As a disabled Black woman born with a neuromuscular disability, I’m often asked “what are you?” and “what happened to you?” You know when you “appear” racially-ambiguous folks need to figure out how to categorize while casting a slight side-eye or sometimes smizing out of curiosity. Tis a funny thing to be straight-faced *giggles* with a not-so-straight gait.
Oh how they wait for the reply with eyes growing wide while dining on lines to describe your biology while scanning the expanse of your anatomy. The need to place you in a category and define who you will be, nothing in their frame of reference culled from mainstream imagery.
Let me tell you…
I’m a wool fedora pulled forward. I’m a calm struggle whose cadence is complicated. Staccato-strutting through life cracked, whole, complete with each clickety-clack of my cane tapping down the street. And my effort and pace solidifies occupancy of space. Reflective and analytical, sometimes self-critical. I check-in and root out any bouts of internalized ableism harboring as an unwelcome house guest.
My best on any day changes due to hormones, energy, nutrition, amount of sleep and stress. Giving myself permission to be fab today. Disabled women of color still absent across the media landscape. No wonder why we’re self-validating.
My experience has been that many disabled women of color are in need of care, caregivers, and community builders and exist in that continuum.Why is it again that many of us feel so “less than?” This is why sisterhood and support is so vital from community built of commonality.
I tip my hat to my sisters making a way, often from little to nothing, without fanfare or fame, surviving. Though life has not gone unscathed, high premium means heavy price paid too many times from unaddressed/unacknowledged pain.
So when you hear us shout and spotlight ourselves and speak our names… it’s an affirmation of our revolutionary acts of being.