An old friend sent me a link to a video today. My friend runs a great company and BAME people have been prominent there for many years. The video is an animation for a song a senior black colleague (how often do you hear that phrase, even in 2020?) has produced, which encapsulates the day to day problems experienced by black people the world over. These tracks are important, whether they come from stars or just committed music makers. They are to be encouraged and forwarded and reposted when free, they are to be contributed to when posted to raise funds for the campaign.
In the background to the Black Lives Matter initiative are another set of emotions just off camera. I’m not talking about the far right. I’m talking about firstly a number of white men and women who are feeling they are being punished despite having actively toiled for years, maybe decades, to protect, improve the lives or support black men and women in their own work or business or club or band. Some of them are feeling hurt, unjustly pigeonholed with all other white people as racist.
I’m talking about the millions of people living with disabilities who have suffered from a lifetime of bullying, discrimination, lack of opportunity and the resulting poverty for some, most or all of their lives. Some – though not all – are thinking and mumbling under their breath ‘what about us?’
Disabled people have never felt quite as confident as they should about speaking out. This is because, while there is clearly no possible excuse or reason why a company should give preference to a white or male candidate over a black or female candidate – it has to be discriminatory – in the case of a disabled person, depending on the nature of the disability, they may feel that the onus is on them to minimise the impact on an employer. ‘Yep sure, I can get to work and back no problem.’ Really? I can tell you for a fact that journey will be stressful, difficult and tiring. Even worse, they will feel the employer is looking at them thinking ‘We’ll have to put in a special toilet, or ramps, or buy fancy new computers. We can’t really do that.’
Or – and this is where black readers will smile – ‘We don’t really want a cripple on reception. It’s not very cool.’
But people …
For everything there is a season, Turn, Turn, Turn.
And right now it is the turn of black people all over the world to keep up the pressure. And we need to support them with all our hearts. If you’ve worked tirelessly for decades on race issues, don’t worry at all about whether you’re appreciated or not. If that was ever on your mind then it’s vanity and high time you got over it. If you’ve worked for decades seriously then you will know just how far we’ve come but just how much more there is to do, so it would be pretty useless and unhelpful now to stand on the sidelines with your arms folded, smug and indignant, saying ‘I’ve done my bit and look at the thanks I get.’
Come on, this is one big push. Get behind it. Their fight is your fight. Their fight is our fight.
And yes, disability is still trailing behind every other group in social justice, employment and opportunity … but Black Lives Matter is at last sick of watching the leak drip through the ceiling and have at last said ‘enough’ and have climbed the stairs to kick the door down and turn the tap off. Doesn’t that feel good?
I was bullied and victimised at school, in the park, on the bus, since I was eight years old. I was singled out, unsupported and marked down by teachers. I wrote to 36 companies when I left university with a good degree and got one interview. I failed every band audition when I was clearly the best player. I got turned down for an apprenticeship by every studio in London and had to move to France. I got the door slammed in my face when I went looking for finance for a studio. In the thirty years following becoming a good businessman and a very successful record producer, I was never offererd a single job of any kind by the entire music industry. I know what all that feels like.
A lot of the time, when I was younger, I didn’t even realise I was being discriminated against. The people doing it probably didn’t realise they were discriminating against me. So what? I didn’t get the gig, the job, the funding.
I have pushed my way to the table at every possible moment just to be able to say ‘Don’t forget black people. Don’t forget women. Don’t forget those with learning issues. Don’t forget people with disabilities. I’m here, in the room. Look me in the eye and discriminate against any of us if you dare.’
I guarantee to you that if you want disability not to be overlooked then get behind BLM with all your heart. I say again, their fight is our fight. I have never met a black man or woman in a room, asking for equality of opportunity, who has not turned to me when I pipe up ‘Yes, me too’ and said ‘Of course! Him too. Good on you brother… that’s what diversity means.’
… As for the video…
I haven’t watched it yet. Facebook couldn’t be arsed to make their site blind accessible so I’ll have to wait for a sighted person to either come and help or lock on to my laptop remotely. Hmm, I wonder what it must be like if you’re in my boat but not as tech savvy or hooked up?