Updated: May 9
It’s official -- I don’t mind being called crippled. I’ve always thought it had more of a catchy tone than “disabled.” To prove my point, the Obamas (that’s right, I said it, the Obamas) decided to be executive producers to a documentary called, Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution -- “Down the road from Woodstock, a revolution blossomed at a ramshackle summer camp for teenagers with disabilities, transforming their lives and igniting a landmark movement.” I don't think I can describe the film in a better way.
So here’s my two cents on the subject. It’s a badass film. It made me proud to be part of a community that was once so vivid and united. In a nutshell, this group of kids who all had distinctive disabilities got together one summer to attend a summer camp catered for them. Keep in mind, this was in the 70s, so as the description above says, it was pretty much Woodstock. Little did they know that the time they spent together would be so impactful not just in their future, but in the future of members of disabled communities to come. Now what I wanna know is why the hell wasn’t I taught this in history class!?
This brings me to a point that may drift the subject just a smidge. The documentary highlights historical events that occured that aren’t taught in our history classes. The discrimination that we were taught in our history books covered mainly race, gender and orientation, however they fail to cover disability rights. I’m pretty sure only a small percentage of us are aware that the disabled were also persecuted during WWII. Bear with me -- the book, “Man the Unknown” was written by Alexis Carrell, a French surgeon and biologist, who wrote about how we have to detach ourselves from those who are not biologically ideal because apparently they serve no purpose in society. AKA eugenics. (Look it up, fascinating.) This book is where Hitler got the idea of mercy killing, which resulted in over 270,000 disabled people being murdered in the Holocaust. Were you taught that in your history classes?
If I’m being honest, we’ve been chased from the start. Back in Plato’s Ancient Greece (turns out I am NOT Sparta...) and Ancient Rome, it was common practice for parents to abandon or kill their children if they were born with signs of a disability or born “different.” The same ideology also shows up in the Bible, where it describes disability as a sin that Jesus had to rid people of. But the part that pisses me off the most is that we were not taught about the Rehabilitation Act. I’m not gonna give spoilers, but the shit that my people had to go through to be treated as HUMAN BEINGS is astonishing. I believe that if more people were exposed to all of this information, and by that I mean everything we go through and everything we have to settle for, we wouldn’t have had 120 disability advocates going through hunger strikes and doing sit-ins for 25 days just for common courtesy.
This film made me evaluate the way that the disability spectrum is running things now in 2020. I believe there is still a lot of change that needs to happen. I feel like now we drift very easily because we don’t agree on whether or not we should be labeled as “disabled” when in reality, a name is just a name and the true problem is that we’re not being considered as equals in society. I’m not one to quote Shakespeare, but I think Juliet, as sad as this may be, had a point. A rose would smell equally as sweet, even if it was called a fucking tulip. Therefore, I feel like the fight that will occur now won’t be necessarily federal, but social. There is a section in the documentary where Denise Sherer Jacobson mentions that there’s no point in changing a law if we don’t change society’s perspective in wanting to follow that law. It also made me realize that the sit-in was successful because we had an astonishing, enlightened, and objective leader. She was driven by the cause, she was the entity that everyone looked to when wanting to surrender or “settle” like we like to call it. Her name is Judy Heumann, AKA, my new Queen.
“It is no longer acceptable to not have women at the table. It is no longer acceptable to not have people of color at the table. But no one thinks to see if the table is accessible.” -- Judith E Heumann