Last week, I wrote a post centering in on the idea that bullying campaigns need to widen their focus, rather than specifically targeting anti-gay bullying. I was inspired by the story of a young Black disabled girl who was being taunted and physically attacked on the school bus. In an article on this story, I learned that 85% of disabled kids were being bullied on a daily or weekly basis. Clearly, this figure is far too high and demands immediate attention. I had commenters via e-mail, as well as the blog, claim that my call for a more general focus on bullying smacked of the same campaign currently being run by Focus on the Family. Once again, advocating for an intersectional approach is seen as unsupportive and anti-gay for many.
The following is the comment that inspired this post:
When black and disabled kids are told they’re going to hell, we’ll focus on them.
When they’re told they’re going to grow up to be paedophiles, we’ll focus them.
When they’re told they’re disgusting aberrations, we’ll focus on them.
When they’re kicked out of their home for being disabled or of colour, we’ll focus on them.
When national organisations fund campaigns to SPECIFICALLY deny them rights, we’ll focus on them.
When disabled and black kids get to turn on the tv or radio, or go online, and EVERY SINGLE DAY they get to hear from mainstream sources how their people are destroying morality, how they’re evil and sick, how they’re perverted deviants who should be wiped out, how they should be denied funding and treatment to correct how their identity matches their body – then we’ll focus on them.
The TAB mother isn’t going to set her kid WD on fire.
The black father isn’t going to kill his black/mixed kid because of his skin tone.
The gay kids and trans kids growing up with straight, cis parents/teachers/peers have no support, no help, no escape. Gay and trans kids can be black, and disabled, and while they may have support WRT racial abuse or TAB-bullying, they’re out in the cold as far as their sexuality/gender identity is concerned.
Check your fucking privilege because YOU are turning this into the Oppression Olympics. You’ve had your turn, give us ours.
You get to join in when there are official TV campaigns aimed at raising money toward wiping you out, taking away your rights to marry and have children, or to identify how you want.
The “our turn” argument is often cited to support the exclusion of others. There can be no denial that anti-gay bullying is horrific and needs to stop, but in no way does it rise above any other sort of bullying; it just happens to be the cause celebre at the moment. Privileging anti-gay bullying, is like saying every other oppression is less harmful or does not have dangerous side effects. The person who wrote this is clearly neither Black or disabled, so how exactly would they know what it is to live with either identity.
Disabled children are being killed, they are being neglected and abused. Perhaps this person can easily erase disableism, but for the many disabled children who are subjected to cruel electric shock treatment, solitary confinement (which btw constitutes torture) imprisonment, as well as forced sterilization, I’d say it’s a safe bet that the medical establishment and the government have been less than kind. Of course, all of this continues to be supported by society, though it claims to care for the disabled. And this nonsense about children with disabilities not being abused in the home, is not only mendacious, it is absolutely a dangerous form of “othering”. Disablism doesn’t need a national organization because it is systemic. It is built right into the marrow of society and manifests itself cruelly every single day. I’d like to see this jackass sit in a wheelchair and try navigate themselves up a flight of ten stairs. The very nature of the way society is created specifically excludes disabled bodies, but why recognize that when there is a more important agenda to push.
Black girls are more likely to be subject to corporal punishment in schools. Blacks are over represented in the military and the prison population. Don’t tell me that a lifetime of racism did not result in Blacks fulfilling the role of surplus population. These people are not mourned; we see them as less than human. Each night when Black children turn on the television, they can see the Black drug dealer, pimp, crack addict, thief, prostitute, or low life but seldom will they see a positive representation of what it is to be Black. A young man of colour can’t even pull into his own driveway without being shot by the police. For Black people, a cop isn’t officer friendly, they are an immediate threat and our children must learn this at a very early age. From birth, the Black child faces state and social violence, but why concern ourselves with the children that are considered surplus? It would absolutely ridiculous to believe that white people don’t learn to oppress and abuse Black people at an early age. Racism doesn’t wait for adulthood to happen, it attacks our innocent children and absolutely takes the form of bullying.
Every single thing that the commenter put on their list as to why we should focus only on anti-gay bullying applies to VARIOUS minorities. Fat kids go to school and are attacked for their weight and return home to fat phobic families who enforce restrictive diets. They don’t find support, they suffer with depression and they are in pain. A fat child cannot even eat in public without being shamed, never mind find stylish clothing. For many fat people, the pain from bullying lasts a lifetime, yet somehow, this oppression is not worthy of addressing when we have another agenda to work on.
My turn is the most selfish position that any marginalized group can take, because it presupposes that all other isms/ists have either lessened or ceased to exist. We don’t have to shut up for you to win your fight and we should not be forced into the position of having to sacrifice for you to move forward, because this reinforces hierarchy – the father of all oppression. It may be your turn, but it is also the turn of people of colour, the disabled, women, the poor, fat people and every other group that is targeted for existing outside the so-called norm. Intersectionality is the only path forward, yet time after time the White LGBT community fails to recognize this. I will admit that I have messed up because there are times when I didn’t see my privilege staring me straight in the face, but my feelings on bullying don’t come from a place of heterosexism, they come from a place of child advocacy. If the issue at hand is that we are trying to protect children, then one group should never be privileged above another, no matter how dire the circumstances are.