What does being a person mean?
As part of my job here at DRO, I’m sometimes asked to speak to groups about the disability rights movement and how it got started. This is a much larger topic than I want to get into right now, but since I am sitting at home because it is a federal holiday honoring the birth of Martin Luther King, Jr., it seems important to note that the idea of disability rights is inseparable from the broader quest for human rights.
MLK is honored with a national holiday because he is a hero of the nation. He was a leader of a movement that spoke and continues to speak to the very nature of human experience. What is a person? What does being a person mean? MLK asked Americans to think about those questions and answer them honestly.
MLK’s invitation is still open. Today, you can ask yourself these questions. You can ask others to think about them.
We can also think about segregation and institutionalization. What fears or desires lead someone to demand the incapacity and impotence of others? Are those urges different when applied to affordable housing, the nation’s borders or the institutions of matrimony?
Looking back to April 16, 1963, we know what MLK had to say:
All segregation statutes are unjust because segregation distorts the soul and damages the personality. It gives the segregator a false sense of superiority and the segregated a false sense of inferiority. Segregation … ends up relegating persons to the status of things. Hence segregation is not only politically, economically and sociologically unsound, it is morally wrong and awful.
Letter From A Birmingham Jail