This post mentions of violence towards people with disability.
I’ve seen Arnold Schwarzenegger’s response to ableist language on his Facebook page. Many people have let me know.
Someone on his Facebook page made an ableist comment about the Special Olympics, and Arnold gave a cracker response. He shut down the troll. He’s the ableism terminator.
“As evil and stupid as this comment is, I’m not going to delete it or ban you (yet) because it’s a teachable moment.
“You have two possible paths ahead. Right now, I guarantee you that these athletes have more courage, compassion, brains and skill – actually more of every positive human quality than you.
“So take their path – you could learn from them, and try to challenge yourself, to give back, to add something to the world. Or you can stay on your path, and keep being a sad pitiful jealous Internet troll who adds nothing to the world but mocks anyone who does out of small-minded jealousy.
“I know that all you really want is attention, so let me be clear. If you choose to keep going this way, no one will ever remember you.”
Arnold is a great ally, and it’s important he stood up to that language. And it’s clear he’s pushed the issue of ableism into the mainstream. I commend him.
However, people are overy praising him for speaking up , the special Olympics are heartwarming, disabled people are inspiring, he has given them a voice.
I don’t want his voice to be louder about people with disability.
Because actually disabled people are not heard, not believed, spoken over. All too often.
Here’s just one, tragic example.
Four corners showed the abuse that goes on in disability group homes. It was horrific.
Here are some facts:
- People with disability experience higher rates of violence than the rest of the community.
- 90 % of women with intellectual disability have been sexually assaulted in their lives, and 60% before they’re 18.
- Children with disability are three times more likely to experience abuse than other children.
(Source: DPO Australia submission to the 2015 Senate Inquiry into violence, abuse and neglect against people with disability in institutional and residential settings, including the gender and age related dimensions, and the particular situation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with disability, and culturally and linguistically diverse people with disability.)
The court claims disabled people are not reliable witnesses and the abusers are let off.
Four Corners reported that there are no consequences for abusers and organisations that perpetuate disability abuse. Would this happen in non disability organisations?
People with disability should be entitled to same human rights, same access to justice as non disabled people.
The survivors of abuse were infantilised by their parents and support workers on Four Corners, referred to as children in adult bodies. But they’re not – they’re adults in adult bodies. However, I was pleased to see a man with a disability be interviewed very early on in the show. Nothing about us without us.
It seems non disabled people only want to talk about disabled people when we are inspiring them. When we’re in the Special Olympics, or when The Terminator is defending us from Internet evil. Otherwise, they’re uncomfortable.
What I’ve written about is uncomfortable. It’s saddening and I’m angry. Many of us are.
But why the silence? The silence from the majority, the silence from our leaders.
When abuse of juvenile offenders in Don Dale detention centre was uncovered and shown on Four Corners in 2016, the Government called for a Royal Commission the next day. Media was abuzz with talk of the injustice – and rightly so. The Where’s the Royal Commission into the abuse in disability group homes? Where’s the media buzz about the abuse of disabled people in group homes?
The Twitter commentary around the Four Corners episode on Monday Night indicated that many people couldn’t believe this abuse is happening. People used words like “vulnerable” and “voiceless”.
“No one is voiceless. There are only people to whom we haven’t learned to listen yet.” #4corners
What does Arnold Schwarzenegger have to do with the Four Corners episode about disability abuse (and wider disability issues)? Not much at first thought. But it’s so relevant.
People are praising Arnold Schwarzenegger for his allyship and being “a voice for the voiceless”, rather than listening to people with disability who are experiencing abuse, who aren’t being paid a minimum wage, whose support pensions are being cut, who are denied employment, whose stories aren’t centred in the media… And so on.
Many people are more comfortable to see statements about disability by allies than face the reality that people with disability do not have access to equal rights.
And, as Deirdre said on my Facebook page:
I find it extraordinary that someone without disability calling out ableism somehow lends more credibility (a bit like mansplaining sexism).
Before you tell someone about how great Arnold Schwarzenegger is for speaking up for disabled people, think about what you’ve done to speak up and take a stand for the rights of people with disability. You praising him for his words on Facebook is not enough.
You need to listen – really listen – to people with disability instead of listening to non disabled people who speak for and about us.
Heres how how you can start: