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Response to Alice Wong podcast and silver linings of the pandemic

Elena's picture

In Alice Wong’s interview with the Solidarity Chat podcast, she shares her lived experience as an Asian American disabled person to highlight how the pandemic continues to affect disabiled people and communities. The united health concern over the Coronavirus has led to an increase in discrimination and disregard of marginalized groups. The health and wellbeing of people with disabilities is not prioritized, and rather they are devalued as people with ‘disposable’ bodies. This narrative causes people with disabilities to become even more invisible within society. 

A positive outcome noted by Wong is that the pandemic shows nondisabled people ‘a taste’ of the continuous struggle and unpredictable nature of many medical impairments and health issues people with disabilities face. At the beginning of the podcast, Wong mentions how “united suffering” is not novel for people with disabilities. Through the pandemic, nondisabled people experience a “temporary loss of privilege” and a “temporary inconvenience.” This “temporary” experience will hopefully show nondisabled people their privilege and empower disabled truths. Through this “universal suffering,” Wong hopes that people will learn to validate the struggle and obstacles people with disabilities face in 'non-pandemic' life.

Another “silver lining” Wong mentions is the importance of interdependence which has been brought to light through the pandemic. This links to our conversation about “Interdependence” as one of the 10 Principles from class. The pandemic has highlighted how a strictly independent principle does not contribute to supporting community and mutual aid. Independence is strongly built on capitalist and white supremacy structures where the individual strives to be perfect and stronger than the ‘group’. This is especially prominent in US culture which is built upon individualism. Focusing on viewing individuals as simply in a shared area rather than individuals who contribute to a community (i.e interdependence principles) also makes it easier for people to be disposable. This can reinforce toxic eugenic logic where people whose bodies look different than the norm can and should be removed or hidden. This further perpetuates ableism within society and reinforces common pejorative stereotypes about people with disabilities. Disability justice and mutual aid is built upon interdependence and working to support each other and work towards a common goal. This global pandemic has shown how important the principle of interdependence is in moving forward and ensuring everyone’s safety and health. People have been forced to work and continue to collaborate interdependently to pursue this goal. Hopefully the community and mutual appreciation for interdependence which emerged through the pandemic will continue to be true after COVID.