Today is Spirit Day.
Talking about anti-bullying and anti-violence is generally more meaningful to me than turning everything purple. Plus, if I turned this post purple I’d probably break something!
So instead I bring you this 2009 post from brilliant and much-missed disability-rights activist Laura Hershey tells the truth about violence against people with disabilities.
Is there such a thing as a hate crime based on disability?
When President Obama signed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act into law last month, much of the excitement centered around the inclusion of sexual orientation. I too am moved that federal protection has now been extended to LGBT folks attacked by those who cannot tolerate our different expressions and gender and/or sexuality.
Equally importantly, the bill also covers crimes targeting people with physical or mental disabilities. This aspect has received less attention, possibly because many people find the very concept of disability hate crime difficult to fathom. Who could hurt the handicapped? What kind of a dirty low-life would sink so low as to prey upon a helpless disabled person?
Ironically, these common questions reflect social biases which actually contribute to violence against people with disabilities. When we are lumped into a stereotype called “the handicapped,” and seen as easy targets, passive and vulnerable, then perpetrators are more likely to seek us out and to get away with their offenses. On the other hand, when we are active and respected in our communities, we can count on some natural protection: visibility, connectedness, and legal recourse.
Hate crimes targeting disabled people do occur.
Note: If you want to turn things purple, please do. I understand it’s a really expressive colour. Just please don’t substitute purpling your world for talking.