Disability and Hate Speech. What can we do about it?

Photo Credit: Murat Ozkasim Model: Kathleen H

In the world of disability, it is unfortunately a common occurrence to witness hate speech and wrongdoings.

Each and every time it happens, we feel it in our bones and it echoes to the very depth of our hearts in spite of having developed pachydermous skin over the years.

Each and every time it happens, you can bet your life on it that the bully has never been exposed to disability, that they don’t have any relatives or friends with a disability, because if they did, they wouldn’t target anyone with a disability, they would stand up for them.

When it happens at school, college or at your work place, you might be lucky to be able to take it up to a teacher/professor/manager who will then escalate it so the guilty party will be sanctioned and EXPLAINED why what they said or did was wrong. And then you pray this incident was turned into an opportunity to educate and raise awareness because you want to believe that people “do the best they can until they know better, then when they know better they do better” (Maya Angelou), because you need to believe that they will get over themselves, digest it all, genuinely apologise, never do it again and actually and logically join forces with you when it’s their turn to hear or witness such incidents. Wishful thinking always helps, I find… 

When it happens in the street, or in a public place, who do you tell? If you’re lucky, somebody will stand up for you, but chances are nobody will as everybody is so busy running their errands that they choose to turn a blind eye and deaf ears  because once you acknowledge it you might have to do something about it. If you’re lucky, you are strong enough (like Superman strong) to attempt a constructive conversation with the bully and turn them round… If you’re lucky, you manage to get enough evidence to report it. If you’re lucky, your case won’t be dismissed. And if you’re lucky, you’re still strong enough to not rush back home and want to remain there forever so you don’t have to endure yet another episode ever again…

Photo Credit: Murat Ozkasim Model: Kathleen H

But just when you think you’re safe at home and take refuge in interacting online…well…

When it happens on social media or as a joke in your favourite TV series, you can report it, in THEORY. For instance, on Twitter, you can report a post as abusive but if their policy makers isn’t listening to the disabled community, that post will not be removed as it doesn’t go against their standards and therefore is not considered as abusive! Unless…unless you, as an individual or small group raise it and hope and wait that some heavyweight celebrity will pick it up and carry your voice and rally a storm behind you and force that platform to stop, listen and take action, or force that person to delete their post to avoid a scandal.

That’s exactly what happened when mum, Rachel Mewes from Making Chromosomes Count (www.makingchromosomescount.co.uk ), spotted that infamous twitter post by Liam Gallagher using the M word. Sally Phillips immediately rallied behind MCC and showed him up, others followed suit, and the tweet was deleted (https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/racism-prejudice-playground-bullying-liam-gallagher-sally-phillips-twitter-a9505521.html).But if Sally Phillips hadn’t had a son with Down syndrome, she may have not even heard about that post, and if Sally Phillips hadn’t been famous she wouldn’t have been able to gain the momentum behind her outrage. So thank goodness she has a son with Down syndrome and thank goodness she is famous enough to have some clout. But it shouldn’t be that way. Mums shouldn’t have to sift through social media platforms on a daily basis and flag up abusive posts so their children never have to come across them when they’re old enough to use those platforms. We shouldn’t have to rely on celebrities for an abusive post to be taken down. But the reality is, we do and we are grateful we at least have that recourse until things change.

And things can and will change if everyone and every platform join Rachel’s campaign through Making Chromosomes Count: #RaiseYourStandards. 

Photo credit: Angela Harper Model: Kathleen H



Until then, let’s keep reporting, because #DisabledVoicesMatter

By Denise Humberstone http://www.troynize.com

Kathleen Humberstone, Model:





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