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White privilege and disability

31654516_sOnly recently has the subject of white privilege come under scrutiny. White privilege has informed government, policy, relationships, youth, old age, trajectories of state bodies and even points in geo-political history. Edward Said, the author of Orientalism, had taken great steps to opening up a discourse surrounding the colonization of “the east” and documenting how the very idea of an “orient” was a construct of western and ultimately privileged intervention.

With white privilege comes the idea of the norm that interacts with everything that could potentially be considered as the other. The cause of this discrimination is linked to how well ideologies intertwine themselves into everyday structures. Race becomes common sense (Omi & Winant, 1994) in terms of communication, commerce, consumerism and individual interactions. It is because of the salience of racial identification that race can shape understanding (Lewis, 2004).

White privilege has placed itself on a plateau free from the questions of race and racial identity (Murji & Solomos, 2005). Whiteness and its metaphorical value have created an environment in which whiteness happens as the normative and the ordinary power to enjoy social privilege via white control of dominant values. (Kobayashi & Peake, 2000).

Knowing this, an argument can be made for the role of the able body by transposing focuses. Like racial narratives, constructs that reproduce normality have allowed the concept of being able bodied to be viewed as positive and disability as negative. Just as with race, it has also placed itself on a plateau free from the questions of being able bodied as a social construct but the fact that market and labour driven economies create disability in relation to itself makes the two social spheres inseparable.

A person with a disability, who has become aware of the social implications of disability and the human rights model in which these things operate, would naturally start to question the roles of those who are socially dominant with regards to disability. It is a simple assertion to make that when there is no other route presented in order to identify oneself, it is very hard to surmount the sense of tragedy that a medical model presumes as a result of disability. Mimicking whiteness, ability becomes common sense and without any conflicting views to suggest otherwise, ability will remain to be the norm and disability will not.


Kobayashi, Peake. (2000). Racism Out of Place: Thoughts on Whiteness and an Anti-Racist Geography in the New Millennium. Annals of the Association of American Geographers.Vol.90. Is 2, pp 392-403

Lewis, A. (2004). What Group? Studying Whites and Whiteness in the Era of “Color-blindness”. Sociological Theory. 22: 4. December

Omi, M., Winant, H. (1994). Racial Formation in the United States: From the 1960’s to the 1990’s. 2nd Ed. New York. Routledge

Murji, K. Solomos, J. (2005). Racialization: Studies in Theory and Practice. Oxford; New York. Oxford University Press

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Christopher Lytle MA CDS

Principle Consultant and Owner at Christopher Lytle Consulting (CLC)
Christopher Lytle MA CDS, is the principle consultant and owner of Christopher Lytle Consulting (CLC). CLC consults on human rights and helps organizations incorporate requirements for the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). Christopher has been involved with disability and human rights issues for ten years. During this time he has participated in the drafting of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and has been involved in its subsequent promotion and implementation in Canada as well as several countries in Africa, Central America, Asia and Europe. He has held a seat on the board of directors for the Canadian Council for International Cooperation (CCIC) as a representative of theCouncil of Canadians with Disabilities' (CCD) International Human Rights Committee and hehas spearheaded numerous capacity building projects with the purpose of promoting human rights, equality and accessibility. Read more
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