Right now many people are examining their culture—their workplace, their classroom, their creative writing workshop, their boardroom, their police force, their government entity, or their nonprofit—in order to make it more diverse, inclusive, and equitable. This is good. This is important. This is necessary.
In the last month I’ve talked—unpaid—to three literary organisations about some of their barriers to DEI as I see it. I spent time and energy I don’t really have, and don’t begrudge it, because—it’s worth repeating—it’s good, important, necessary work.
That is, I didn’t begrudge the time, effort and energy until I began to get the earnest (and to some degree self-congratulatory) follow-up emails from the organisations. They explain at length just how, after lengthy, expensive, weighty consultation, they’re going to go about improving their DEI efforts with regard to race, class, gender, and sexual orientation.
Great! Wonderful! All those things matter to me; they matter a great deal; I agree with every single category on the list. But every time—EVERY FUCKING TIME—one extremely important factor is missing from the list of traditionally marginalised people: disability.
Disabled writers matter. Disabled voices matter. Crip voices are the most—not one of the most, but the absolute MOST—ignored, devalued, and unheard on the fucking planet. (Read my Op-Ed in the New York Times.)* Disabled students (and teachers) are still—in 20-fucking-21—not able to properly attend many writing workshops, bookstores, classes, conferences, and festivals. We are shut out. Not only are we not offered places, we aren’t offered grants, we aren’t offered scholarships, we aren’t offered accommodations, and our applications aren’t offered the courtesy of being read by disabled readers. AND EVEN WHEN WE TALK OURSELVES BLUE IN THE FACE TO WELL-PAID DIVERSITY CONSULTANTS OUR POINTS OF VIEW ARE NOT FUCKING DEEMED WORTHY OF EVEN BEING LISTED IN THE SUMMARY DOCUMENTS.
So I’m done. You want my opinion on anything that’s not my own work? Pay me my weight in gold and expect to get an earful. Or better yet just fuck off into the sun.
*We’re also the demographic most abused at home; the most murdered by caregivers; the most badly paid; the most discriminated against by employers; the most laughed at in public; the poorest; the most refused transport on buses, trains, and planes; the least educated; and the most killed by law enforcement. We are 25% of the fucking population. This post isn’t a game of My Oppression is Worse Than Yours but I want to be super fucking clear that a) we’re not talking about one or two minor examples of discrimination here, and b) it doesn’t affect just a handful of people. ETA: Yes, there are data. No, I’m not going to do the unpaid work of providing them to you. Find them yourself.