The protests against police brutality and systemic racial inequality may feel unrelated to caregiving. However, care work and disability are intrinsically connected to race and class.
It's most obvious in the way black and immigrant women have been funneled by market conditions and government programs into low paying, precarious, physically and emotionally demanding care work jobs.
It's also apparent in the ways people with disabilities are more likely to be injured or killed at the hands of police. People who struggle to communicate and comply with orders can be misunderstood to be dangerous. When police serve as first responders those misunderstandings can be deadly.
People of color are more likely to be disabled and require caregivers. People of color are more likely to work as professional caregivers in roles like PCAs and home health aides. Yet caregiving organizations (like ours) are predominantly led by white women (like me) and serve far more white women than any other demographic. If caregivers are the invisible patients, BIPOC caregivers are doubly invisible.
It's commonly said that people of color from 'traditional' communities don't put their family in care homes or hire help. That's not necessarily because they want to provide all the care themselves without support, but because their options for support are so limited. Care homes may have no one who speaks their language or serves their food, they may fear discrimination, and they may not be able to access support at all. Caregiver support programs may intend to be open to all without actually being welcoming to or inclusive of BIPOC.
Systemic inequality goes beyond notions of heroes and bad apples. Incidents of police brutality caught on video may be easy to point to, but social justice is about more than just the actions of the police. When our laws and policies are unjust, there is no opting out of their impact or our role in it.
PS. Sometimes putting yourself in physical danger is better than remaining in spiritual danger. It may be tough watching people who are choosing not to #stayhome, but they are doing it because they believe they are doing essential work. Protesters and the police are out there willing to put their lives on the line for what they believe in.
PPS. I got a message the other week saying that by advocating for the right of disabled people to access medical care we're discriminating against young, healthy people. That the messaging that #nobodyisdisposable is ridiculous because everyone should be treated equally.
My initial response was LOL WUT
Who reads "chronically ill people deserve life and care" and is like "wow, I find that idea personally offensive and I'm going to message them to let them know they're wrong!"?
But I keep thinking about it. What did she mean?
I can't ask because she blocked me after she sent the message. For what it's worth, she is not a young, healthy person. I am, but I don't think she was concerned about my personal ability to access care.