I usually don't let what I read on the Internet bother me, but being handicapped and black made the story about Chase Coleman, the autistic cross-country runner who was attacked, hurt on a deep level.
As someone who has been handicapped since childhood (amputee) I can tell you that we just want to fit in. In high school, my football coach did not know about my handicap until after our last practice during my senior year. He was wowed that I never once complained about it. Why would I? I did not want special treatment. In fact, most handicapped people do not want it unless it is absolutely necessary. We just want to find a place where we can be ourselves. Football was that place for me. Clarice found that place in cross-country. He, like I, was free from the stigmas of having a disability. He no longer has that place because someone decided that because he was black, he must be a burglar even though he was wearing his cross-country uniform.
Reading his story sent me down a sad and dark path. It brought back memories of my youth. I remember the days when I was scared to look in the mirror and down because I did not know what I was going to see. All I knew was that my foot was gone. I had to take showers and baths with my foot covered because I was terrified. I was so scared to be different from the rest of the kids. Shit, I still am. I am constantly afraid that people will find out my handicap and view me as someone “special” or an even worse fate; feel sorry for me. I do not want to be “felt sorry for.” I would rather be called the n-word on stage by Donald Trump than felt sorry for.
I tried to hide my handicap from people. It took me two years to admit to myself what happened. I would lie and tell them I am not an amputee. I would often put a sock over my prosthetic to give the appearance of a full foot. It took even longer for me to be comfortable around friends. In high school and college I would only take my shoes off around people I was extremely comfortable with.
I try to downplay the impact that it still has on my life, but it always fails. As a result, I often undervalue myself and I often feel inferior. I still can picture the people staring and pointing at me. The sound of people laughing as I walk by is on constant replay. These doubts creep into my mind and I start to lose my grip. In these moments I feel like I do not belong here. I feel I should do the world a favor and rid it of me.
I am almost 100% sure that other people who have a handicap experience similar thoughts. Having a handicap can feel extremely oppressive. Now add being black in a
country world that already feels you are nothing more than a nuisance it starts to weigh heavy on us. All I ask is that next time instead of pointing and staring, you maybe just maybe smile and wave.