Stand Up Or Get Out
Last updated: October 2014
By now, you’ve probably heard of the now infamous Kanye West incident, in which he refuses to continue a concert until everyone in attendance was standing up.
One fan had a prosthetic leg, and another was in a wheelchair.
While he gave a free pass to the person with the prosthetic leg, he sent a bodyguard to confirm that the person was actually wheelchair bound, and made some other less than choice comments about people with handicaps.
Of course, Kanye doesn’t see the harm in it.
He was quoted in an article saying, ‘This is such big media-press-news and everything that obviously they trying to demonize me for. It’s like, ‘Welcome to today’s news, ladies and gentlemen.’ We’ve got Americans getting killed on TV, kids getting killed every weekend in Chicago, unarmed people getting killed by police officers…It makes you just want to reflect on what are the things that are a little bit more sensationalized than others’ (http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/music/posts/la-et-ms-kanye-west-rant-australia-disabled-20140917-story.html).
(And I’m not even going to talk about the grammar of his above comment…)
I’m glad that Kanye has such a laissez-faire attitude about it.
But this is just another assault on disabled people in this country.
And in Kanye’s defense of himself, he doesn’t mention anything about the fact that disabled people – still – have it harder than most in this society.
It also emphasizes the difficulties that exist for those of us who don’t look sick or disabled.
For Kanye to look out into a filled-to-capacity auditorium and make assumptions about people that he probably couldn’t even see is ridiculous.
But is it really all that surprising? When people see others using a handicap placard, which many people with arthritis do, they often make derogatory comments or leave notes about how these people – who might not, at first glance, look disabled – are playing the system, and don’t truly need the accommodations that they get.
This kind of thinking gets us nowhere.
The same attitude exists for chronically ill students in higher education. If you can’t hack it, you shouldn’t be there. And rather than wondering how universities can help, they often pigeonhole such students as trying to buck the system.
So yes, Kanye West made a fool of himself at his show, even though he doesn’t see it that way.
But it’s not just Kanye. He’s not the only one in this country that views people with disabilities as throwaways.
And that’s beyond sad.
As a community, these are the things that we need to talk about. We might not change Kanye’s view of what he said and did. But we can change the view of others. We can bring awareness to the plight of people with rheumatoid arthritis, and we can create change.
It’s incidents like this that really get my blood boiling. When people have soapboxes to stand on, and they use that soapbox for evil rather than for good, I lose a lot of respect for them.
As I said before, I don’t think this is an isolated incident. But it is just one more in a long line that reinforces that people with disabilities, and especially those of us with invisible disabilities, have a long way to go.
Okay, that’s all. I’m stepping off my soapbox right now. But I hope that I at least made you think.
Did you know rheumatologist Dr. Donica Baker is answering community questions?
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