With the definition of “tolerate” being to “allow the existence, occurrence, or practice of (something that one does not necessarily like or agree with) without interference,” I need this year to be about not tolerating things anymore.
This is why 8 months ago, I wrote that my focus-word for 2017 would be “intolerant.”
This has been a solid focus for me. Not an easy one (but seriously, when did I ever do easy?!), but solid in that it’s propelling me to startling new directions.
With what just happened with Medi-caid and and now with the racial riots, I think “intolerant” remains a focus that speaks to me.
Put more positively though, “intolerance” feels more like “change”.
Like Angela Davis said, “I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change, I am changing the things I cannot accept.”
I’m going to say: this sounds really strong, fierce, noble. It looks great in a quote and fantastic here in this blog post. In real life, on social media or interacting with others, it doesn’t usually feel fierce or noble to me.
It feels scary. It feels tiring. It feels difficult. It feels like it takes consistency (something I’m not good at), vigilance, courage. It takes thought. It takes action.
It takes time.
It takes attention to detail, care about consequences, planning, foresight.
It’s takes showing up. It takes people thinking you are a bitch because you pick at things or ask questions, and the discomfort of that experience.
With relation to disability, I experience daily discrimination and lack of access. This world is not made for us deaf. I also enjoy tremendous privilege based on my white skin, light eyes and hair, and the fact that I can “pass” as non-disabled. People think I’m training my service dog, not that my service dog is actually working, serving me.
With as frustrated as I can be in living in an inaccessible society for me (and for my daughter who has Down syndrome), I still struggle with internalized ableism. That is, I think my own access is not important enough to do something, to speak up, to be intolerant about.
These two aspects: internalized ableism and an awareness of racial privilege, couple together and breed all kinds of flavors of low self-esteem which in turn affect how I live my life, how I express my intolerance for the things I do not want to accept, how I consciously move towards changing the things that I find unacceptable.
So many times I’ve found myself left out of something by dint of deafness. On a personal level, I shrug, feel sad. When I transfer that experience to others in my deaf community, I am galvinized into action, as that’s the easiest way for me for me to gain the courage to stand up to something that should not be tolerated. It’s easier to stand up for others than it is to stand up for myself.
Is that noble? No.
Is that honorable, a great selfless expression of how to live? No.
Why? Because I’m a mom; I am raising three little kids who are constantly looking at me and learning how to navigate the world. They are learning by my actions.
What I’ve learned to do at this point is to start off with the easier route, use that as my jumping-off point. Use the injustice of something happening to another (even if it’s a shared experience) to get myself to act. Then make it personal when and if I can and if it is relevant.
This post isn’t an answer or a how-to. It’s a conversation that I hope you will join in honing our change-advocacy skills, in really thinking about why this is important, the challenges we face (particularly in the parent and disability communities) in expressing our intolerance of things we cannot accept, and ways to work through those challenges.