So in my last post, I talked a little about inspiration porn and why patronizing videos like the basketball one with Mitchell Marcus aren’t okay. I told you a story about how I felt when I realized someone was being patronizing or giving me a chance, not because I deserved it or was good, but essentially because I am disabled.
For reasons I won’t get into right now, I left the school I attended for middle school and 9th grade and transferred to a similar private Christian school. Upon entering, my parents and grandparents disclosed that I had a learning disability. At the time, I was diagnosed with ADHD, but I had other processing difficulties as well.
Well, one of the choices besides an elective that you could make was in regards to your Bible class. Some kids chose a class that read “In His Steps”, some chose a class called “Experiencing God”. There were many good choices, but I knew immediately which one I wanted. I wanted to be in the Bible Quiz class.
For those of you unfamiliar, Bible Quiz is a class where the students memorize a certain section of the Bible. Sometimes it will be an entire book, sometimes several smaller books. Once memorized, team members would compete against other schools and churches to answer questions. I thought, this is perfect. I want to do this. I signed up, and…. I was denied. It wasn’t until after my junior year that I found out why. They assumed that because I was learning disabled, I was incapable of memorization and would fail. Little did they know that rote memorization is a talent I do have, and I’m not convinced it isn’t because I’m Autistic. Take that, curebie folks!
I didn’t fight it. I didn’t get to do it that year. But i was going to prove them wrong. I was going to show them that I could do it. So over the summer, I memorized the next year’s material. Well, a good portion, anyhow, and far more than most of the other team members. They let me into the class in the fall.
I remained a slightly mediocre teammate, capable of doing the work but not doing anything extraordinary. Until Christmas break. Now, there is a competition immediately following Christmas – it’s an invitational tournament in Athens, Georgia. My team met one time before leaving, and the teams had been chosen already (team A contained the best players and team B contained lesser but still good members). I recall my coaches being extraordinarily disappointed that they had already chosen, because they discovered at that meeting that not only had I memorized the next chapters, but I’d memorized the rest of the book, and the rest of the material (so Hebrews and I and II Peter).
There is a rule in Bible Quiz that once a person answers 6 questions, they quiz out, which means they are done competing and must wait until the next round to rejoin their team. It’s an honor, but it also makes things a bit more fair and a team player sort of “sport”, where everyone has the chance to answer, not just the exceptional. I was made team captain of team B and during that competition, I quizzed out nearly every round. Despite not winning the overall competition, I won an individual award for highest individual score.
There’s more to the story, and there’s an issue regarding fairness that isn’t disability related, and I may one day bring this up. But this one here, the one where I exceeded expectations, is an example of how I was eventually given a chance like everyone else. I wasn’t special. They didn’t put me in the game and make me team captain because I was disabled and they were being nice. They put me in because I worked hard and was the best person for the job. They didn’t think I could do it, I proved them wrong, and I was given more chances to show them that I could lead.
This is the difference between inspiration porn and treating people fairly. Give accommodations, absolutely. But do not pat yourself on the back for giving someone who might not deserve it a chance simply because you were being nice to a disabled person.