By Masingita Masunga

Here I was on a date when my date looked me in the eye and said: “I have never been with a woman with a disability before therefore I don’t know how to treat you.

Please teach me to treat you the way I should.”

I bet you would like to know my response and what happened to us. Askies, I am not going to say because that it is not the point of this article. I welcome and appreciate those honest questions and generally welcome the sometimes uncomfortable conversations. Especially when they are about how people should interact with me.

Do I get upset, hurt, disappointed, offended and cry sometimes? Definitely yes. If you may wonder why?

Emotions are what makes us human hence it is very dehumanising when people think they have a right to micro manage my feelings and infantilise me. This is often coupled with them insulting my intelligence by making it look like they are doing me a favour. This kind of attitude is betrayal to my full humanity. I don’t take kindly to betrayal. Even if it is done in the name of protecting me. You can’t protect me from being human.

If you are really concerned about my wellbeing then protect me from the discrimination and injustice that I encounter daily as a black woman with a disability. Yes I am well aware of all of it, because as a 42 year old woman, I have encountered all sorts of sinister behaviour and attitudes. To the point that I have even developed mechanisms to detect and deal with such. In most cases I just choose to tolerate it for reason that I will not reveal.

Treating someone as less than human to prove our power doesn’t magnify our humanity. Instead it exposes a great deal of self-doubt to the point that we feel the need to produce evidence of our power. Treating other people with oppression and putting them down is not about how we see them, it is about how you see yourselves.

We cannot continue to validate ourselves by making others feel and look less. Validation of our self-worth comes from within, there- fore if we expect others to respect our human rights, we then have to respect other’s human right, if we expect to be treated as equals by others, let’s treat others as equal human beings because everyone has as much right to exist as we do.

So if you are wondering how to treat someone who doesn’t look or sound like you, just treat them like a person, believe me it works. If we want to see true healing, transforma- tion and change, we have to start with the person in the mirror because change can only start when we start to change ourselves. May you have an abOVEnormal human rights day that is filled with harmony and Love.

#NotoAbleism #NotoRacism #NotoSexism #NotoTribalism

Masingita Masunga is a South African television personality and a human rights activist who advocates for the mainstreaming of issues affecting people with disabilities.