MrBeast’s blindness video puts systemic ableism on display • TechCrunch

Recently, superstar creator MrBeast posted a video on his YouTube in which he highlights many blind and visually impaired people who have undergone an operation to “cure” their blindness. At the time of this writing, the video has been viewed more than 76 million times, and responses have been expressed in both praise and scorn. For his part, MrBeast was put on Twitter to publicly complain about the fact that a lot of people are very angry with him for performing a public stunt under the guise of selfless charity.

The truth is simple: Video is more practical than altruistic.

Before diving into the many layers of why videos are troublesome, it’s important to give a warning first. However MrBeast’s premise in producing the video is questionable, the participants — the patients and their doctors — should not be defamed. They decided to perform the surgery of their own accord. The reasoning behind making that choice is far beyond the scope of this article.

At its broadest, the biggest problem with wanting to “cure” blindness is that it reinforces the moral superiority of people without disabilities over people with disabilities. Although not faced as often as racism and sexism, systemic possiblity is pervasive across all sections of society. The fact of the matter is that most people are able to see disability as a failure of the human condition; As such, people with disabilities should be mourned and pitied. More specifically, as MrBeast stated in the video thumbnail, defects should be removed — cured.

To some extent, disability is considered a failure of the human condition to be technically correct. That’s why disability is what it is: The body doesn’t function as designed in some way(s). If the defect is in computer software, engineers will be tasked with finding and fixing the defect.

However, the human body is not a lifeless, inanimate machine that requires perfection to function properly or be of value. I’ve suffered a spate of harassment on Twitter since tweeting my thoughts on MrBeast’s video. Amidst calls for me to drink a bottle of bleach, most of them retorted me as to why I don’t want to “fix” or “cure” what’s preventing people from living a ostensibly richer life. , more complete because blindness will disappear. They say a blind person can suddenly see stars, rainbows, a child’s smile or any other romantic idea one can conjure up.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning would be proud of the way I count the way in which this myopic view lacks perspective.

However, the doctors appearing in the video are not miracle workers. There is no comprehensive cure for blindness. If the people who took part in this surgery changed their lives for the better by regaining their sight, they would have more strength.

That said, we don’t know anything about their vision prior to surgery, nor do we know what the long-term prognosis for their vision is. MrBeast’s claim to “cure” blindness is essentially baseless.

On a basic level, MrBeast’s video is erotic inspiration, which portrays capable people as selfless heroes waging war against an insidious enemy known as a disability. And in the end it doesn’t mean because People with disabilities. It’s about making capable people feel good about themselves and about people with disabilities striving to be more like them – more normal. For the disabled community, inspirational pornography is often mocked as such because the message is not about us as humans; it’s about a group “less than” the majority. This is where restructuring possibility gets its ugly head.

Think about this: If you fall and break your arm or wrist, that’s really bad. You will be disabled for a period of time. But the expectation during your recovery is that you’re still human, still being yourself to do everything you can reasonably do before. You may find some things inaccessible for a while and need some form of assistive technology, but you should expect to be treated with respect and you wouldn’t expect someone to be able to rehabilitate your broken bones. miraculously myself. However, this is what MrBeast (and his millions of minions) are selling in this video. They do not recognize the humanity of the blind; they just realized the disgust of not being able to see.

In other words, capable people tend to think that disability defines us.

Yes, in many meaningful ways, our disabilities define us to a large extent. After all, no one can escape their own body. But what about our characteristics as individuals? Our families, our jobs, our relationships and more? Surely people know about things like the Paralympics and wheelchair basketball tournaments, for example. The point is, people with disabilities are no different in our individual makeup than anyone else. We shouldn’t be pitiful and we certainly aren’t asking for morale in the ways MrBeast suggests.

I have multiple disabilities due to premature birth, but most people know me as a life partner, a brother, a cousin and friend who loves sports, loves to cook and listens to rap music, and a home. famous newspaper. Everyone in my orbit is well aware of my disabilities, but they don’t judge me based on them alone. They know the real me – they know my disabilities are not the whole of me.

My life experience is unique because I have so much to draw from: I have a visual disability, a physical disability, and a speech disability, and my parents are both completely deaf. As the eldest of two children, I worked as an unofficial home interpreter for my parents. As one CODA, I straddle the line between the deaf and hearing worlds. I know firsthand how the deaf look with great pride at their culture and way of life. If someone “cures” deafness, what happens to everyone? Deaf culture is real. Culture will disappear because there is no reason for sign language to exist and the experiences that derive from it.

I had a mentor in my senior year of high school who asked me the day we met at my counselor’s office if I would go back and change everything in my life to be disabled. or not. I told him pretty clearly that I wouldn’t. He was surprised by my answer, but I explained my reasoning very simply: It would change who I am.

Nearly a quarter of a century later, my feelings have not changed. Granted, I have my moments. I curse the fact that I can’t get in my car and go wherever I want, whenever I want. Likewise, I often lament the fact that my limited range of motion due to cerebral palsy leaves me sometimes unable to literally move around as freely as I need or want to.

All told, however, my disabilities have helped me grow in many ways. The relationships I’ve had, the knowledge I’ve acquired, the journalism career I’ve had for almost a decade – all of this would not be possible in an alternate universe where I am not. a person with a lifelong disability. For me, it’s the ultimate silver lining.

I don’t consider myself a prophet when it comes to accessibility and assistive technologies. I know a lot, but I don’t know them all. Likewise, I do not intend to speak for all blind people or the disability community at large. Special blindness is a spectrum, and I claim to know only where my eyesight lies on that line. I also know this: Medicine is not the answer to “helping” the blind, let alone anyone else with a disability.

Disabled people don’t need pity. We don’t need to raise our spirits. We don’t need a cure from ourselves. What we desperately need is some recognition of our basic humanity. We need capable people to start seeing us for who we are instead of the painful, burdensome social outcasts portray us.

MrBeast (and his defenders) easily fall into the trap of perpetuating that ingrained ideological mindset; As I wrote earlier, improbability is just as common as racism and sexism. Simply put, we need allies — people who see us as real people.

Finding a cure for cancer or curing AIDS is one thing. Disability does not need a cure. What really needs to be treated is the tendency of society to treat the disabled community as no different from real-life characters in a Movie Tod Browning. Disabled people are not monsters. Disability is not a bad word. You can learn a lot from us.


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