Has the Disability Community Been Kanyed?
Oh, Kanye! Was all the Kim drama not enough?
On the off chance you are just now crawling out from under a rock, here's what's happening with Kanye West. At his recent Yeezus concert in Sydney, West stopped his performance to insist that every last member of his audience take his or her feet. As he surveyed his fans, he noticed that two had remained seated and called them out repeatedly, whipping the crowd into a frenzied "STAND UP, STAND UP" chant. What he didn't realize (or didn't believe?) was that one was a wheelchair user and the other an amputee. After his bodyguard confirmed the veracity of these disabilities and after one of the fans waved her prosthetic leg in air as proof, West proceeded with the song.
To say that the Twitterverse was not impressed may be the understatement of 2014. The mainstream media then followed closely with some very stern finger wagging and exaggerated eye rolls. But what have we heard from the community of people with disabilities, the ones that have been Kanyed?
The Community Weighs In
Among the thoroughly unamused was Mark Perriello, the president of the American Association of People with Disabilities, who felt that the incident highlights West's "fundamental lack of understanding about the world in which we live," adding that the rapper's monologue, and demand for verification, "went from showing a lack of understanding to being downright offensive."
"My hope is that Kanye, everyone who attended his concert, and anyone paying attention to this story in the media, learned a little bit more about what it means to be a person with a disability in the modern age," said Perriello to the Daily Beast, "and uses their voice to help people with disabilities get off the sideline."
In a drippingly sarcastic open letter to the musician, Huffington Post writer and stroke survivor Harshada Rajani pointed out that West's actions epitomized the same discriminatory behavior that he purports to oppose. "You singled out and publicly shamed those two people in front of the entire world solely based on their outward appearance," she wrote. "If it was discrimination based on race or ethnicity, you would definitely apologize. But do you care about the feelings of the over three million Americans in wheelchairs whose hearts hurt after seeing that video? No! Disabled people obviously don't deserve to be treated with an equal amount of respect and dignity as your able-bodied fans."
Craig Wallace of People With Disability Australia, echoed the sentiments of both in his comments to the Sydney Daily Telegraph. "To call out people for not standing up, when they are disabled and cannot stand up, in front of thousands of people, is humiliating. What if it was a young person who's coming to terms with their disability? It's arrogant to say every person in the audience needs to stand up just because you tell them to. Kanye West owes a duty of care and respect to his audience," he said. "Asking disabled people to show their handicap pass is patronizing and inappropriate. He should apologize. Kanye West would also benefit from disability awareness training."
Ya think??? Well, folks, judging from West's contention that he is but the victim of sensationalized media harassment, best not to hold your breath for that apology.Pre-Register for Abilities Expo Today...It's Free!