Disabled people of color have been at the forefront of our movement from the beginning. Unfortunately, there has been a long and problematic trend in the disability community of the erasure and devaluing of the contributions of disabled people of color (POC). Lately, leadership in the Disability Community has spoken more about race and intersectionality than we ever have, but that in itself illustrates one aspect of the problem. As a community, it is necessary for us to acknowledge this history of erasure within our movement, actively work to promote intersectionality, and elevate the voices of disabled people of color.
People of color with disabilities, themselves, have been calling out racism – overt and covert – within our community. There have been some efforts to understand and respond, but the issue has been generally overshadowed and set aside. Although recent events have raised the profile of this issue, it is important to recognize the hard work that POC with disabilities have done in speaking for themselves in calling out this issue. In demanding that they be acknowledged and speak for themselves, they are living the values of our movement. To stay true to our values, it is important that we acknowledge and respect them and confront the racism and bias within our movement.
Disabled people of color continue teaching all of us that solidarity with other oppressed people is vital to the Disability Community because racism, misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, and other forms of oppression and prejudice compound ableism and feed upon each other. We need to hear them and recognize that solidarity with other oppressed people is the right thing to do.
But recognition is only the start of the process for us. In order to take the next step forward, we need to learn more. Instead of putting the burden to address racism and bias within the Disability Community on those who experience it by expecting them to educate us, NDLA’s steering committee has begun a process to learn more so that we can fully engage in a process to move from words into action in order to address the racism and bias that exists within the Disability Community and Movement. We are establishing a taskforce charged with the responsibility of developing a strategy to:
- Support the advocacy efforts of grassroots disabled activists of color;
- Increase the active recruitment, hiring, promotion, and retention of staff and board members that reflect the diversity of our community;
- Ensure our branding is representative of our entire community and our diversity;
- Support women, people of color, immigrants, and LGBTQ people in leadership roles in all aspects of our community and movement;
- Identify and create spaces to amplify these intersectional disabled voices throughout the mainstream community; and
- Reach out to representatives of organizations serving racial, ethnic, religious, immigrant and LGBTQ communities to present at our conferences
- Build relationships based on trust, consistency, and accountability with marginalized individuals and groups.
Each member organization of the National Disability Leadership Alliance steering committee is committed to this effort. We are seeking to identify leaders within our community with experience, expertise, and time to dedicate toward the development and implementation of a strategy. Individuals interested in supporting this effort should contact their respective organization to volunteer.
National Disability Alliance Steering Committee