We Need to Stop Saying Things Like “The Last Acceptable Prejudice”

I came across an article yesterday entitled “Laughing at Dwarfism is the Last Acceptable Prejudice“. It’s a great article actually. It talks about how the author and other people with dwarfism have both experienced general prejudice and the added bizarre phenomenon of having people basically ask them if it is ok to tell a story or joke at the expense of someone (or all people) with dwarfism. It is important to talk about these kinds of social interactions and dissect how problematic this behaviour is.

It is however simply not true that there is only one single group that experiences prejudice that is either socially accepted or ignored as being not as big an issue as it is. A quick google search for “the last acceptable prejudice” netted me several groups that are currently vying for the title. The most common being Catholics. The list quickly extended to include; sexism in sports, obesity, ageism, LGBT people, rich people, and people with accents. There are like others who would also claim the title. In terms of actually experiencing prejudice some people who claim the title have more valid reasons to cite prejudice than do others (rich people for example, this assertion came from Donald Trump for those of you who didn’t click through). The fact remains that for the majority of these groups, their claims to experiencing prejudice–prejudice that was likely ignored by others–is entirely valid.

In 1989 Diane Driedger wrote a book about the fight for civil rights for disabled people. She titled this book “The Last Civil Rights Movement” I can personally think of a few advances and set back in civil rights for a number of groups other that disabled people that have occurred since 1989. Momentum on marriage equality only really picked up this century, racism is still very much a thing and attacks on women’s reproductive freedom are alive and well. I have heard Driedger speak and she spoke about joining the disability rights movement because all of the other major movements were over. I have always been troubled by this as other oppressions still clearly exist and there is still activism battling those oppressions. She is also not the only person to label a movement “The Last Civil Rights Movement

I know phrases like this don’t actively deny other prejudices and oppressions but they do unnecessarily minimize them which creates competing oppressions or the oppression olympics with everyone shouting over each other to either simply validate their experiences or even actively suggest that theirs is worse. It would be almost impossible to quantify this in most cases and I genuinely don’t think it’s useful to try. At the end of the day oppression and prejudice are terrible things to experience and I don’t think anyone should have to wait in line to have their experiences addressed just because someone else’s have been deemed worse.

Acceptable prejudice particularly is after all pretty subjective. We live in a world where a man who is running for president can say that he thinks a significant portion of undocumented immigrants are rapists. Last I checked, he’s still a strong contender for the nomination. The fact that a lot of people were horrified and shocked and actively protest him doesn’t change the fact that a significant and influential number of people actually seem to like that kind of rhetoric.

We also live in a world where calling out prejudicial behaviour is attacked. The backlash against political correctness is strong and growing. The number of people who think being able to say offensive things without backlash is already large and growing. People who disagree with them are labeled whiny and thin skinned. The fact that these people often know that they are saying offensive things is irrelevant, they are still actively trying to make it acceptable for them to do so without criticism.

I sincerely doubt there is a prejudice that is universally accepted by everyone who doesn’t belong to the targeted group and there is likely a large group of people who find prejudices against every marginalized group acceptable (even if that acceptance isn’t universal. There is no “last acceptable prejudice” I assure you there are many and it only hurts people when one experience of oppression is given unnecessary precedent over another.

There needs to be a way that people can talk about their own experiences of prejudice without erasing those of others.

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When Voices of Privilege Compare Oppressions to Make Oppression Respectable

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The above image shows a picture of Army Veteran, Noah Galloway crouching as if to start a footrace. He is a double amputee (left arm and leg). He wears a running blade prosthetic. The picture is captioned

Caitlyn Jenner won the Arthur Ashe Courage Award. The runner up was this guy: Army Veteran Noah Galloway, who lost an arm and leg to a roadside bomb in Iraq,and now competes in crossfit events, runs marathons, and competed in the 58-hour Death Race.

This image has been retweeted on Twitter over 50,000 times. It is a horribly transphobic image. It is also a lie. The idea that Jenner won over Galloway is pure conjecture. The is no evidence that Galloway or anyone else was even considered for the award.

So effectively someone was angry that Caitlyn Jenner who has a long and successful athletic career is getting recognized for both her contribution to athletics and her more recent contributions to social change in transgender representation. This angry person then needed to find a more suitable (read respectable) winner, one that people would have difficulty or even be shamed for criticizing. They picked Noah Galloway.

This obviously resonated with people as it was shared so widely. In fact a Canadian politician Rick Dykstra is facing criticism over sharing it. He also really wishes that people would just get over it already.

The issue isn’t just that the tweet was transphobic. It also created an argument that it is appropriate to compare oppressions and suggest that some marginalized people are more deserving of positive recognition. This is awful and dangerous.

Marginalized groups should not have to compete against each other or wait their turn in the fight for social justice and human rights. Even in the case for the group that comes out on top it is bad. The position is precarious and lasts only as long as the voice of privilege and power want to redirect attention away from something that makes them even more uncomfortable. They may find themselves in the lower position of competing oppressions when the situation and stakes are different.

Disabled people are not more worthy or deserving of recognition than trans people and there experiences except in instances where the two identities intersect aren’t really comparable. Any suggestion to the contrary is likely trying the justify the continued marginalization of one group by using the other as a red herring. In the end they don’t really care about either.

I am a cis disabled woman and I entirely support the recognition of Caitlyn Jenner’s contribution to sports and society. Noah Galloway’s experiences and athletic triumphs are indeed notable and important in showing how life doesn’t end after disability but even if I had to compare the contributions of the two I would still support Jenner. Society has been supporting and applauding disabled athletes for a while now. The same can not be said for transgender athletes. In terms of social impact celebrating Jenner has more potential for creating a cultural shift towards trans acceptance and inclusion. This is precisely because so many people are uncomfortable with the idea. Giving people the comfortable option isn’t really supporting change.

This in no way detracts from the accomplishments of Noah Galloway because celebrating Caitlyn Jenner isn’t the indictment of Galloway that the above image suggests that it is.

Don’t Use Being Nice to Disabled People to Redirect Attention Away From Police Violence

Did you know that all the backlash against police misconduct that is currently happening in the United States is actually just people needlessly abusing poor kind police officers?

You didn’t? You probably think it has something to do with the spate of unnecessary deaths of black people at the hands of  police. Police officers who are then rarely if ever punished. Deaths that continue to happen despite the growing awareness of questionable police practices.

I am heartbroken as I continue to see new incidences of police violence against people of colour. I am horrified at the lack of accountability police departments have shown. I am particularly troubled by the us vs. them mentality that officers in affected communities have fostered. They have set themselves up as victims. Police turned their backs on New York Mayor Bill De Blasio when he attended the funeral of a slain police officer. Their grievance? De Blasio had acknowledged the systemic nature of racist policing that led to the death of Eric Garner and the issue of the use of stop and frisk against communities of colour in the city.

It is unfortunate that there are a lot of police officers who seem to see any criticism of policing as a personal attack. Whether or not most officers don’t participate in these acts of racialized violence is irrelevant. Failure to recognize and push against the environment that is all to permissive of those who commit violence is the problem. The fact remains that when violence happens, there is little recourse. In situations where there are no witnesses, the police officer is believed. That’s a lot of power.

It is power that is demonstrably not earned, consider the recent death of Walter Scott. The officer claimed he killed Scott in self defense. He said Scott stole his taser. Video evidence has since proven that Scott was fleeing and it is like that the officer planted his taser near the body of his victim. In this case unlike so many others, charges have been laid against the offending officer. Unfortunately this outcome is not likely a signal of a social shift away from the unnecessary loss of life.

During what is tragically only the most recent example of senseless violence, the death of Freddie Gray while in police custody, I was reminded of a video I saw around Easter. It is a video about a father who found a way to make beeping Easter eggs so that his visually impaired daughter could participate in Easter egg hunts.

For the most part, the video is endearing and aside from the sexist remark at the beginning about the pink phone and his comment about how he thought he would have to institutionalize his visually impaired daughter, it is generally informative.

Despite being a feel good piece about helping blind children, it manages to avoid veering into inspiration porn territory. It is actually quite informative as to how to include children with visual impairments in social functions where sight is generally considered necessary.

Where it gets dicey is near the end around the 5:45 mark. He has throughout the video mentioned that he works for the ATF and that the ATF and other law enforcement agencies have been making these eggs. So the nice actions are connected to the makers but right at the end he makes a comment which makes me very uncomfortable. When the reporter asks him how other people can support this initiative he says (emphasis mine).

You could even call your local police department and talk to somebody with the bomb squad or call your local ATF office. You know law enforcement has taken a beating here lately and the Christan Church as well and both organizations have selflessly stepped up.

The first time I watched this video as soon as he said “law enforcement has taken a beating” I stopped the video in disgust. I could not believe that he would make a veiled reference to protests against police violence and so utterly disregard why there are protests in the first place and place law enforcement in the role of victim.

He also decided to use helping disabled children as a way to minimize the seriousness of the situation. Helping one marginalized group does not erase an organization’s role in the active oppression of another!

To me this is just awful. It’s like saying “ignore or overlook the suffering of one group by looking at the marginal inclusion of another”

You might say that this interview was taped before the death of Freddie Gray so it is applied out of context but it was not before the deaths of

Michael Brown

Eric Garner

Tamir Rice

and so many others at the hands of police and I assure in these cases it was not law enforcement that was taking a beating.

Helping build inclusion for disabled people is wonderful and educating others on how to do it is very important. Being a part of that push to inclusion does not however erase a groups involvement in the deaths and oppression of people of colour.