It is absolutely impossible to understand my life without understanding that I have had cerebral palsy since the day I was born. Having cerebral palsy means that it forced me to have a strong sense of social justice for my entire life, because people with my condition have literally been murdered simply for existing. Family members discriminated against me because of my disability in a very cruel way when I was in high school, preventing me from finding employment. My already heightened sense of social justice was further amplified by this treatment. Combine this with general pervasive social discrimination against people with disabilities and my ability to find a job has definitely been hampered. I have tested this and I know for a fact that when I check that disability box on an employment form it is less likely they will call me back. I have run experiments on this issue. The results were depressing.
No wonder my sense for social justice is so strong. I will only ever know what life is like as someone who is disabled. It doesn’t matter if people know it or not, because if I am forced to out myself to a hiring manager their decision will be impacted by my checking the box and it doesn’t matter if the job is for a private company, most non-profits, or government. The callback rate is the same for all industries in my experience.
With this experience, no wonder I have a deep sense of social justice and when I see something wrong or insufficient I get angry. I get angry because it is an attack on me personally. When politicians refuse to use all possible mechanisms to fight evil it is a direct attack on my existence. For me I see no alternative than fighting hard to win just fights because people will literally die if we don’t.
If it wasn’t for how I was treated in high school because of my disability my mental health to this day would be significantly better. Even after abuse ends, its impact can last for decades. It would have made it easier to form romantic relationships, it would have been easier to not have a layer of depression over everything I do every day of my life, and it would have significantly improved my overall well-being if it wasn’t for the discrimination I have encountered.
Because of this discrimination I have experienced, I am easier to anger, I am slower to please (although when I am pleased by something that emotion is also magnified) and my reactions can scare people at times. There have been some times where the way I have been treated by others has made me so absolutely angry that I have literally scared other people. It has hurt my most important relationships and can make me feel very very alone. These reactions are proportional to how I have been treated in the past.
Finding other friends who both know what it is like to be disabled and discriminated against because of this fact of which I have no control over is very difficult. Merely being disabled will only help people empathize so much, it is the discrimination from my immediate family which has caused the deepest and longest lasting damage.
Being disabled made it harder to find a job, which makes it harder to get raises, which makes it harder to support myself. It is not that my disability makes it more difficult to do my job, it has no impact on that, but it took far longer for me to find work than it should have after finding college, which is also why the damage in 2018 when I suddenly found myself both housing insecure and unemployed was so absolutely damaging to me. For most people finding another job is easy, but for a disabled American who was only 25 at the time, whose only professional work experience of note was at a public college, it was significantly more difficult than for other people. That is why that event in 2018 is one of the most traumatic of my life and was the hardest on people who truly love me who had to observe it. It drove some people who clearly love me to be more distant because it was so painful for them to watch, and that makes me angry and sad. I am grateful that I am now fully employed at a wonderful company with good people, I just wish it happened years ago. It makes my life so much better in every possible way.
Anger is a valid emotion, and is important. Anger allows people to notice when things are not being done correctly, and then seek a course of action. If you can harness anger to make change then it can be a powerful force for good in this world. I wouldn’t put in the time for righteous fights when they appear, nor would I be so deeply disgusted by compromising measures if it wasn’t for my experience in this world. Every single action of political movement I do is to make it so that hopefully someday no one will have to go through the same types of experiences I have gone through, which are completely overwhelming at times. This includes actions like more progressive tax codes, environmental justice which impacts everybody, and voting reforms which make it so people who have unorthodox experiences are more likely to be heard.
Beyond the political activism I very deliberately become involved in organizations which actively fight injustice and work to make the world a better place. I spend my time in these places because I have this inherent unshakable belief that the world can become better.
No wonder I studied political economy in college, and no wonder that sometimes I very forcefully speak my mind when issues concern my existence. It makes perfect sense and I really hope that someday we can live in a world where we treat each other with kindness.
And I pray that as I grow older I will become more calm and able to control my deep emotions while never sacrificing my deep sense of justice.