age, old enough that hitting her is worse somehow than hitting someone in our age group. He wanted to, it was there. We were both seething with exhausted frustration. “I mean, cripples are such burdens.”

I heard his response though I dropped back. In all honesty and openness I was considering how hard to ram her, and ifI should try to break her hip. I wouldn’t really but at times the visual is so wonderful. Imagination can be a great equalizer. He replied with anger, “She’s not a burden. If anything I am a burden to her. I don’t always pick up after myself, I sometimes expect her to do things she can’t and she does this with grace. She’s not a thing. That’s my wife.” He likes to call me his wife and I really do like it too. “My wife is a real lady, unlike you. She deals with people like you every day and she hasn’t killed any of them yet but she’d be within her rights.” Sometimes I want to and I usually share this with him, to let off the steam. “Another thing, if she’s a thing so are you! You have the privileged of a working body, it isn’t a right. You can be in a wheelchair like that.” Snapping his fingers he then sped up. I zipped past her, and rode beside him with great pride.

We talk about in this house often. There are no children to educate, it is merely something we both see. He has grown, as I have. In fact, he often tries to subvert is priviledge where he can. When he sees someone no matter who they are, having a bad day, he allows them in front of us in line (barring so low energy that this is a danger to my health). He does this to try and brighten their day and does this regardless of gratitude. Most of the time there is a grunt of anger or acknowledgment and that is it. He doesn’t stop. I note most often he does this for women, children, and persons who are most often ignored, allowing the men to wait. I am not sure if this is an expression of privilege but it is also the sort of person I would leave waiting, so if it is it is one we share. He is a joy to watch in the world. I often feel a separateness from most people but not with him.

How many white men who are so privileged to be in their 30s and still have a credit card from their parents usually see their privilege? How many white men usually can see it? In my experience it is the able bodied white man who fears this awareness above all. I know, too, that a requirement for being with the man I love, is this awareness.

I don’t talk about this often, but, some of the exploitation of the disabled that we see includes the cost of being disabled. It is very expensive, especially when the insurance companies don’t want to cover the cost of a wheelchair until you cannot leave your house, and then you still may not qualify for the one you actually need. if you need a bathchair, it is almost impossible to get a prescription for it, where we live. The cost increases as the economy makes money tighter.

What is my fiance doing to try and bring equality to the playing field? He is using his skills with repairing wheelchairs (he has repaired mine when the manufacturer failed) to try and help. He charges cost of parts, because we have to in order to eat, and a loaf of a specific gluten free bread or two dollars per hour, which has so far been used to buy a single loaf of gluten free bread. This fee is even negotiable. It is an expression of privilege that he CAN negotiate yet, it is also something that he wants to do to help people who may “lose their legs” and not be able to get their wheelchair repaired. I live with a man who knows his privilege. Yes, he is still learning about it but, the fact that he is willing to take that journey is by itself a fantastic thing that is the truest show of love he can offer me.

For more reading about privilege, I recommend checking out two places out of the thousands that you could check first. Start with a peak at http://www.womanist-musings.com/ followed up by http://thewhatifgirl.wordpress.com/. Renne, the proprietor of Womanist Musings is a wonderful writer, who has a life long experience with privilege. I find her writing more direct, and often much more clear about what privilege is. She also often reports on news you will not find elsewhere. The What if Girl has recently begun to discover her privilege and is exploring that. On top of this, she is also a fun read. I enjoy both of their blogs daily. You can find further resources at their sites, if you do not enjoy their writing specifically.

Tracey Ullman Fail

So called comedians often use minorities for their humor. I never find this funny, and usually question why I bother trying to watch comedy shows after a certain point. Today I noticed the on-demand section for ShowTime had the “Tracey Ullman’s United States” section added. I started the first program, and right off the script starts with bashing illegal immigrants, Tracey Ullman, a white woman, in black face. It moves on to her mocking the Indian Culture, Islam, and Italians. She also mocks the very real medical ailment of Restless Leg Syndrome. It may sound funny, but, your legs burning all the time, unable to keep them still? Very problematic.

Instead of funny this show seems to show her hate. She makes fun of mostly ethnic groups, minorities, but makes fun of just enough white people to get away with her bigotry by the standards of those blind to their privilege. She makes fun of those from the south. She makes fun of everyone.

Hold up a mirror Tracey. Hold up a mirror to yourself and see just how sad you are. She goes with victim blaming, rape jokes, and does she see what this does to people? This isn’t funny. It is aggressively disgusting.

This may be old news, but, maybe someone will read this and will take notice. It is never funny to demean someone. It is never appropriate to put on black face. That was never funny. Ever. It is not appropriate to have your Indian Woman character sing her sentences in a mock Bollywood production while her life is threatened. It isn’t funny to play out acts of Xenophobia.

This show was supposed to be about America. Why then does any non white person have a thick accent that is usually unintelligible? Racism. Bigotry. Crap.

Not only is this show anti female, it is anti human. I will never watch another Tracey Ullman special. I can’t stand the stench of her tastelessness.

I am sure somewhere online you can find justifications for how she creates her characters to mock bigots. If the effect is more mocking of the minority, you have fail.

I felt this after one episode, I am trying a second.

More black face. More racial cliches. Showing a woman of color as toothless, uneducated, and irresponsible is NOT Funny. Mocking the Veterans of the Iraq war? Wrong. We need to support our soldiers even if we do not support the War itself. These individuals signed up with the intent to protect us.

Making fun of erectile dysfunction I can let pass, but wait… for many non elderly men Viagra has been an aid in achieving some of life’s more pleasurable aspects. It can help the disabled male perform, which can be psychologically freeing. Stating that elderly men who use Viagra will use it to sleep with whores is disrespectful to both sex workers and the elderly. Who has the right to judge the partner of another? Not me. Not you. Not Tracey Ullman.

Making fun of Poverty is inappropriate. Saying that a kid is “Shit at Math” is inappropriate. It doesn’t matter if parents say this all the time, a kid will believe it and will stop trying. It is important to encourage children, way to reinforce negatives.

Making fun of hard working individuals, those who have disabilities, making fun of those who are more naive about the world at large. None of this is funny. Doing this two episodes in a row? Mocking religion, not okay. No matter what religion it is. No matter how controversial you want to be, being a bigot is just not funny.

There is plenty of comedy without oppressing people. When the “funniest” stuff you do is antihuman, which this crap is… you are failing. When the non racist bits aren’t funny how do you get called a comedian?

I therefore give the elusive and rare Corkscrew of Justice to Tracey Ullman. You. FAIL.

Why You Can Never Thank Your Caregiver Enough…

Once upon a time, in a land not so far from here, when my legs worked without pain and I could dance I did not need any help in the world. I was blissfully unaware of how much harder things could be. Now, when I am hungry I have to debate if I should risk trying to microwave that bag of popped corn, or if I should hit the buzzer (obtained via Freecycle) and ask Ye Olde Caregiver to feed me. Usually it is the latter. The apartment is not accessible and that means hauling myself out of bed and to the kitchen. By the time popped corn is ready, I am out cold.

Yesterday he wasn’t here and being that I have yet to really buy groceries in the new apartment, I had to fend for myself. It has been six months since that was the case, and at first I was stumped. I couldn’t cook, standing and cooking is too dangerous and the chairs make me burn my arms up, which leads down the road of scars and infection.  In my fridge there were a total of three options. Beans, a rare blend with cheese and some secret but gluten free sauce courtesy of Del Taco, eggs, and a lot of drinks. So I piled the beans on a paper plate, put it in the microwave and had myself a feast.

That got me thinking, and first I asked permission before writing about him on the blog, that my caregiver takes a lot of crap, just by default. When we go out he fends for me, when I cannot reach something or if I am so low on energy that I do not see the predators coming. he is a shoulder to cry on when my pain meds fail to make it all better. He fights for me, he cooks for me, he moves me around the world, and he even helps me get in and out of the shower.

Without him, I would likely be trapped in an abusive environment. Someday I will list all of the abuses I have dealt with, but, this is a joy. Yes he is a paid caregiver, yet he works four times as much as he gets paid for. Not only does the state refuse to offer overtime, but, I cannot seem to get an extension on his hours. He deserves to get paid, as he does duties not listed by most. He even cleans out the dreaded litterbox.

Some people might wonder why a woman with such a dark past would want a male caregiver. I initially was resistant but he is the right man for the job. Not only can I trust him but my personality detecting cats both adore him as well. I have never felt endangered by him, and that is not true of anyone else in my life. If you have a caregiver or a service animal, how much do they do for you that goes unseen?

Sometimes when I am napping and kick the covers off, he tucks me back in without waking me. He feeds my cats, he even helps them get dressed when my hands are too swollen to work the velcro. He finds my missing pills when the faeries hide them (or I lose them). He does anything I ask of him, including running around town picking up furniture via freecycle. Today he has picked up a couch, a bookshelf, and a desk. I now have actual furniture, which he will dust. Yesterday he moved a TV into my room, cleaned up cat barf, and did laundry. Plus his daily chores which include three meals a day, two meals for the cats, and anything else I can dream up.

He even invents things for me. He is a technological wiz, and he enjoys making things. His hobbies include making games, that’s right, video games and woodworking. I have yet to run into anything he cannot fix or improve. He is one of the dearest people I know.

So thank you to all caregivers. Without you the world would be a dreadful place full of hunger, pain, and without the light you bring. May you never be taken for granted.

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