So, in a recent post in which I referenced “You’re ok, they’re mean” as a response to ableism, I got responses along the lines of:
“But what about when it’s my parents? Or people who are really nice in other ways? Or my friends? Or people I respect? How can I say they are mean?”
The short answer: people are complicated.
It’s possible for someone to be mean sometimes, but not always. Actually, most people aren’t mean all the time. (Even if they are mean to *you* all the time).
Hateful aspects of someone’s personality or behavior don’t cancel out the parts of them that are loving and respectful. They coexist.
And it cuts both ways – the loving or respectful aspects of their personality or behavior don’t cancel out the parts of them that are mean.
When they are being mean, it’s important to recognize that they are being mean, and that it’s wrong for them to be mean to you. Even though they aren’t mean all the time and you respect them in other ways.
Sometimes, when people who you love are mean, it’s possible to talk to them about it and show them that it hurts you. Sometimes they don’t realize they’re being mean, and sometimes they stop once they realize. But not always. Sometimes they don’t believe you, or don’t care. You have to use your judgement about which kind of situation you’re in.
And in any case, it starts by recognizing the mean behavior or attitudes as mean. If people think less of you because of your disability, or who you love, or anything else like that, they’re being mean. It’s a reflection on them, not you.