Emma's Summer Contemplations - June 16th

History was never my best subject at school. Oddly enough it never really took my fancy, despite of my love for stories and narratives. I rarely managed to gather enough interest to be able to remember neither kings nor revolutions in detail. Even if history is the most excellent way to understand our world today, I did not have the energy to bother to do any advanced analyses. At the time, I thought I had better things to do and that the things covered in history class simply were too off. Today I wonder if it ever actually was that easy.

What happens when you never get to read about yourself in the history books? We often talked about the importance of “Women’s History”, that is, to put a different angle on history that does not only involve men. But what happens with other groups that are not white, able-bodied men? Did we ever talk about disability history at my junior high? (Luckily for me, ‘though – as the only obvious crip, I would probably rather had died than sit in a classroom reading about other crips! The need to push all that aside and once again lace up those uncomfortable ableist boots at the expense of my ability, no matter how bad the fit of the boots, would have been redundant!) The closest we got was when my teacher mentioned in passing people with disabilities as being one of the groups facing the Holocaust. One of the groups. Nothing about institutionalization, nothing about experimentation, and forced sterilization. But also, nothing about people with disabilities throughout history in general. Not a single name.

To be honest it almost feels a bit embarrassing to even write this post. That is how little I know about the crips before me. I am starting to learn – reading books about disability history, studying theories, and taking part of other peoples’ thoughts. I know my Berkeley and my history of IL. I know the background of PCAs. I know that we did not get the right to vote in Sweden until 1989 and I know about the experiments done at Vipeholm [an institution in the south of Sweden]. But I do not know any crips! Apart from Berkeley and IL, I cannot really account for any other history at all.

I am writing Berkeley, and IL, and Vipeholm, and 1989, and secretly I am hoping that the people who are reading this are able-bodied with no clue. That you will feel a bit uneducated and quickly will have to google in order to know what I am talking about. This since it should be considered common knowledge. It should be a part of our mandatory education, at least Vipeholm and 1989! It is a part of our history and – believe it or not! – we crips have always existed.

I cannot promise that I would have been a better student if disability history had been compulsory, but I definitely think I would have been able to understand the importance of studying the subject. Of course I hope I am somewhat more mature today – that it does not have to be about me in order for me to care – but to attend lesson after lesson all dressed up in ill-fitted ableist boots…or white boots…or straight heels…Well, I do not really believe in that type of education!

Emma Åstrand

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