Friday, August 11, 2006

How to be an ally...

I answered the door to someone at work this morning. An older lady, who had just arrived for a meeting. She wasn't sure where it was so I said, "Ah, no problem, take a seat and I'll call the secretaries' office" (conveniently located, might I add, at the back of the building & upstairs so no-one can find them). "Seminar room" says the secretary. "Oh...ah, um," says I. "That a problem?" asks the secretary. "Er yes, this lady has a walking frame, I am not sure if she will be able to manage the steep flight of stairs up to the seminar room." "Oh," says the secretary, "well that's where the meeting is, tell her not to worry, we'll get someone can carry her up the stairs."

I mean, how humiliating to have to be carried up a steep flight of stairs, doubtless by two strangers. I was so embarrassed and it was nothing to do with me! We have downstairs meeting rooms, they could have (and should have) moved the meeting. I know for a fact there were other rooms free. More to the point, they shouldn't have booked the upstairs seminar room in the first place, its not like the lady was unknown to them, she'd had meetings before.


When an organisation with equal rights policies coming out of its ass & elbows, and a particular focus on people with disabilities, manages such a monumental cock up, you have to ask just how progressive we actually are.

Anyway, it made Peterson's latest blog post seem all the more relevant.

Listen. Then Listen. Then Listen some more. The work of being an ally requires deep listening and understanding. I explained that as a white man I often get it wrong. Being an ally requires a graceful resilience. Because of the society where I was raised and the many messages I received, I am racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic and insensitive to the needs of people with disabilities. I have to unlearn much of what has been engrafted into my mind.

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