Much more than a green shirt

The dark side of awareness days

Emily Brown, Senior Columnist

February is Black History Month. March is International Women’s History Month and Cerebral Palsy Awareness Month. April is Autism Acceptance Month. June is Queer Pride Month. July is Disability Awareness Month. October is Coming Out Month and Sexual Violence Prevention Month. If this seems like a lot, it’s because it is. The funny part is that this isn’t even an exhaustive list. If it seems exhausting to keep up with, that’s because it’s exhausting to keep up with. When I was younger, I thought that awareness months were exciting. And by younger, I’m talking about my first and second years of college.

I still remember the excitement of Coming Out week the fall of my first year. The coming-out vigil was calm, beautiful and emotional. The following June, Pride felt like a month-long party for me. My Facebook thread was blowing up with rainbow stuff and I even tried going to my local pride parade. While I was in euphoria about it, a sense of relief washed over me on July first. I realized I was on a treadmill.

While I still love Pride Month and want to go with my friends once it’s safe, I do get the feeling of burnout every July first. If I’m being honest, compared to disability awareness and disability pride months, queer pride feels like a vacation to me. I’m really into disability activism and educating people on ableism. So, you would think I would love the whole month of March and July. But, to be honest, I hate it. This march pissed me off so much. But, the real storm came on March 25th, National Cerebral Palsy Day.

Now, if I’m being honest, I usually forget National Cerebral Palsy Day until it’s like April 7th, and then, I shrug, say “Oh, crap!”, and I promise myself to remember next year. And it repeats itself. But this year, I looked up the date and I remembered. My plan for the day was to eat leftovers with my mom and enjoy her company. But, when I checked Instagram, my page was riddled with smiling kids and family in green shirts (green representing Cerebral Palsy) and them talking about how they were grateful for Cerebral Palsy and how much Cerebral Palsy has taught them.

Seems innocent enough, right? Well, it could be. But, when you take a closer look, it has a jaded meaning behind it. First of all, I should mention that I don’t like the fact that parents put their children, disabled or not, on the internet. But, that’s a whole different topic. The reason why I hate Cerebral Palsy awareness is the same reason that Cerebral Palsy awareness is the way that it is; for our oppressor’s comfort and acceptance. It’s the same reason why a ton of disabled characters in media are either inspirational or superheroes. We’re much more likely to be accepted if we smile, don’t complain, and don’t challenge the system. Because if we challenge the system, people get uncomfortable.

Good! Great! Perfect!

I want people to get uncomfortable. I want them to face the reality of ableism. I don’t want them to just wear a green shirt once a year, snap a picture for Instagram and call it a day. That will do nothing for me.

Ableism is a daily fight for me. It doesn’t just go away with a stroke of midnight or a new calendar page. And it shouldn’t for everyone else. I’ll leave you with a question: Is this day for me? Or is it for the people who want a pat on the back?