Readers, we need to talk.
If you’ve been following the Nest for any length of time, you probably know or can guess a bit about my political convictions. I’m pretty conservative, more fiscally than socially, but still conservative. I think the Supreme Court dropped the ball in 1962 when prayer was removed from school. I’m pro-life (and anti-death penalty, which most conservatives I know don’t really get, but whatever). I love and respect the LGBT community but do not support things like kindergartners being taught about sexual identity/preferences, teens getting sex changes, etc. I would rather have immigrants come to my country legally and pay their dues as best they can, than come illegally. I still say Merry Christmas, wear some form of flag memorabilia on July fourth, and get a kick out of Todd Starnes’ new radio show.
I also think some of the ways we’ve bent over backwards to avoid offending anyone for any reason are ridiculous. I’m talking about schools that refuse to let students use traditional gender pronouns. I’m talking about the college students in MS who were “triggered” by cornbread served at a banquet. (Side note: Yes, there are real traumas and real triggers. But personally–if you are in college, if you are old enough not to have to get a tardy slip when you’re late for class because you couldn’t find a parking space for your car–then you are old enough to recognize cornbread and cotton tablecloths aren’t legit triggers in 99.9% of cases). Whenever I hear yet another report of microaggressions, or some group claiming they were discriminated against just because they didn’t get their way, I cringe. And that goes for your WASPs, too, by the way. I respect that you guys want the Ten Commandments to stay in front of your courthouses. I respect that you want your children to be able to recognize the Confederate flag as a heritage symbol. But don’t whine and cry to me because somebody didn’t specifically pray in Jesus’ name at the football game, or because the school instituted Meatless Mondays. That’s ridiculous.
Feeling how I feel about these kinds of things, I get a little squirmy when something bothers me about the way people with disabilities are approached. My personal policy has always been, if it’s not blatant discrimination, it’s not worth throwing a fit over. I don’t want to become the person who claims microaggressions every time somebody asks her about her cerebral palsy, or insinuates she can’t do something because of it, or whatever. Heck, half the time I’m not even sure what a microaggression is because the definition seems to change every day. That’s why I hesitated to say what I’m going to now:
Subtle discrimination and microaggressions against people with disabilities do exist.
Are they always intentional or mean-spirited? No. Do we need to claim we’re “triggered” every time we see or experience them? No. But they are there. And even things that don’t necessarily fall into those categories, are just plain strange.
Personal example from yesterday: I’ve been unemployed for a few months, having quit my previous job after dealing too long with an unreasonable client. So yesterday, I got a lead and applied for a new position. At the end of the application, there was the usual section on personal demographics. You know, the one that has fields like, “Sex,” “Race,” etc. The one where you specify if you’re a U.S. veteran or are registered for the Selective Service. At the very end of that section, there is the question, “Do you have a disability?” Your only two options are yes or no.
You know where I’m going with this, right?
Right. Our job applications, forms, what have you, have evolved. On most forms, when asked about your gender, race, or color, you can say “I prefer not to answer.” Unless an organization requires you to sign a faith-based statement, you can mark “I prefer not to answer/no answer” if asked about religion. But somehow, it’s okay that PWDs have no choice but to disclose their disabilities on a job application? I don’t think so!
Now again, I’m not sure I consider this a microaggression. I’m not sure I consider it discrimination. But at the very least, it’s singling out one group, in a way that others are not singled out. It *could* be used for negative or discriminatory purposes. But even if none of those things were true–why? Why, once again, does everybody get a choice except PWDs? Why, once again, are PWDs the only ones required to disclose some of their most personal information, when other minorities can say, “I don’t want to answer?”
It makes no sense to me. Conservative, liberal, Christian, Hindu, I don’t care who you are–it’s just weird. See, when employers tell people with disabilities to mark yes or no, they put them in a bad position. Either the person effectively lies, marks “no,” and then has to reveal the truth later, which damages his or her credibility. Or, he or she marks “yes” and goes into the job interview, the meeting, whatever, already behind the eight ball. Because let’s face it, people. Microaggressions and triggers or not, PWDs get judged, and often more harshly than most other people. What’s worse is that employers claim they don’t do it, but we all know they do. We all know that when they hear something like, “I have cerebral palsy” or “I have Down Syndrome,” a little light bulb goes off in their heads. People with disabilities have come a long way, but we’re still getting the leery eye, directly or indirectly, when we try to function in the mainstream world.
Now, I’m not saying every employer goes straight to that disability box and throws out any applications marked “yes.” That’s not a micro-anything. That’s MACRO discrimination for which people should be held accountable. But personally, I think that little box does make real discrimination easier. If not that, it makes it easier for an employer to rationalize, “Well, this person is qualified and seems great, but this other person is just as qualified and doesn’t have a disability, sooooo….” And you see what happens.
That disability box should not be on our applications and forms, period. It sets PWDs and their employers or supervisors up for too much fallout. Plus, it fails a basic litmus test. In other words, you would never write on an application, “Are you Muslim? Check yes or no. Are you black? Yes or no–and with what skin tone would you identify yourself? Do you have any affiliation with the LGBT community, yes or no?”
In fact, if that did happen, everybody from both sides of the aisle would be screaming their heads off. So again, why is it okay to do it to PWDs? Take me out of your box–and take “I prefer not to answer” as an answer. Thank you.