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The Hashtagversary of #DisabilityTooWhite

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Image of a drawn character in a wheelchair wearing a cone party hat against a solid black background. To the right of the character reads the words: "It's a hashtagversary!" Underneath the character reads the words: "#DisabilityTooWhite"

Today is the hashtagversary (hashtag anniversary) of #DisabilityTooWhite.  I cannot believe it has been a year since the hashtag went viral, and how it changed my life and the dialogue in the community.  

It still astounds me that something I created from an impassioned reaction to an article stirred up so much conversation and controversy.  The hashtag forced me, and others, to discuss the elephant in the room – the racism, invisibility, erasure, lack of representation, and othering of disabled people of color.  Our community can no longer feign that we do not recognize the inequality that exists within; the hashtag has the “receipts” of the injustices enacted on those of us multiple-marginalized.  The hashtag allowed people to understand that they are not alone in how they have been mistreated, abused, and ostracized in the community.  That realization validated their feelings and experiences, which was a powerful confirmation so many received.  

For me, the hashtag solidified the need to bring to light the conversations had in the dark.  We discuss problematic people and organizations in the community to each other privately, but rarely do so in public.  One thing I have noticed is the rising of the call out culture in the community.  Calling out individuals and spaces that exclude and harm disabled people of color, and demanding that the wrongs be known throughout the community, have been more prominent.  For far too long, the “good ole boys and girls” culture has permeated our community to the point where it is detrimental to progressing the movement further.  It is now that we can redefine how the community and movement looks and operates; this hashtag is one way to force a take back from the grips of the status quo.

I am very proud of how the hashtag has been used by the community to recognize when representation becomes one-sided in whose stories and voices dominate.  This hashtag has taken on a life that goes beyond social media.  I find great joy in learning how fellow advocates have mentioned the hashtag in their work, and introduce others to the meaning attached to it.  The dialogues that has been established will continue, hopefully to the point where we will no longer need the hashtag.  

For me, I plan to take the hashtag beyond social media.  I am working on a project that I hope to release by late summer/early fall that targets the ignorance surrounding intersectionality in our community and the need for disabled Whites to be equip in addressing and fighting against racism, using their privileges, and being better accomplices/co-conspirators/allies to disabled people of color.  I am very excited of what I am developing, and looking forward in continuing my work in a new way so that our community can be a safer, more inclusive environment.

I thank each of you for supporting the hashtag and my work this past year.  I have solidified my undeclared title of “making the good trouble” because of my relentless nature of saying what is needed and not standing down from the truth.  

For the hashtagversary, I will be doing several interviews about what the hashtag means to me and how it has shaped the community.  I will be updating this page with links to those interviews, so keep a close watch for those media bites.  

Again, I appreciate and am humbled that this hashtag has made waves and touched so many.  Your support is priceless to me, and I am grateful for the kind, uplifting words you all bestow upon me so freely.  Thank you.  

(Featured headlining image:  Courtesy of Mike Mort.)

About Vilissa Thompson, LMSW

Vilissa is the Founder & CEO of Ramp Your Voice!, an organization she created to establish herself as a Disability Rights Consultant & Advocate. Ramp Your Voice! is a prime example of how macro-minded Vilissa truly is, and her determination to leave a giant "tire track mark" on the world.

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