“Gloria, capitalism said our bodies were useless” (Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha).

I have that written on a poster above my bed, framed with a Nikki McClure print of a person laying flat on the ground; being held by the Earth. 

We live in an extractive, capitalistic society: one that takes resources from the many for the benefit of the few. Capitalism is when individuals/corporations control resources for profit, rather than for the benefit of all people. The resources they control are people’s bodies and labor, as well as other things they have stolen, like the land. Capitalism and colonization go hand in hand.

First, capitalism tells us that we can’t be disabled: we’re just lazy. Doctors and psychiatrists try to get us to keep working “for our own good,” rather than helping us access the social supports we need. Many of us end up houseless because we can’t work (the right way/enough/at all), but we are still expected to.

If the evidence that we’re disabled can’t be denied, then we may receive those social supports, but since our lives are considered worthless, the supports are barely enough to survive.

Under capitalism, a person’s value lies in how much money they can make for other people. There have been eugenics movements to remove disabled people from society because we aren’t productive enough.

Disability Justice, on the other hand, views each life as inherently valuable. Just being born gives a person worth. Our capacities to think, feel, love, hope, imagine, sense–any combination of these and more–give our lives value, and that value can’t be taken away just because we don’t make enough money for other people. Working is one possibility for our lives to take, but it’s not the only one.

We can be useless and still have value. We can live as resistance to those who would rather we die or disappear.

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