For me, advocacy is not a choice. It is a chore. Rather like doing the dishes. If I don’t tend to them, then how do they become clean and ready for their intended purpose.
Sure, I can leave them for a meal, but what happens when I run out? I can switch to paper plates as an alternative, thus ignoring the problem a little longer. However, that isn’t sustainable or practical. So what happens when I inevitably run out of those? Then what? I eat off the floor?
My point is, that if I don’t advocate, or do the dishes, things can get a little crazy, and I have no one to blame but myself if I am unhappy with the outcome. For if only I had taken care of the details of life in the first place, or at least tried to contribute to preventing the situation from getting out of hand, I would have saved myself some present or future drama. Or at least that is the idea.
However, unlike with doing the dishes, when it comes to advocacy a girl does not always get to directly experience or see the results of her actions. So even if I do everything in my power to further the cause, educate, discuss, strategise, trouble shoot, build awareness, engage with individuals and organisations, and call out discrimination when and how I see it, there are no guarantees that my dishes will be clean and I won’t be eating off the floor anyway. Or worse, not eating at all. Because now not only are there no clean plates, but there isn’t any food either as it turns out.
Occasionally a culmination of the thousands of “if I were sighted we wouldn’t be having this conversation” scenarios can bring me to my knees. Do I or don’t I take advantage of the teachable moment? Do I take that deep breath, do I turn the other cheek, do I nod and smile politely, do I cultivate a careful answer, do I apologise for my inconvenience, do I freeze, flee or fight?
The problem being, if I don’t do understanding and tolerance and higher ground, then what? What are the consequences of my not doing the dishes? What are the consequences of breaking them over ignorance’s head? Not only for me now, but for the next encounter. What are the consequences for the next person, people, or point of view, and is it worth it? Really worth it?
Is the potential ripple effect worth a moment of personal gratification? And for what? Another dirty dish to bight me in the arse later.
Probably not. Which is why every once in a while I find myself beaten, broken and burdened by the ambassadorial role that comes with having a disability and living in a society that doesn’t value diversity or inclusivity as much as it could.
19 September 2017