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Microaggression & Disability, George Takei and the Guardians of the Galaxy

By Gage Skidmore from Peoria, AZ, United States of America (George Takei Uploaded by maybeMaybeMaybe) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
By Gage Skidmore from Peoria, AZ, United States of America (George Takei Uploaded by maybeMaybeMaybe) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

George Takei’s recent dive into disability bullying, a.k.a. the ‘Despicable Meme’ incident, has me thinking about microaggression.

The ‘despicable meme’, as it has been dubbed by the disability community, features a woman standing up from her wheelchair to grab a bottle on a high shelf in the alcohol aisle.  It is typically accompanied by a slogan; usually along the lines of ‘being filled by the holy spirit’ and/or ‘a miracle has happened in the alcohol aisle.’  I refuse to add the meme to this blog.  If you’re curious to see it refer to the link above.

From Takei’s blatant refusal to take the tweet down it’s clear he doesn’t get the impact of his bullying tactic.

Judging people with disabilities based on their disability is far from harmless.  Since the tweet went up August 2nd, wheelchair users have shared stories about being judged, sometime violently, for moving their legs while in a wheelchair.

Spread the word folks!  A wheelchair does not equal perfect paralysis of the legs.  I had a friend in my early university days with Spina bifida.  She could walk but preferred to use a wheelchair.  It made mobility easier, safer, and much less stressful.

Don’t Look Down on Me, Jonathan Novick’s short documentary on the daily abuses suffered by himself as a little person is a window into what abled people rarely experience.  You get to experience microaggressions and their impact on his life.  It’s a relentless barrage of people taking photo’s without permission, invading his privacy, and unasked for off-colour street commentary.

The judgment of people with disabilities is pervasive.

An excellent example is the summer blockbuster hit The Guardians of the Galaxy.  Note carefully how the Groot character is treated throughout the movie.  Or for quick reference this video.

Despite being highly intelligent, Groot is constantly referred to as an ‘idiot’ because he only speaks three words “I am Groot.”  If you check Groot’s wikipedia page he’s not actually saying “I am Groot”.  His language is so incomprehensible to average lifeforms that only Rocket can interpret him.  When Rocket is called upon to explain Groot’s language skills on the silver screen, only a derogatory, poorly grammatically phrased explanation of his 3 word vocabulary is shared.  🙁

The cultural bias against persons with limited vocabulary is glaringly obvious in this movie.  Lack of spoken language says only that a person has a limited vocabulary, nothing else.

How do you combat microaggressions on behalf of the people you support?


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  1. We’re a tool using species, why look down on those that use some tools? Thanks for this article. The amount of lash back from Mr. Takei’s post gives me hope that we’ll see a brighter future.

    I heard a radio interview on cbc a few weeks ago, and I wish I’d remembered the actor’s name. He grew up partially sighted, almost completely blind. He’d not wanted to use a cane or look blind, so he learned how to act fully sighted so well that people had no idea. Then he learned how to use a cane for a movie role, and discovered how much easier his life became. He could then pay attention to the rest of the world as he walked. He didn’t need the cane, but using the cane greatly enriched his life. Using a wheelchair is similar for many I think. Not absolutely required to live life, but if the choice is between walking and doing only one thing that day, or using the wheelchair and doing 5 things that day, I’m totally picking the wheelchair.