Juneteenth, Disability, and Freedom Revisited
Two years ago, we asked DRP intern, Shawn Aleong, about his thoughts on what freedom means as a Black man with a disability, but that was before a worldwide pandemic, the George Floyd protests, and countless deaths of people with disabilities caused by police brutality. Figuring that his views may have changed considering these events, we asked him to, once again, reflect on the push towards freedom and change.
As I reflect on the past year and past June, we have a whole lot of work to be done. Not only for justice but for civil rights as well. We need to put forth a major effort to end police brutality, which has been a pandemic in and of itself. For 400 years, people of color and people with disabilities have been oppressed by society. Much like Dr. King once said, “[Black people are] still the poorest American, walled in by color and poverty. The law pronounces [them] equal--abstractly--but [their] conditions of life are still far from equal to those of other Americans. “
For centuries, America has also been stigmatizing disabilities. We still feel the effects of that stigma today. When we say that we have progressed, how have we progressed when we still have police brutality, unequal access to housing, and a lack of competitive jobs for people with disabilities?
Yet, we say that America is the land of the free.
We must come to the realization that America still has its failings that it needs to fix to become a nation of inclusivity and access for all. Black people and disabled people of color are more likely to be incarcerated and discriminated against—all because of the existence of disability and racism in their lives. It doesn’t matter which groups you identify with, if you’re an African American with a disability, society will look at you like you are not capable.
I hope one day, a Black disabled person will be able to live freely without judgment or persecution when they are simply existing. I hope that one day Black people, with and without disabilities, can have that American Dream we are told exists. I hope one day, public schools become more integrated for black disabled children so that they can learn without boundaries. I hope one day we will live up to the true creed of our democracy.
I hope that one day our human rights will be recognized.