Nobody could have predicted it. In the last few weeks, the phrase has become nothing short of common. “She was warned, nevertheless, she persisted.” It was a quote from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell when he was asked about shutting down Elizabeth Warren on the Senate floor during the nomination hearings for Jeff Sessions to be appointed the Attorney General.
Senator Warren had been reading an excerpt from a letter written by Coretta Scott King in 1986, opposing the nomination of Jeff Sessions, to be a federal court judge at that time. After much protesting, eventually, Senator Warren was asked to take her seat.
Since this incident occurred, many of my friends on Facebook have posted pictures of powerful women throughout history and included the now famous caption “Nevertheless, she persisted.” Pictures have been posted of women protesting injustice and getting arrested, and many other women who simply did not accept the status quo. All of the pictures I have looked at with this theme have had an impact on me. I even saw a picture of a woman who got the phrase tattooed on her wrist. All of that is exceptionally cool.
My favorite by far is a drawing by Courtney M. Privet, who drew a female wheelchair user and a list of obstacles she may face or things she may hear every day. And then she put the caption at the bottom. See the picture included with this post. Some of the following phrases are included in her picture. Others are mine.
Your significant other must be a very special person.
Do you actually have a job?
Let me help. No, really, let me help. I don’t mind.
I had to use a wheelchair for a week once. I understand.
I guess my life isn’t so bad.
Do you have a license to drive that thing?
It’s good to see you out and about.
How do you have sex?
You are too pretty to be in a wheelchair.
I only parked there for five minutes.
If you really had enough faith, you would be healed.
I can’t imagine living the way you do.
You are SO inspirational. (from a stranger)
It is amazing what you can do. (from a stranger)
Do you know ______? She is in a wheelchair too.
People like you…
Who takes care of you?
You have “special needs.”
Sometimes I even forget you are in a wheelchair.
There is only a little step up to the door, you can get over that, can’t you?
Helping you is my good deed for the day.
Having been a wheelchair user as long as I can remember, I have heard all of these things and many similar sentiments more times than I can count. And even though I try hard to brush them off before they get under my skin, they can weigh me down sometimes. I am not going to lie. I find it frustrating when people consider me “less than” or “different.”
Nevertheless, she persisted.
A few years ago, when I was in the hospital with kidney complications, one of the pastors from my church came to visit. Knowing that this was my third hospitalization in about two months, Dave was aware that I was pretty discouraged, and when he walked into my room, he could also tell I was in significant pain.
After we had chatted for a few minutes, he asked what kept me going. I hesitated. That is a difficult question to answer. What is it that keeps me from giving up whenever I encounter an obstacle? I don’t really remember how I responded at the time.
If he asked me that question today, I would be more confident in my answer.
My disability is always going to present challenges in my life. And there are times I have to remind myself to channel my inner “Elizabeth Warren” when my own strength is less than sufficient.
Nevertheless, I have courage.
Nevertheless, I believe in myself.
Nevertheless, I pursue my dreams.
Nevertheless, I make my own choices
Nevertheless, I persevere
Nevertheless, I contribute.
Nevertheless, I advocate to make things better.
Nevertheless, I fight injustice.
Nevertheless, I move forward. Why? The alternative stinks.
Nevertheless, I am going to live the life I want, on my terms.
I know most people are well meaning. I also know that most people probably don’t have much experience interacting with people with disabilities. I totally get that.
There are just some days when even unintentional careless words, actions or assumptions still take their toll on me.