For a very longtime, I very much wanted to like Whoopi Goldberg. It is not often that one sees a dark skinned woman in the media, much less a dark skinned woman with natural hair. Over time I have come to see that Whoopi is no role model, and certainly exists with several issues. From her “rape rape” comment, defending superstar megadouche Mel Gibson, to encouraging Ted Danson to wear Blackface as a joke, Whoopi has become not a comedy of errors, but a hot mess of errors.
This morning I was watching The View, when Goldberg decided to go on yet another insensitive rant, this time attacking fat people and disabled people. Please note, I am well aware that these are not mutually exclusive identities. The following is a transcript of her rant, which I was able to capture thanks to the pause live TV option with Bell television.
Whoopi: But you know, everybody apparently at Orlando has 16 babies at one time, so they have multiple baby carriages and not only the people who are having babies, people who over eat, who should be walking, who are not. Who are on those damn scooters (audience laughter), who don’t care if you are walking too. They come voom. Then they honk at you like they’re pissy. …I hate what happens. People are not courteous, if your pushing three kids in one stroller, you know there are other people on thing.
Elisabeth: They didn’t see it
Whoopi: the thing is those people on those things, there’s no excuse.
Further in the discussion
Whoopi: People who weigh 9000LBS, who should be walking, who are on those little things, somebody almost ran me over. And said move. I’m walking on the street, there’s 16 million people in Orlando and I love Orlando and I love Disney, but 16 million. There are people on these little ( she makes a vroom sound pretending to rev up a scooter, followed by pretending to honk a horn. She then makes a sound of disgust and sits back down at the table) I’m so sorry, I’m terribly sorry
Like many of the attacks on marginalized people that have occurred on The View, I highly doubt that fat people, disabled people, or fat disabled people will be getting an apology for this obvious attack. Simply because someone is fat, does not mean that they are not ambulant, and therefore; the pervasive myth that fat people in scooters ate themselves into this position is based on fat phobia and disableism. People often look at the differently abled with fear, that is when they are not being paternalistic ass hats. When the TAB see a fat disabled body, they are quick to assume that the person brought this on themselves with excessive eating, because we have promoted the myth that fat equals unhealthy. Fat in the case of many disabled people, is a manifestation of illness and not the cause of the illness itself. The TAB falsely believe that if they somehow are able to manage their weight and exercise that they can avoid the fate of a fat disabled person. This is ridiculous because disability has many causes.
Whoopi went to great lengths to suggest that disabled people using scooters do not have a right to take up space. This really struck a chord for me, because there is an extreme difference in the way people react to me when I am walking with my cane vs. using my scooter. When I am using a cane, I often get paternalistic looks of sympathy and when I use my scooter, the reaction is most often hostile. Though I am hardly invisible because my scooter is bright red, most often, people walk into me, or cut in front of me. There is no apology proffered for this obvious rudeness, because my very existence is deemed an assault to the senses. At various times, I have been ordered onto the road because my scooter takes up to much room, or told to ride on the sidewalk because I am impeding cars. The TAB can never decide where we belong, because in truth, their lives would be more convenient if we pesky disabled people would simply disappear altogether.
As horrific as Whoopie’s public statements were, they are in fact very common. You can here them every time people complain about disabled parking spots, or see their reflection in most stores, where the aisles are so narrow that a person on a scooter cannot navigate with any degree of ease. Most things in our society are strictly structured to ensure the disabled do not have access, despite laws to the contrary. The TAB seem to believe that they have the right to judge the degree of someone’s disability just from looking at them. The idea that anyone has the right to make snap decisions about anyone’s person, is based in an unacknowledged able bodied privielge that is socially pervaisve. I know most believe that because they hold the occasional door open, that they are not subject to such a label but in truth, unless you are actively working to combat disableism, you are part of the problem.
The audience of The View laughed throughout the entirety of Whoopi’s, fat phobic disableist diatribe, because we have not been taught to see such language as harmful, or as an assault on a person’s being. There is nothing funny about what Goldberg had to say, and my only hope is that some good will come it. I hope that people will think critically about space and who is allowed to occupy it and why. Such a simple examination will teach the average TAB person, exactly how ableist society truly is.