I’ve noticed a lot of people lately on tumblr denying their capability to be ableist because they themselves fall somewhere on the disability spectrum. Specifically, I see people react to being called ableist by referring to themselves as “not able” and therefore, lacking the privilege that is necessary to be oppressive.
Not able. There’s a lot wrapped up in those words.
Disability is a spectrum, not a dichotomy. While it’s true that there are people with disabilities and those without, there is way too much variety within disability to simply say that one lacks abled privilege and is therefore exempt from being oppressive towards anyone else with a disability, regardless of what disabilities are actually involved. That’s dishonest, and it’s privilege denial. Because one can lack abled privilege, yet still have able-bodied privilege, or allistic privilege, or many other forms of privilege that I don’t know the names of. My point being that you can have power and be oppressed at the same time when it comes to disability.
I’ll use myself as an example. I do not have abled privilege, although I have invisible disabilities so I may have passing privilege. I have privilege over people who have physical disabilities, intellectual disabilities, developmental disabilities, and learning disabilities (to name a few). I have mental illnesses - this does not mean I am incapable of being oppressive towards someone with cognitive disabilities. Even within mental illness there are different levels of privilege. There are certain mental illnesses that are vilified with far greater frequency (ie. schizophrenia) or are more likely to result in institutionalization.
And there are varying degrees of severity. Most of the people I have known in my life have struggled with panic attacks, mild depression or anxiety. None of them ID as disabled and for the most part these problems have not been debilitating. Yet I have seen people who fall into this category attempt to use their experiences as a free pass to perpetuate oppression towards people who are disabled (by their MI’s, or other disabilities). If the only time you bring up being “not abled” is when someone calls you out on being ableist, this may apply to you. It’s not even internalized ableism when it’s regarding disabilities that are different from your own.
Just because you fall somewhere on the disability spectrum, doesn’t mean you are incapable of being ableist.