Yesterday I wrote this update over on the Catch These Words Facebook page.
I was saddened to see an extremely racist website pick up a story about guide dog access refusals this morning.
I remember when in February I was refused access to a restaurant the comments that upset me the most weren’t targeted at me but the restaurant owners. People told them to go home, that we don’t want “people like that” in our country and so many other hateful things.
This violent reaction isn’t justified. It only serves to divide communities further, to create barriers and tension where before there were none. We need to be challenging prejudicial attitudes that lead to guide dog owners being treated like second class citizens. We cannot say that discrimination is wrong if we then use discriminatory comments to fight it.
I don’t know any guide dog owners who want this. None of us want to see another group of people being attacked in the name of defending us. Please stop. Before you retweet, before you share a facebook post or go to add a comment think about what you are saying. Please, please stand up for our right to have equal access to businesses. But don’t hurt other people, innocent people, in the process.
Photo description: Guide dog Isla after playing in a field. Do you see any hate in her eyes? No.
There is an awful, disturbing trend emerging whenever a blind person is refused access to a business or other public place because of their guide dog. I’m talking about people conflating an access refusal with race and religion. We need to stop doing this, right now.
As blind people, as disabled people we are part of a minority group. We experience discrimination more than anyone should have to, being told we aren’t welcome, that we are just too complex to accommodate. I personally know the sting of refusal, of being told that my blindness means I’m not safe to participate in an activity. I know how it feels to be turned away and viewed as less worthy.
So I will never advocate for this to be done to anybody else. No group, none at all deserves this kind of treatment. Absolutely nothing productive can come of spewing racist rhetoric. Please, please don’t do this. Don’t defend me by attacking a whole group of people who have done absolutely nothing wrong. Don’t use my disability, and discrimination I’ve experienced to further a political agenda. Fight for me, and every other disabled person who is discriminated against but I beg you don’t hurt others in the process. That is quite simply giving me false support. Because if you can’t understand that discrimination, in all it’s twisted forms is harmful then you don’t understand why I have been wronged.
We need to strengthen our communities, not tear them apart.
And I cannot, will not support you if that is what you seek to do.