Disability, Authenticity, and Basketball?
Slowly and tentatively I am wadding back in to the world of blogging. It’s been awhile. I apologize gentle readers. It’s been a time of healing and reflection. I’d like to blame it on my broken wist and the difficulty I have been having in typing, but in all honesty I have been healing some other wounds too, feeling a little sorry for myself and trying to configure a way forward.
I have been parched and starved for something mealy that would constitute good news. Something that would give me hope that as a community we are finally finding a way, not just to include but to celebrate the contributions of people with disabilities. Looking for indicators that we have found some new and innovative ways to be radically hospitable, genuinely welcoming, and fair. Let me tell you the pickings have been pretty lean lately.
I thought I had found something yesterday when I saw the video (which has gone viral-apparently lots of folks are hungry too) which features the basketball game between two rival schools in which a player from the opposing team passes the ball inbound to a young man with disabilities (who was, up until 15 minutes earlier the team manger, and had never seen any court time during the season) so that he could make a basket, or as the syrupy sweet news anchor describes it – “have his moment“. Here is the thing, I want more than a moment for my children. I want lots of moment for our children. Moments of glory, and loss, pain and celebration. I want them to experience (what Wolf Wolfensberger would call) the dignity of risk. Mostly I want their moments to be real. Not contrived in order for someone else’s edification as a good and benevolent citizen. You see what that does right? If the granter of these opportunities is seen as a hero-what does that make the receiver? At the very least it makes them someone without power, someone less worthy of equity and mostly horribly someone to be pitied.
I’m happy to see kids empathize with each other, I really am. I have no doubt that the young man who threw the ball to the player on the rival team in order to allow the player with disabilities to score, will grow up to be a fine, kind, and upstanding part of his community. He seems like a genuinely good kid. I’ll grant you it is a good story about how people with disabilities can begin to challenge our competition obsessed schools and society, and I love that.
In talking to colleagues and friends with disabilities over these last days there seems to be something about this video that creates a sense of unease and tension. For too long citizens with disabilities have been cast in the role of the underling, twisting and contorting their true identity into objects of pity in order to fit into the only role that community seems to have for them.
Exhale everyone. Trust in the strength, resiliency and authenticity of people with disabilities, make room for everyone to carve out their own destiny’s, create spaces where everyone can be successful, continue to rail against hate, and prejudice and oppression, but don’t attempt to construct, and contrive the great unfolding of the journey.
It’s gotta be real. Everyone deserves real.