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Let's Talk: The Morgan Freeman Disability Meme

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Tell me. What do you think of when you see this?

Do you hear Morgan Freeman’s “wise” voice gently speaking the words?

The photo is of Morgan Freeman.

The caption reads, “Attacking People With Disabilities is the Lowest Display of Power I Can Think Of” – Morgan Freeman

 I am sick of people defining who we are and aren’t.

And you are going to tell me to chill out, right, that he’s just trying to be nice and that I’m making a big fucking mountain out of a molehill. Right?

But have you ever thought of the longer term ripples that come out of a stone like this that’s thrown into the pond that is social media? Memes like this promote the idea that people with disabilities are an incapable people. That we are the weakest in our society. Woe to us, man, because we can’t fight our own fights! Give us a handout and a big fat slice of that there pity pie and let’s call it a day.

People read this kind of crap and pass it on and you know what you are doing? You are perpetuating the idea – however mild or well-intentioned it might be – that we are weak and on the bottom rung of society. You do this, and more like this, and you are doing your part in schooling employers, teachers, community leaders, union organizers, medical practioners and everyone else in the world that your child – or you – or your cousin, sister, friend, SOMEBODY in your world with a disability is not as capable nor as strong as everyone else. You are helping to promote discrimination, one meme at a time.

So don’t tell me it’s not a big deal. Because it is. This shit adds up and never equals anything better for a person with a disability.

Let us tell our own story. And Morgan Freeman? Let us narrate our own shit.


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Tuesday 14th of June 2016

I don't think he said this, as I can't find it anywhere except on meme's. I do hate it when people make shit up.


Tuesday 16th of July 2013

I recognize that this post is old, but I've just been linked to it.

I find your points absolutely correct, but I read that quote as meaning something different. Out of context, without any particular knowledge of who this person is, I read it as "attacking people who face access barriers, given that they also face systemic marginalization, is the lowest display of power" and I like that reading. People with disabilities face more than just our own limitations; that's the point. Society is set up to make it difficult for PWDs to stand up for themselves; access barriers to work mean access barriers to expensive services such as those of an attorney. Access barriers to voting mean PWDs are even less of a voice in politics than they should be. Access barriers to social situations make it difficult to form a network of friendships and other relationships, and yet people draw their strength from other people.

Meanwhile, mocking disability is easy. Using ableist slurs is easy. PWDs who complain about abuse are routinely ignored on the grounds that even existing in the same room with them and breathing the same air makes their abusers saintly but understandably impatient. PWDs are also sometimes put into situations where their lives are run by others, such as institutional settings.

It's fairly easy to find a PWD you can exercise power over. If someone feels powerless and wants to fix that by taking it out on other people, it's not hard to take it out on a PWD, and it's not something to be proud of.

It's just as easy to read the quote from a medical model perspective as from a social one, and if it's read that way, all of your points stand (and maybe I should link you to the video I saw the other day of a guy in a wheelchair stopping a robbery by wrestling the robber to the ground). It could also be read as oppression olympicsing, but someone saying "the most oppressed group is the one I'm not part of" is difficult to call out for that.


Tuesday 16th of July 2013

you just knocked the ball out of the field with your analysis on that meme - WOW! “attacking people who face access barriers, given that they also face systemic marginalization, is the lowest display of power” - I also like that reading.

Thank you so much for joining this conversation - I really value your comment and am grateful you took the time to share it.

Danechi (@Danechi)

Tuesday 16th of July 2013

Thank you so much. Your post is literally the only thing I've been able to find online critically discussing this quote (other questions I have -- is this even correctly attributed to Morgan Freeman? If so, what's the context?) rather than just repeating it, either by itself or in an inspiration porn quote salad.

Treating attacks on disabled people as somehow uniquely worse than attacks on any other marginalized group of people irks me like little else. We're not innocent, defenseless little angels, and insistence on seeing us that way won't solve the problems we *do* face.


Tuesday 16th of July 2013

can I just say how happy I am that someone agrees?!!! Thank you!!!


Saturday 18th of August 2012

I love the way your mind works, Meriah. Excellent post! :)

April Vernon

Friday 17th of August 2012

I really appreciated your take on this, Meriah. I totally understand what you are saying. Looks like you got a lot of people thinking on this one!

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