Mark Stephenson, Director, Disability Concerns, CRCNA
Over the years, co-editor Terry DeYoung and I have led a workshop that we titled, “Difference, Power, and Privilege in North American Society.” We began by distributing a worksheet that, in two columns, listed a variety of characteristics that society values, then invited participants to choose between two possibilities, depending on how they self-identified. For ethnicity, participants could choose between “European American” and “Other”; for ability, they chose either “Non-disabled” or “Disabled”; for criminal history, either “None” or “Felony conviction”; and for social skills, either “Typical” or “Interaction difficult.” Most people circled the first characteristic—those in the left-hand column (European American, Non-disabled, etc.). Then we discussed implications for people who circled more of the characteristics in the right-hand column.
Even though individuals have no control over most of the characteristics listed, society values some over others. The more characteristics a person has in the right-hand column, the fewer opportunities society affords them for education, employment, housing, and more.
Some people object to this exercise, saying that everyone has equal opportunity, or that we should not divide people by various “identities” because we are all made in the image of God. But, as some of the stories suggest in this edition of Breaking Barriers, people are not afforded equal privilege. Society places a double strike against people of color who also have disabilities. Of all places, churches need to become communities in which we work for equity for all people