Sometimes when we honor those we love and appreciate, that energy is met with equal and opposite energy. These days it seems to be happening more and more. As I look around and take action for causes I believe in, I know in my heart that righteousness doesn’t need gimmick to gain momentum. But what about the bigger picture? I find myself wrapped up with concerns for the voices of the unheard, the voices of those who are being wrongfully targeted, the voices of the disabled. With the hatred and hate crimes circling through the atmosphere so much so that my friends and fighters across the nation feel somewhat threatened this holiday season, they fear going outside in large gatherings where people might become targets, they feel a little misunderstood by their friends, and mostly a deep deep sense of loss and powerlessness. Los Angeles still remains a hub of energy and life, we bring creative passion with every struggle and somehow make everything look and feel gorgeous even when it’s not. But in States like Ohio with their Heartbeat bill proposal or North Carolina failing to repeal their Transgender Bathroom law it feels like the ground is giving way to quick sand as we head into #InaugurationDay2017.
When I think about what we face I have to consider ALL the people. I have to consider the lives of injured people, of disabled people, of many many more people, I just can’t help it. In most instances of social and economic study these people are left out of the conversation: if we are about inclusion then we must seek to understand the systems that confine us all. Did you know that in the division of labor it is well documented that minorities are purposefully provided with the lowest paying jobs? Did you know that they are also provided with the least desirable jobs? I’m sure you did, I’m sure you’ve listened to your parents and also, if you’ve grown up anything like I have you’ve also understood that every single one of them are grateful for what they have, but that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about how it is that we came upon the lives we have, not how we view them. There are four attributes that contribute to a disabled person’s employment: Gender, Age, Race, and Ethnicity. Now how can that be? I’m a little surprised by this. I might think that, perhaps, type of disability, or type of employment, or access to healthcare, that those would be main contributors; but you mean to tell me that exactly what holds back minorities from their white counterparts in society today, that Gender or Race or Ethnicity or Age that those are the primary factors affecting employment for Disabled People? I say it like I’m shocked when we all know I’m really not, but I do get upset when the numbers point directly to what I was thinking and feeling and people in power think that this is just OK.
Unfortunately, education attainment and employment rates go hand in hand too. The more educated, the less likely a person is to work the riskier jobs and less likely to become disabled. But we all know that with segregated school systems and systems stacked against our minority children that the playing field is not level; now factor in our born disabled children and the defunding that has taken good dedicated and passionate teachers from them not to mention from their education which directly impacts their likelihood of employment as adults; that there is an even greater likelihood that the people with the most injury prone jobs are the people most likely to end up injured and least educated and still the ones who most need our attention. The scales are tipped from the second we are brought into the world and if a person is disabled then they face an even greater uphill struggle for employment.
Sadly, young adults who graduate from college have a 22% higher earning potential than those who don’t and 66% of working age adults with disabilities are unemployed. That’s 2/3 of the disabled human beings who want to gain higher education, who want to work, but statistically when compared to the rest of society do they just not match up fairly? Or, did the systems that were meant to encourage them instead syphon them to exactly where society wants them to be? That is not what I want. I will speak up. And when measured against White Disabled People do minorities not measure up with equal employment rates? No, they do not. And among them, I’m sad to say, our Disabled Veterans (so willing and able to fight for our countless wars making them disabled through combat) suffer the lowest employment rates, with Female Veterans the least likely to work of all than their civilian counterparts. This is not for lack of trying: this is a systemic discrimination.
We have to look deep within ourselves and ask ourselves when is enough enough? You don’t have to show scars to be suffering, you don’t have to walk with a limp to be impaired, you don’t have to do anything wrong or have made any different choices because, my friends, the decisions were made long ago. Division of labor left the riskiest jobs to the least educated, and the least educated are the most likely to have the largest employment gap once disabled, and Disabled are castaside. Disabled People deserve to live- not be pulled from their wheelchairs, forced to the ground, tased, and arrested for existing:
*Stats from Research and American Community Survey, Individual Characteristics and the Disability Employment Gap from Journal of Disability Policy Studies
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