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When you picture a disabled person, are they white?
Disabilities, both visible and nonvisible, are hard enough to have in a world that often refuses to become more accommodating. Visibility for disabled people is something many activists have been fighting for, and slowly things appear to be getting better.
However, the hashtag #DisabilityTooWhite shows that often society’s views of disability are whitewashed.
The hashtag was started by Vilissa Thompson, the founder of Ramp Your Voice, who tweeted it in response to an XoJane article about beauty and disability that only featured white women. “Being a woman of color, I never see us being considered ‘beautiful’ or having our stories widely shared in the mass media,” she told the Daily Dot over email. “That story lit something within me, and the hashtag, #DisabilityTooWhite, popped in my head and was born.”
Many chimed in onTwitter discussed how racism still infiltrates ideas about disability.
Thompson has been overwhelmed by the response. “I don’t think I’ve seen so many disabled POC speak so freely about themselves in my life,” she said. “It empowered me, and shows that we need more opportunities to speak our truths without limits or resistance.”
Of course, some people are chiming in, accusing the hashtag of racism.
Being disabled doesn’t preclude one from experiencing white privilege, and Thompson hopes the hashtag ultimately makes everyone more accepting of disabled people of color.
“Many of us have struggled with not having role models, or having to fight to have race be equally discussed in disability circles as disability itself is,” she said. “No one should be disrespected because of who they are; the trolls won’t take away the sense of empowerment that has been created by the hashtag.”
Jaya Saxena is a lifestyle writer and editor whose work focuses primarily on women's issues and web culture. Her writing has appeared in GQ, ELLE, the Toast, the New Yorker, Tthe Hairpin, BuzzFeed, Racked, Eater, Catapult, and others. She is the co-author of 'Dad Magazine,' the author of 'The Book Of Lost Recipes,' and the co-author of 'Basic Witches.'