How white privilege made my disability claim easier

Now that the endless humiliating monkey-dance is over, I thought it’d be instructive to examine the ways in which my white privilege made it easier than it would have been for a PoC.

We can start with my name: it’s a very white name, in all. Caitlin and Emily are my given names (taken names? I chose them, after all), and my last name is not among those which read as stereotypically belonging to a PoC. Many studies have shown the effect of applying for things with white names as opposed to names which read as belonging to a PoC: here is a link to one such, and another here from CBS that mentions Caitlin as one of the stereotypically white names.

While filling in the form, I benefit from my white privilege in easier access to post-secondary education, which shows as a tick-box (and this one will come back to make a bigger difference later!). My dialect of English (and as a native speaker) is close to the “standard” dialect hereabouts; I don’t need to code-switch or switch languages to be able to communicate in that “standard” dialect.

My education and dialect and skin colour helped me when I got to the appeals process too, because the other white people who helped me at the legal aid office will almost certainly have had their implicit biases in my favour – I’m less likely to be seen as a potential fraudster, because white supremacy teaches us that white people are more honest and trustworthy.

When I had my hearing, the day started off well when I was asked about my education history, and discovered that the person hearing the appeal had the same degree and alma mater that I did – so we bonded a little over the news, chatting about the difficulties of translation and what foreign languages we spoke. Once again my dialect’s closeness with the “standard” left me in a good place, speaking comfortably in a register that said “I’m your peer” to the tribune and the two counsels in the room – all white.

All these things have contributed to making what was a seriously unpleasant process much more pleasant than it could have been if I didn’t have that white privilege. And they’re all easily invisible to us as white people, unless we choose to see them.

Learn to recognize the ways in which white privilege makes your life easier if you’re white, and you can start to resist white supremacy. To be silent in the face of white supremacy is to uphold white supremacy.

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The Excitement Tariff

I’m using “tariff” rather than “tax” here, because taxes tend to do things, in my world, and thus I’m loath to hate on them.

What I’m talking about is a subtle part of my disability experience: that doing exciting things, even when sitting still, can be intensely wearying.

The last two nights (Saturday and Sunday), I’ve been at a friend’s place, sitting on very pretty dining room chairs that are more or less stools from the point of view of “is this a supportive chair?” Each time for about three hours and well-medicated, but at the end of each, I’ve been really sore – like, spasms hitting 8 out of 10 on the unhappy-face scale sore – and it’s carried over into the next day.

Tonight, my friends want to play Heists on GTA Online, which is something I find exciting. Mind, I’ll be sitting in my comfortable chair, well-supported, with a heating pad on my back as needed, and I can get up and move around if I need to. Ideal conditions, so it shouldn’t be too strenuous, you’d think. But you’d think incorrectly. Because it’s exciting. And excitement makes us tense our bodies.

Three hours of alternately tensing various parts of me for several minutes, and trying desperately to relax in the few moments’ downtime between missions? That’s hard on my body.

Even in optimum conditions, the excitement tariff cuts down on the amount of time I have to spend doing things I like. Now cycle back round to the depression, where getting myself interested in doing the things I like has been one of the main challenges, and you can begin to see another aspect of the ways in which my mental and physical disabilities interact so that each is made worse by the other. Not only is it a blow against dualism, but also against treating mental disabilities as “less than” physical disabilities. When someone makes a joke about how being sad making them eligible for disability, help us out by reminding them of the difference between “being sad” and “being in depression”.