Being Black and disabled - 'Battling two barriers makes it double the challenge' — Scope | Disability forum
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Being Black and disabled - 'Battling two barriers makes it double the challenge'

Tori_Scope Scope Campaigns Posts: 12,465 Disability Gamechanger
The following quotes are taken from Disability should be part of Black history conversations – I’ve gone my whole life seeing people like me erased (Independent).
Growing up, it felt odd not being able to see many people who were black and disabled. I remember thinking society was ashamed of people who looked and sounded different. People like me. Was I being punished due to my narrow airway? Was I not good enough? And what were other black disabled people going through if I as a child at the time believed I wasn’t worthy?
I never really saw people like myself on TV and frequently asked my mother why black people weren’t equally represented as white people; from a young age of six, I felt we all needed to be given the same opportunities.
Talkative and full of questions, I wanted to know why I hardly saw people like me; or whether black people had been “naughty”, seeing as we weren’t, as I interpreted it, “allowed” to be on small or large screens across the nation. It was that curiosity that spurred my father on to educate me about my cultural heritage at the tender age of seven.
Though prominent figures such as BBC presenter Andi Peters and ITN’s Trevor McDonald gave me a small glimpse of hope, by the time I became a teenager, I realised I felt miles apart from my peers and the wider black community due to being disabled.  
Black disabled representation in the UK is still shockingly rare. But there are plenty of figures I wish we did a better job of celebrating. One of which is television presenter and wheelchair basketball player, Ade Adepitan. Coming from Nigeria, where disability as a whole can in some arenas be seen as witchcraft, or evidence of the past sins of parents being punished by God, I’ve always seen Adepitan as uniquely inspirational. 
Through the contributions of people like him, it was again proven to me that being black and disabled shouldn’t be seen as the barrier it is often treated as.  
Marsha de Cordova, shadow secretary of state for women and equalities, is another source of inspiration. Elected as the first black MP with a disability within the house of parliament in 2014 (Cordova was born with nystagmus and is registered blind), she works to fight for inclusion while working tirelessly to represent people within Battersea, her constituency. Watching this lady’s achievements taught me an insightful lesson that no matter her impairment and struggles as a black woman, she didn’t allow her impaired vision to hold her back. 
I like to think I have the same approach to my life. It was difficult growing up feeling like the duality of my identity was a massive taboo (even among people of the same ethnicity) due to society’s lack of understanding about disability and the far-reaching impacts of ableism. But it opened my eyes to the importance of doing what I do today. Not only is there a fight to be noticed as a black person but battling two barriers makes it double the challenge.
I see this while doing my advocacy work in the UK too. I am invited to speak on issues affecting black disabled communities on a regular basis, and through it, I’ve learned that there is an incredible lack of understanding from workplace policy, law enforcement, local authorities and more – all of which still have yet to figure out how to fairly work with and represent black disabled people.
Institutionally, the justice system has never been fair to black people. To be a disabled person in addition is a double punishment.      
To have three reasons why you feel your voice and existence is not worthy and having to fight for equal and fair share of society’s opportunities in 2020 shows you racism, sexism and ableism have long legacies that need to be rewritten.
There has been a massive awakening about the importance of giving marginalised groups a seat at the table this year but there’s more work to be done. For disabled black brits in particular, that workload is mountainous. If Black Lives Matter, disabled black lives should too. The sooner society wakes up to that, the more freedom we’ll all be able to enjoy.

Over to you...

Do you have an experience of being Black and disabled that you'd like to share with us? 

Which Black and disabled people do you look up to?
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  • Alex_Scope
    Alex_Scope Posts: 7,562 Scope online community team
    Haben Girma is someone I enjoy listening to as an advocate for disability rights, but also to gain insight into her experience as a black disabled woman.

    She has a book called 'Haben: The Deafblind Woman Who Conquered Harvard Law', but I first encountered her as a speaker in webinar in 2020, about the history of black disabled activism in America. 

    She is a quietly powerful speaker and it was really inspiring :)  
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  • Tori_Scope
    Tori_Scope Scope Campaigns Posts: 12,465 Disability Gamechanger
    Thanks @Alex_Scope! I'll have to check her out :) 
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  • Elizabeth100
    Elizabeth100 Community member Posts: 3 Listener
    Not sure if this helps much, but this whole theme of identities colliding is called Intersectionality, an idea created by Kimberlé Crenshaw.

    Kimberlé Crenshaw is a lawyer, lecturer, and activist who noticed that we often knew the names of black men who had been killed by security or police officers e.g. Trayvon Martin, George Floyd, but forgot the black women killed in a similar way: Breonna Taylor, Atatiana Jefferson.  Intersectionality means you can be impact disproportionately, as a person who is black and disabled is, as is a person who is disabled and female, disabled and working class etc., etc.
  • Tori_Scope
    Tori_Scope Scope Campaigns Posts: 12,465 Disability Gamechanger
    Absolutely @elizabeth100 :) I'm reasonably familiar with intersectionality, but I do think it's something that should be talked about more! 

    Is this a topic you take a particular interest in? 
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  • L_Volunteer
    L_Volunteer Community Volunteer Adviser, Scope Member Posts: 7,979 Disability Gamechanger
    I find intersectionality so interesting, insightful, and important! I take particular interest in intersectionality  :)
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