Trump’s mocking insults have aggressive undertones for people with disabilities — and that’s a frightening thing
When Donald Trump mocked a reporter with a disability, and when it came out that he called a deaf woman “retarded,” it caused a lot of uproar in the disability community. We are all-too-often made fun of and bullied, teased and ridiculed for things that are vital to our identity – and that we can’t control. It hits self-esteem, creates isolation, and leads to cycles of depression, poverty and more. When bullies belittle people with disabilities, it hits those people directly; when bullies do it in front of a whole group, it hurts that much more; and when a bully is made a leader, and does it in public, it gives a thumbs-up to other bullies and kick starts the cycle (which we are already seeing nationwide, for many communities).
So when Donald Trump, a candidate for president, mocked people with disabilities in public and private, our community and our allies were angry. But to be honest, I’m more than angry. I’m scared – and scared of what a Donald Trump presidency will look like for me and my friends.
He Is Saying We Are Worthless
The entire prospect of a Donald Trump presidency means more than bullying for people with disabilities. That’s because there is an implicit suggestion when Trump flails his limbs or says “retarded” — he is also saying that we are worthless, outcasts, and OK to be abandoned. If we can’t pull ourselves up and do things as well as a nondisabled person can, “well tough luck and get out the way.” This is textbook ableism, and it would lead to discrimination in all aspects of life: employment, physical access, healthcare, government services, and more.
Employers refusing reasonable accommodation? Check. Repealing ADA access because it’s “burdensome on business?” Check. And social services being slashed first because, well, right wing conservatism? Check. Our community has fought for decades to win rights around all of these issues, but they are in danger of being torn right away come January 2017 if the election goes the wrong way.
Even more, in an aggressively ableist society, people with disabilities can be more than just mocked: we can be vilified and even attacked. We run the danger of being cast as “leeches on the system,” somehow harming everybody else just by existing. Combine that with the culture of aggression, reaction and violence that Trump is building among his followers, and we risk that disability vilification will lead to violence or loud calls to be gotten rid of and cast aside. And because people with disabilities are especially vulnerable to violence and more, we are all the more likely to be caught defenseless when it all goes down.
We may even face barriers contributing to the election. People are already worried about voter intimidation along racial lines from Trump supporters claiming “voter fraud:” lines of hard-core followers pumping their chests up saying “hey, didn’t I see you 15 minutes ago?” (Some in open carry states, no less.) If you add disability into the mix, though, there’s an extra level of vulnerability – and because people with disabilities have often been bullied our whole lives, many of us have reaction of just retreating. It could be a significant issue for our participation in democracy, and protecting ourselves from Trump’s brand of ableism and violence.
You can say that I’m blowing this out of proportion, but if you study disability and human rights, you’ll see this has happened worldwide before. People with disabilities are some of the first to be abandoned, vilified, attacked and cast aside in fascist situations – and many have (rightfully) called trump a borderline or full on fascist. Even without the violence, we are in danger of losing our rights of employment, access and services under a Trump presidency. So in the end, what we are seeing isn’t just a matter of personal comfort in the face of bullying. If you combine it with the kind of violence and right-wing ideology Trump is pushing, it can be damn near a matter of health, of support, even of survival.
So yeah, I’m scared.