Ableism and Eugenics
Earlier this week I read a blog post by a woman who believes that we should “play God” and erase all the genes that cause disabilities. Gotta love a little friendly ableism with a side of eugenics, am I right?
Her reasoning is that no one deserves to have their starting point in life be one that is “limited.” She basically claimed that no one would refuse a cure if it was offered and that parents should jump at the chance to avoid having a disabled child. The real kicker is that she admitted to not speaking to any disabled people before writing the post.
I wish this was a rare opinion, but it’s not. Disability is commonly seen as tragic, miserable, scary, burdensome, and a million other negative words. People look at someone like me and say ‘wow, if I were you I’d kill myself” like it’s a compliment to tell me they’d rather die than live my life. The belief that humanity as a whole would be better off if we could pick and choose the best genes and eradicate disability is not new or uncommon.
But before you just decide we should erase 20% of the population, you have to stop and consider a few things:
Not every experience with a disability is the same
I have a type of Congenital Muscular Dystrophy, which is a neuromuscular disease. MDA has 91 other neuromuscular diseases listed on their website, all of which are very different, have varying symptoms, and different life expectancies. That’s just one tiny category under a huge umbrella, so you can imagine how fast that list expands.
Can you see how problematic it is to make a blanket statement about disability? A condition that takes the life of an infant is not the same as Autism or Deafness. Saying that every disability is bad and shouldn’t be allowed to exist is ridiculous. It’s too broad. It’s lazy writing and it’s flawed logic. We are not a monolith.
Not everyone wants a cure
I don’t want one. Sure, maybe I’d be down for treatments or medicine that would help manage muscle pain or muscle contractions, but I don’t need my Muscular Dystrophy cured. I don’t spend my days longing for the ability to walk. I don’t dream of being ‘normal’ or fixed. See, that’s the thing a lot of abled people refuse to acknowledge. I am normal. I’m not broken. Bodies come in all different shapes, sizes, colors, and sometimes with disabilities. That’s normal. That’s life. You can’t just pick and choose what you deem acceptable for humanity and what isn’t, no matter how uncomfortable it makes you.
So many nonprofits or fundraisers are created to find cures for kids with diseases, spreading ‘awareness’ with stories of ‘severely’ disabled kids to shock and scare people into giving money, but when those kids need support in their everyday life to actually, y’know, LIVE… it’s crickets all around. Rather than fight for equal rights, accessibility, universal (or at least somewhat affordable) health care, people all over the world think it’d be better to throw millions of dollars towards the goal of “fixing” people who oftentimes don’t want to be fixed. Then there are the people who take it a step further and just want disabled people to never exist in the first place.
Solely focusing on the medical side ignores the social model of disability
Many disabled people, myself included, believe that we are actually more limited by a society that excludes us by continuing to be inaccessible while placing harmful stigmas on us that further isolate us. Often times, we are seen as nothing more than the cost of keeping us alive, painted as burdens who produce nothing and contribute no value to the world while sucking up precious government money that could be better used elsewhere.
Yet when we fight for inclusion, we’re ignored or met with hostility. Employers get away with refusing to hire disabled workers. When those disabled adults are forced to live off government programs, they’re called freeloaders. Meanwhile, no one lifts a finger to combat the discrimination that kept them from working in the first place.
And honestly, I don’t even have the time or energy to get into the fact that no one’s worth should be determined by their ability to earn and spend money. A human life has value just because it is a human life. Period.
Advocating for the erasure of disability is advocating for genocide.
Erasing the genes that cause disability would mean erasing the most diverse group of people on the planet. It intersects with every race, gender, religion, and sexuality. Everyone has such a unique experience as the same diagnosis can affect two people completely differently. It would erase entire cultures and languages.
I know people like to make the argument that it’s not actually killing anyone, it’s just altering genes, but that’s not how it works. If you alter someone’s genes before they’re born, you kill the person they would’ve been and replace them with your ‘newer, better model.’ If this is what you’re advocating for, you’re telling millions of people (who are already at a higher risk of facing violence) that you don’t think they deserve to live as they currently are.
I wouldn’t be me without my disability. It’s played a crucial role in forming my beliefs, my friendships, my sense of humor, my everything. I deserve to live, disability and all, no matter how many people are terrified of their child being born like me.
This hits too close to home
Look, I wish I could just let it go. People rushed to her defense on Twitter saying she had good intentions. Good intentions don’t excuse writing a pro eugenics piece. Not when disabled people have to fight for equal rights, for access to health care, and to not be murdered by their own family who will then be forgiven by the world because ‘they were overwhelmed.’
Last year, a man in Japan went on a killing spree at his former workplace where he was a caregiver for disabled adults. He also wanted to rid the world of disability. He announced his plan well in advance, yet no one prevented it. Unlike the Pulse shooting, there were no global hashtags showing support. I watched as disabled people begged for the world to notice and stand with us while we mourned. We were met with silence.
So no, this isn’t something I can agree to disagree on. This can’t just be shaken off as a difference of opinion. This is something that affects disabled people on a very regular basis. When a large portion of the world genuinely believes that people like me are better off dead, people like me die.