[nfbwatlk] history kicks
Elizabeth Rene via nfbwatlk
nfbwatlk at nfbnet.org
Sat May 24 19:24:43 UTC 2014
I would like to retitle my submission, "history kicks leave bruises."
Because I read this column with mounting dismay.
My feelings about the conflict chronicled here,--about its impact on individuals, relationships, and reputations, about the impression it has left upon me and upon the sighted lawyers, politicians, and church leaders I have worked among over the years, about the weakened political position of blind people in Washington that must surely be credited to it, about it's untold cost in energy and effort diverted away from improving our overall position in society, and about what appears to be a movement to revitalize and re-energize it – I say that my feelings about all of this are so strong that I hardly dare set them to print.
It is not my habit to speak or write angrily. I like people and want them to like me, and decry the use of the Internet to vent one's spleen. But if I don't raise my voice here, and speak and write authentically, I feel it will be my own fault if I sit and simmer impotently. Can I be the only blind woman in Washington who feels as I do?
I write as someone who came to Washington to practice law in 1980, and found herself caught in the crossfire.
I had long been active in the civil rights movement, working for racial justice, prison reform, and women's empowerment. But I knew nothing about the NFB, the ACB, or any group working to change public attitudes and behaviors towards blind people. I was ripe for teaching and eager to learn, and had come to Washington with my own record of success on behalf of other groups.
Rather than being supported and encouraged to excel personally and professionally in an arena still hostile to women and dismissive of people with disabilities presuming to lead, I felt scrapped over for loyalty like a bone between hungry dogs, and antagonized and publicly embarrassed for failing to adopt one group's point of view to the rejection of everyone else's. All of this while at the same time being abandoned and discounted by blind leaders at DSB for what seems to have been raw envy and for the unpardonable crime of having professional interests and goals unrelated to blindness.
Meanwhile, opposition to the ADA, to the principles of the Nfb, to assistive technology in the workplace, to the leadership of women with disabilities, and to the ascendancy of anyone standing out as "different," was real, publicly acceptable, and potent.
My experience of the Episcopal ordination process and reentry into the legal profession has taught me that, long after the ADA's passage, and in spite of real progress for all people with disabilities, the proponents of that opposition remain alive and well today.
Wonderful things have been done nationally by the NFB. That's why I've ultimately decided to join, and that's why I want to work to advance it's cause. But if I think some other blindness group has a valid point to make, I want to accept and embrace it. I don't want to devote any of my energy or resources to this Washington conflict. And I don't want any group that I belong to and support– meaning the organized blind people of Washington generally – to behave like the United States Congress has been behaving – in the spirit of being right rather than doing right.
Please, please, let us use the lessons from history as an impetus to seek common ground, and to treat everything else as commentary. Let's be the adult in the room, and stand proud.
Elizabeth M René
Attorney at Law
rene0373 at gmail.com
More information about the NFBWATlk