Being Black and Disabled in Corporate America

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by Marcus Wroten, Maple Avenue Ministries (CRC-RCA), Holland MI

This article is part of our Spring 2021 Breaking Barriers. This installment focuses on race and disability. If you'd like to read more stories from this issue, please subscribe to Breaking Barriers

Even if the world refuses to say so, being Black in America is hard, to say the least. In most cases, when you're Black you’re born into disadvantage and struggle. You have lower income and a higher rate of single parenthood. Did you know that 70–80 percent of African American kids (myself included) are raised in a single-parent home?

Being born with a disability makes everything 10 times harder—and it doesn't matter whether your skin is black, white, brown, yellow, red, or something else. Living with a disability presents situations that most people aren't ready for or equipped to handle. Please know that I’m not bragging, but just speaking my truth. We are a looks-based society, and studies have confirmed that people who "look better" (whatever that means) have a better quality of life.

Think about it: people with visible disabilities are judged on looks more than anyone. Add skin tone to that, or being a woman, and the odds are really stacked against you. Gainful employment is something people with disabilities rarely achieve. The more I think about that, the more scared I become. 

I’m so afraid that all of my education will go for naught. In a more equitable world, we would all be judged on the basis of character, not on skin tone or physical limitations. I can’t count how many jobs that I have been turned down for because of my cerebral palsy. Saying that this is a source of frustration for me is an understatement. The only solace I can find in this is the realization that I am not the only one dealing with this issue.

At 42 years of age, I have so much riding on my decision to return to college this year to pursue a second degree. I need to be employed before the year ends. I know that I and millions like me have a lot to offer prospective employers—if we would only be given the chance. The problem is, as a Black man with a disability, I am always begging for inclusion. 

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