By Stephen Pate – Many people reacted with revulsion to rapper Kanye West when he told a person in a wheelchair to stand up or the concert would stop in Australia.
Stand Up or I’m Not Rapping!
It would be hard to imagine the pressure from the rap star and his rowdy audience on a person who could not stand because he or she is disabled.
The crowd started chanting “Stand up! Stand up! Stand up!”
My first thought was “What an arsehole? Oh yeah he’s a rapper and they are ignorant.”
The truth is Kanye West is not that much different from folks everywhere.
Have you ever thought about challenging someone with a disabled parking tag? Hey! You’re not that disabled.
Have you felt indignation at someone who is getting social help for their disability. What if they just lost weight, or stopped taking drugs or stopped worrying about their depression? They would be better and not need public assistance, right?
The law in the United States, Canada, and most civilized countries is supposed to protect people with disabilities from discrimination with the simple concept of accommodation – giving them reasonable accommodation like an automatic door opener, parking close to their destination or exception to standing up for the national anthem.
But the law can’t legislate behavior. People do the wrong thing like the cops who harassed the black actress in Los Angeles when she kissed her white husband in public. Black woman kissing a white man must be a hooker, right?
It does not matter how educated or rich people are, discrimination is widespread. I have experienced it all my life. Most of the time you just shrug it off although it might be hard to ignore a stadium full of angry rap fans. Sometimes you try to fight back.
Almost 6 years ago, I was in a meeting of the PEI Press Gallery with 13 of PEI’s best journalists who certainly were well-educated and well paid. When I asked for accommodation for my disability they ignored it. I was tired and exhausted in the meeting, which happens to me from my disability, and asked if we could meet in the morning.
Wayne Thibodeau, the Press Gallery President and The Guardian’s News Editor and Senior Correspondent said he didn’t hear the request for accommodation. Pat Martel a senior CBC reporter said he didn’t think I was serious and his boss Donna Allen said she didn’t hear me ask for accommodation.
Other than the fact I was sitting in a wheelchair, said I was in pain and described it in detail asking for the accommodation, I don’t know what else I could have done to make it clear.
“I’m not ready to have a meeting at night. I can tell you right now my best time to meet and talk logically and to argue and make good points and be lucid is in the morning. I get tired. I suffer from fatigue. Think of fibromyalgia. That’s how I live.
Right now, my left leg is burning, and that means I should be lying down. I should have it raised higher than my heart because the fluid is now in the bottom of my leg and it wants to go somewhere else, somewhere like my heart, and I can’t help that. So I find this process abusive. “
Perhaps I should have fainted or passed out, or had a heart attack for the Press Gallery. No, a heart attack would not have worked. When I had a heart attack this year, Alan Parish their lawyer wanted documentary evidence which is hard to get in an evening meeting.
The person in the wheelchair in Australia is lucky he got out alive. Kanye West thrives on being a jerk in public so he will lap up the controversy.
All I could do is launch a human rights complaint against Thibodeau and his cohorts in the PEI Press Gallery. People who discriminate do it from habit and don’t like to be chastised.
The Guardian and CBC hired Alan Parish a big-shot lawyer to vigorously defend them from the human rights complaint. Now the Human Rights Commission called for a hearing, the CBC wants a Judicial Review to quash the hearing. Nice people at the CBC aren’t they?
The CBC and the media want to be known as the good guys, riding on the white horse to save people, said Greg Howard the Executive Director of the PEI Human Rights Commission.
I don’t think bigots can be eliminated but exposure might help.
By Stephen Pate, NJN Network