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Showing posts from August, 2017

When 'Just Saying Hi' is a Problem

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I was in the shopping centre on the weekend, and a Sad-Sweet-Smiler walked past and said hello.  Smiling sadly and sweetly and sympathetically. If you are not physically disabled, you will not know about Sad-Sweet-Smiler Sympathy Syndrome.
It's a sympathetic smile of solidarity from a passerby. They clearly imagine that I am lonely or sad or in need of a Non-Disabled Hug from a fellow shopper.
Here's a news flash - no, I don't.
There's this shitty campaign going about 'just saying hi' to disabled people. It's been going a while now and I am kind of grateful it has not gotten much currency in Australia. It's bad enough with people leaping out of the way and apologising (even if you are a metre away) or the endless 'sorries' - I counted 37 in a Westfield one day. It's like they are apologising for you being disabled.
But 'just saying hi' to a disabled person in a shopping centre? When you don't 'say hi' to anyone else?

Handisi kunyaso nzwisisa (I don't understand)

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About a week ago, I was down at a little shop that sells African products, buying maize (for sadsa).
As I was getting out of my car, two women were openly speculating about what kind of disability I had. Why I could use my legs and stand up and that I was 'very young' (I am assuming they said 'to be disabled', but I didn't recognise the words).
I didn't recognised those few words because they were speaking in Shona, a language I studied at school because I was deported to Africa by my parents when I was fourteen years old.  I understood the rest.  I'd learned far more Shona in boarding school (after school ended) at the first public school I attended than I did anywhere else.
I learned from the girls that I lived with - at my first school, there were only four white girls. The Black girls treated me kindly, for the most part, but cautiously, because I was Australian but still white. At home on the farm, people spoke Chilapalapa - a language my godmot…

Sleeping Rough

I went to sleep thinking of homelessness, and I woke after having one of those dreams which was startling in its clarity. It was part memory, part fantasy, and it was about sleeping rough. 

Most people know that I was deported to Africa by my parents (lol) for being a naughty teenager. Some might not know that I compulsively ran away before that happened - I packed my bags and left, over and over again. Some of that experience involved sleeping on the streets, which fills me with horror now to think about how unsafe it would have been for a teenaged kid.

Except it wasn't. There was a real community amongst the homelessness community and most people watched out for we young folk. There was Dan the Hotdog Man, who fed us at any time (not just at the end of the day or night, when we would tour the city's bain maries.). The places to sleep were all collective places - I don't remember now the names of the other children, but I do remember one had a job selling …

To learn who rules over you, simply find out who you are not allowed to criticise - on silencing disabled people.

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Dear non-disabled people - 
Silencing disabled people is oppression. It relieves them of whatever limited 'power' has been granted to them in the first place. That limited power has usually been fought for by disabled people themselves. 
If you silence disabled people, you are not 'allies', no matter what you purport to say or do. You are not an advocate. You are not a friend. You are part of the problem. 
Silencing. It's a good idea to think about why you're doing this. Keep this quote in mind. 'When you tear out a man's tongue, you are not proving him a liar, you're only telling the world that you fear what he might say.'
- George R.R. Martin Silencing is not confined just to disabled people - Black and First Nations people and other marginalised groups also experience this treatment at the hands of members of dominant groups who want to silence people and quash dissent.
We disabled people are tired of being spoken for whe…