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Ethan EllisEthan Ellis - Able Newspaper

Fifty years ago, I was starting work at Mobilization For Youth, the Lower East Side’s forerunner to Johnson’s war on poverty. The day before, the Daily News blared “50 COMMIES AT MFY.” They found three – a janitor, a mid-level manager who left for Moscow and an under-cover FBI agent. I went to work anyway.

After 50 years of activism for poor people and those with disabilities, I balance slanted mainstream news with internet truth-tellers. Both ignore our civil rights.

This year, MSNBC stars recorded ads proclaiming their advocacy for underdogs and their causes – people of color, seniors, women, vets, Muslims and LGBT members. But no crips. The closest we got was an ad showing the feet of underdogs marching to victory – a vet’s skeletal running prosthesis and an old man’s wooden cane.

They protested stop and frisk, police murders and other brutality, voter suppression, FBI surveillance of mosques, sexual abuse of and unequal pay for women. What they left out was how brutally people with disabilities are treated in the police/law enforcement industrial system, especially if they have cognitive or mental health disabilities; how 60 of the 300 people killed by cops last year had disabilities, how 80 percent of our women and 37 percent of our men are sexually or physically abused, usually without consequences. Nor did they mention that many people with disabilities don’t have the newly required voter IDs and can’t drive to get them.

You’ll find a lot of this stuff in online disability media but don’t look for it on other liberal/radical internet outlets. I should know. My inbox is filled with it, including sign this petition, call your congressperson to support that progressive legislation, chip in $3 to elect a worthy lefty. And I usually do…under protest.

Recently I got an e-mail survey from Anthony Romero, head of the ACLU, asking to help prioritize their issues. It included the usual roster of outcasts and their causes, but nothing about disability. I shot back an e-mail, listing the reasons we should have been included – we’re a fifth of the population, our rights are violated as much as any other group, often with just as dire consequences, etc., etc.

Romero e-mailed an apology, promising to include us henceforth, which he promptly  violated in his next mass e-mailing. I’ve had similar encounters with groups as diverse as MoveOn and Consumers Union (yes, it has a social action network).

Does it matter? You bet. Any movement for lasting social change will emerge from these groups and we must make sure that it includes the reforms we seek.

More immediately, people with disabilities are affected by every social, medical and economic injustice that groups now protest.

Often, they affect us differently than those without disabilities. If we are not among the reformers, these often critical differences go unaddressed.

We are everywhere. We must be part of every movement for positive social change.

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