Take a new disability microaggressions survey

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A marvelous thing about anger is we can use it for fuel to power social change. Of course, if you’re not angry, it’s easy to misinterpret someone else’s anger as unwarranted, random complaining, or even a sign that the angry people are somehow genetically more prone to rage or are an inferior kind of people. (Hint: Each of these misinterpretations can lead to…you guessed it. Anger.) This is extraordinarily common when white people wax philosophical (among ourselves) about why Black people and other people of color are unsatisfied with the status quo of violence, poverty, lack of adequate healthcare, and mass incarceration, as examples. It’s also a staple in anti-feminist arguments that try to place anyone who’s not a cisgender, straight man as edgy, overly sensitive, or emotionally or hormonally disordered if they protest just about anything. But anger can come from living with or witnessing injustices, small or large. And rather than sit around pointing the finger at the angry people or explaining their anger away, let’s explore the societal injustices they’re bringing up. Can’t fix it till you know what the problem is.

Of course there are ways that anger gets in the way, or maybe anger isn’t the most productive response. But if you don’t know someone’s internal world and don’t know what a given situation stirs up for them, you don’t know why anger came up. So back off. Or find out. Or assist.

Taking cues from the Civil Rights movement, disability activists decades ago started rallying to protest our country’s hostile inaccessibility. (Please don’t comment below that I should shut up because we have it better than countries who leave disabled babies in the woods to die.) When huge numbers of disability rights activists did an extended sit-in to get the government to implement Section 504 of the 1973 Rehabilitation Act, Black protesters were part of the movement, and the Black Panther Party fed the protesters in a show of solidarity around anger for social change. ADAPT actions from within disability community often involved younger people as well.

On the theory side, racial justice work has also given us “microaggressions” as a term that disability community can also claim to label those everyday garbage moments that happen when people–who mean to or who do not mean to–take us down a notch. I get so angry when I witness them and when I receive them! I’ve recently started learning how to not respond with so much anger so often and to gently and compassionately help redirect the offender to a less offensive perception of disabled people. That’s my thing right now. Sometimes. Reframing on a personal level should never, never, never or ever take the place of people learning to stop committing microaggressions or other demeaning and hostile acts. On a large scale, it’s not up to the recipient of an injustice to get happy so as not to bother the person committing or perpetuating the injustice. That’s not how change is made, and that’s unfair AF.

So if, like me, you enjoy getting to vent about the microaggressions you’ve faced around disability, I’ve got the survey for you! In fact, this survey is so awesome that even though I accidentally erased it when I was halfway through, I didn’t get angry. I just started over. (For other people with floppy fingers like mine, you might consider answering in Word or a text editor and then pasting into the online Google Doc form in case erasing 30 minutes’ work will make you angry.)

You have till November 2nd to go online and take Kate Lewandowski’s Exploring Disability Microaggressions survey on Google Docs! It’s anonymous, and Kate describes it like this:  “The purpose of this survey is to identify what types of disability microaggressions are most often experienced by people with disabilities, how people with disabilities respond to disability microaggressions, and what are some of the proposed resolutions for resolving the prevalence of disability microaggressions.”

For questions about taking the survey, please contact Kate at kate.lewandowski@spsmail.cuny.edu.

As we help Kate collect all this info about disability microaggressions, let’s always make sure we’re staying educated on the microaggressions that people in other marginalized groups face and help ourselves to unlearn those too, especially in the case of people who experience these stings across various parts of their identity and so are burdened even more. And of course, plenty of people taking this survey are people who experience microaggressions across the spectrum of their identity, which needs to be honored and respected.