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.”
Where are the disabled people of color? MT #Disability and Beauty Are Not Mutually Exclusive https://t.co/uHRaE6UZLK— Alice Wong (@SFdirewolf) May 18, 2016
#DisabilityTooWhite I need to see Black, Brown, Yellow, & Red disabled faces to feel validated. https://t.co/UV3DsHNRvM— Vilissa Thompson (@VilissaThompson) May 19, 2016
Many chimed in onTwitter discussed how racism still infiltrates ideas about disability.
#DisabilityTooWhite when it's assumed that black parents of disabled kids can't raise them— Neal Carter (@nealcarter) May 19, 2016
#DisabilityTooWhite when people think Disabled = white…that's a problem.— IsaJennie (@IsaJennie) May 19, 2016
White Disabled people need to pass the mic
#DisabilityTooWhite when you have to wait twice as long for a medical diagnosis or to receive adequate medical care b/c of medical racism— thebibliophile (@thebibliophile1) May 19, 2016
#DisabilityTooWhite when people still think "#autism is a white people thing" and black children go undiagnosed https://t.co/qHIcDQFPTS— Meghan Hussey (@Meghan_Hussey) May 19, 2016
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.”