When The Ableist Is The Face In The Mirror

I have a confession.

While I started this blog in the interest of furthering autism advocacy and expressing my specific perspective on the condition, I am guilty of ableism. Yes, I who have fought hard on this issue, am guilty of making unfair assumptions abut disabilities. It seems implausible but I have to come face to face with the truth.

This realization hit me when I was talking with a friend who has another disability about his future. He revealed he was going to enter a group home. My first reaction was to be hit with immediate sympathy for him. To me a group home seems like the worst thing possible. I lived independently for nearly five years before moving in with Amanda which is still very much living on my own. For a moment I wanted to express sympathy to him on the news.

Then it hit me: I was completely wrong. I was seeing this from my perspective. To him, this was great news. His own current life was limited and isolated. He didn’t get out much. He wasn’t ever really going to get an independent life due to his issues but this was a chance at more than he had. This was hope.

The experience hit me hard. I’ve actually been thinking about it for about two weeks and pondering the lesson to take from it. Ultimately I think it’s a decidedly simple one. No matter how hard we fight it, if we’re in this society, some of the worst prejudices of it will seep into us.

This is an ugly concept to consider. I certainly try not to feel these feelings. I fight hard for equality on all fronts. I support the rights of all to have the same access as I do. To see in myself something I actively fight is terrifying, But I’m human and must contain contradictions. So of course there are things I think that I disagree with.

In this case, I have good reasons for thinking what I think. In my shoes as an independent adult, I wouldn’t want to have my independence taken from me. I’ve definitely had moments in my life where this was something questioned for me, but it’s really not something I’ve faced.

I’m not in the shoes of someone more severely disabled though. It’s a real mistake to assume being on the spectrum of disability means you understand how things are for everybody. I don’t and I can’t know what having such limited access means. I can’t see through their eyes.

Ultimately I am a product of a society with prejudice against disabilities. I have to have learned these ideas. I’ve seen the movies and tv shows with horror treatments of this world. Even if I know these depictions are false, they stay with me. I don’t have any alternatives. So I nod and I agree with others.

And this isn’t ok.

If one believes in a cause and sees within themselves ideas they don’t like, then they have to change their thinking.  You can’t just “accept” that this is how it is. No running to cite your credentials. YOU have to change.

So it will be for me. I won’t stay ok with my own ableism. I’ll change. And maybe I’ll understand.

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