The slippery slope of head pats

When annoying ableism has layers that are scary.

Emily Brown, Senior Columnist

When an abled person thinks of ableism, they probably think of people struggling to find an elevator or not being able to get a job because of their disability. While these are ableist, not everything is clear as just not following the accessibility guidelines when constructing a new building. Not only are disabled people a marginalized community, but they are also the largest marginalized community in all of America. And like every other oppressed community, we have to deal with “fun” microaggressions. They come in categories.

The first category: the classics. Most people probably know these. You know, the type of meme that says “The only disability in life is a bad attitude,” with a five-year-old in prosthetic legs running on a track. Or someone telling a disabled person that they’re brave just for going to the mall or just living their life.

The next is people thinking that you’re not disabled even though they have all the proof that you are. This can come in many forms, from random people online and non-supporting people in our lives to doctors and even our government. It’s not like I’m surprised. My mom and I have to meet with someone who works with the county we live in every year to prove that I’m still disabled and I still need services even though I have… brain damage. Someone might say that this is to protect disabled people and prevent scammers from scamming the system. But, why? Why should we jump through a million hoops to prove that we are disabled so that we get the stuff we need to live? 

Lastly, and one of my personal favorites, is when people talk down to me because they assume that I don’t understand. They get right up to my face and talk like they’re a kindergarten teacher. It annoyed me as a kid, but now I know better. I do understand. I am not a kindergartener that needs help understanding the world around me. I’ve spent years researching ableism and I know what I want to do with my life. I have support from a small, tight-knit group of friends and the best family in the world. 

On the surface, these just sound annoying. They are. And I’m not going to lie, it’s sometimes heartbreaking. But, here’s what I’ve learned: oppression is a pyramid. Microaggressions are at the bottom and at the top are instances of genocide and hate crimes The slope is slippery. One day people are patting your head and calling you cute, and the next, people are saying that everything should stay open during a global pandemic because the only people who are dying are either sick or disabled. People should know why this is hurtful. Disabled people deserve better. It starts by treating us as equals, believing us and listening to us.