The Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition stands with the Black Lives Matters movement to bear witness to the pain of centuries of racial oppression, inequity and white supremacy intensified by recent brutal actions including but not limited to the murder of George Floyd, the flaunting of white privilege by Amy Cooper, and the recent executions of Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor. The anger is righteous and fueled by the exacerbation of racial disparities played out in the lacking response to the novel Coronavirus and some of the racist “dog whistle” rhetoric that goes with how we talk about “underlying conditions” which often involves victim-blaming rather than calling out oppressive policies of racism that permeates our health care systems.
This is not to disregard all of the cumulative behaviors/actions of the past. The oppressive policies of racism (both their design and how we carry them out explicitly and implicitly) permeate life in America and around the world, including the disability community. All of us who have benefited from our whiteness has a responsibility to actively engage in dismantling those systems. There are things white people can do and we must do so without making it about us. We must work together with our brothers and sisters in communities of color. Organizations led by marginalized communities must work against systemic racism. This is true for us even when disability is not the main issue.
So, why is CCDC saying anything? Because race and disability work together. People of color, particularly Black, Latino, and Indigenous people are more likely to have disabilities. Every factual indicator of disparity including health outcomes, education, employment, accumulation of wealth, the likelihood of being in a congregate setting including prison, jail, nursing facility, or homeless shelter, rises when you mix race and disability. People of color live with the constant stress of racism. This “toxic stress” causes many health conditions that can lead to disability. While there are no publicly know indications that the recent murder victims had disabilities many previous well-known victims did including Freddie Gray and Eric Garner. Moreover, Black people and other people of color are an important part of our organization. But this must go beyond disability. Our mission is to advocate for social justice and that includes being an ally even when disability is not part of the picture and even when it is not on the front pages. We must support organizations led by people of color and show up when invited and make offers to assist when we know of a need or understand the issues. It is up to all of us to dismantle the societal structures that got us to this place. We must do our own internal work as an organization and community to build a culture of equity, diversity, inclusiveness, and belonging, and at the same time work on systems issues. We need to increase the numbers of people of color throughout our organization and movement, especially in leadership positions. We must do this work every day and honor the goals set out in our strategic plan that integrate racial equity into all of our work.