A couple of months ago, I shared a Now This tweet that included a video by a white man in a wheelchair. The text read: “People in interabled couples are often stereotyped as a burden or a hero, but this man offers a real, intimate look at interabled love.” This may sound harmless enough.
When you click on the video, you can hear the man speaking. He says, “Our society is accepting now of interracial, interfaith, same gender couples, all kinds of situations…” In his own words he tells us this idea of interabled couples is piggybacking off of the language surrounding and the stigma attached to interracial relationships.
We must not cease critically analyzing a message simply because it’s being delivered by a disabled person. Here is why that is harmful, a form of hate, and this term should not be mainstreamed.
I am a disabled, Black woman married to an abled, Asian man. I can tell you definitively that our 22-year marriage is not accepted. If my relationship were mainstreamed, there would not be online debates about whether it’s okay to date out of one’s race. There would not be articles and Twitter discussions about why people date outside of their race. People wouldn’t try to figure out what kind of mindset my husband and I have about race. We could just exist without a second thought.
If my relationship were mainstreamed, I don’t think I could find a recent article about segregation in communities. Where does an interracial couple live? There are no “interracial neighborhoods.” The obvious answer is: Wherever we feel comfortable.
But what if the race we feel comfortable around doesn’t feel comfortable with our spouse, our relationship, or us? This is something most people don’t often think about unless they are in this situation. The fallacy that interracial couples are mainstreamed is only one of my issues with the concept of framing relationships as “interabled.”
As with many situations, disability representation and conversations about disability are very Euro-centric. White people don’t magically lose their tendency towards upholding and benefiting from white supremacy because they are disabled. Yet, people treat disabled people, especially white, disabled people as a whole, as paragons of virtue.
People are very quick to give malicious, disabled people the benefit of the doubt, excusing words and actions with, “Surely they mean no harm.” It’s as if there’s a fear that calling them out is hurting disabled people. This needs to stop because disabled people are people capable of harm and false reasoning. It does not matter if the disability is physical, mental, developmental or some combination of these, this still holds true. White, disabled people are capable of upholding and promoting white supremacy and harming abled and disable Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOCs). Disabled BIPOCs are capable of this as well. As much as people want to believe and/ or demonstrate that they see disabled people as equal/ people/ valuable contributors to society, there is no better way of doing that than by holding abled and disabled people accountable when it comes to all types of discrimination.
And this is why comparing any life difficulty to being Black or interracial relationships is exploitative, manipulative and diminishing. The best way for white people to stop contributing to white supremacy and diminishing the impact of BIPOC movements is by not stealing the language used in movements and twisting them to recenter them on whiteness or everyone under the guise of all struggles being equal.
Non-Black people seem to forget that Black people exist until it’s time to either overtly or covertly compare their struggle to being Black. Then suddenly, everything is comparable. This is the point in the conversation where Black people usually lose non-Black people because when we say,“We have a more difficult circumstance,” what people hear is,“You have it easy.” We aren’t saying non-Black people have it easy. What we want non-Black people to understand is that Black people can experience most if not all marginalizations that non-Black people experience. Not acknowledging this diminishes the impact of having to deal with anti-Blackness, racism, AND whatever difficulties non-Black people experience, like maybe a disability.