Consider the statement that starts "Some of my best friends are..." and ends with the naming of a minority group, generally a minority group which the speaker has just been disrespecting. It's such a cliche that I'm amazed anyone tries to defend themselves anymore with a "some of my best friends are" statement -- but it happens, and publicly too.
One example from the news lately would be John Cook of the State Republican Executive Committee of Texas. He's been leading a charge to replace the Texas state Speaker of the House, Joe Straus -- who is Jewish -- with someone with "Christian conservative" values.
But I'm not a bigot, Cook told a reporter for the Texas Observer.
"They're some of my best friends," he said of Jews, naming two friends of his. "I'm not bigoted at all; I'm not racist."
Uh-huh. No bigotry to see here, folks, let's move on.
I'm also reminded of an incident at a local business a while back, where I got into a casual conversation with the proprietor about the history of the area since the (long ago) founding of his shop. I didn't see it coming, but his reminiscences turned suddenly ugly as he began ranting against the folks he blamed for causing all the problems in our neighborhoods and school system: those gang-banging black low-lifes who'd come up from Chicago to take advantage of our fair city's generosity. As he saw me scrape my jaw off the floor and start to frame a rebuttal, he quickly interrupted himself, "But don't get me wrong, now. Some of my best friends are black!"
Uh-huh. Sure. I'm quite positive I haven't gotten you wrong.
So why am I writing about this on Elvis Sightings?
Because it occurs to me -- I don't think I've ever heard anyone say:
Now, don't get me wrong, some of my best friends are autistic...
I'm no bigot -- some of my best friends are disabled!
Try plugging those "some of my best friend" phrases into Google. Nada, unlike if you plug in Muslim, black, gay, Hispanic, Jewish, Mormon.
Why is that? It isn't as if people don't blame people with disabilities for certain societal ills -- like, for example, supposedly sponging up a disproportionate share of tax-supported resources. Or for "burdening" businesses with onerous accessibility regulations.
Is it that disability isn't a front-page, hot-button issue on the national scene right now? Unlike, say, gay marriage, or building a Muslim cultural center in New York, or electing our first president of African descent, or immigration across our southern border.
Is it that the disability rights movement isn't on people's radar, unlike civil rights or gay rights or women's rights? (I'll freely confess to being awfully ignorant on this score before Joy came along.)
Maybe people without disabilities don't even notice the discrimination? Even -- or especially -- when they're/we're complicit in it?
Does it perhaps not even occur to some folks that having best friends with disabilities... is even possible? (Another confession: my circle of close "meat-space" friends is not nearly as diverse as it might be, and disabilities are one aspect of that lack of diversity.)
Maybe it's a combination of the above, or some other aspect that hasn't occurred to me?
What do you think?
UPDATE 12/20/10: There's a bloggy conversation going on today about a blogger who disparaged comments on her (otherwise quite compassionate) autism-related post, comments from a person with autism and a parent of a child with autism, because she'd "had classes in autism" and doesn't like receiving unsolicited advice. Check out the first comment on this post about the issue for why this may be related...
And, welcome to anyone who came over here from Elvis Sightings' new Facebook page. After all, some of my best friends are on Facebook! (Hmm, something doesn't sound quite right about that...)