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"Unspeakable Conversations" and the Disabled Community

caelinfoley's picture

In this post, I wanted to reflect on Unspeakable Conversations and how the disabled community, both from the article and my own experiences, treat each other within activist circles. 


In Unspeakable Conversations, Johnson discusses how, after meeting with someone like Singer, who obviously believes in disabled infanticide, taking away the choice of life from individuals who are unconscious, and assisted suicide for disabled people, much of the disabled and activist community judged her, not understanding how she could form any type of relationship with an individual who they saw as evil. However, on the flip-side, you could wonder how he would be able to forge a relationship, even if it was just a working one, with someone who was part of a community he recommended killing, unless they showed potential like Johnson does. In their working relationship, we see how abled people often select certain disabled people to be allies to, deciding that they are not disabled enough to be part of the group that they deem irrecoverable and unworthy of life. 


Yet, we can also see the complicated relationship disabled individuals have with not only abled people, but the larger disabled community. We are forced to seek refuge and validation from able-bodied people who are able to assist us with sometimes crucial tasks, despite our misgivings, while also, especially in this case, may need the money from these relationships or jobs that we would be unable to get otherwise due to the struggle of securing employment as a disabled person. These relationships are not mutually beneficial, as we are often forced to exploit ourselves and our struggles to reap these benefits, while also becoming the disabled person that they use to validate their own prejudices, but as a minority group, have lesser of an option to choose whether or not to partake in these relationships.


However, the disabled community remembers, and tends to be very critical of other disabled people, especially those who proclaim they're activists, especially in crip circles. We judge others for their choices in relation to what we do or how we interact with abled people, shaming when the activism isn't up to our standards. Perhaps this is because, like it is acknowledged in the article, Singer's actions won't just affect Johnson, but a larger disabled community, and oftentimes, people assume one disabled person represents all disabled people, despite our different conditions and needs throughout. We have learned to be defensive and protect our community from disabled people who seek validation and protection from able-bodied people because we know how able-bodied people and their false understandings of disability and access will push false narratives for our community, harmful policies that disregard our needs, and ignore our wants. While our community can be judgemental, perhaps it is needed to keep up safe and alive in a society that believes we are less than.