Saturday, September 26, 2015

Inspiration Porn at a Chicagoland McDonald's - I'm Hating It.

An act of kindness at a Chicago-area McDonalds has been getting a lot of attention over the last week. A customer, Destiny Carreno, saw an employee decide to close his till and go help a disabled man eat lunch. Carreno  took a picture, placed it on Facebook, and went viral.

Her Facebook post has nearly 400K shares. Buzzfeed’s  coverage has near 300K. Carreno, who I’m sure is a nice lady, wrote, “Seeing this today brought tears to my eyes! Compassion has NOT gone out of style.”

This is inspiration porn. The disabled man, here, is a prop to reveal the inspirational kindness of the McD's employee. Notice how he vanishes from the story. Notice how his predicament is used, WITHOUT PERMISSION, by Carreno to show off how great the employee is. Inspiration porn strips agency away from people with disabilities, rendering them a tragic situation in which the abled can show off how awesome they are.

Moreover, this story took place in Illinois, where we are experiencing a sustained attack from Bruce Rauner and his allies on community services for people with disabilities. If this man needs assistance to eat lunch, a pretty basic need, where are his supports? 

It's not the employee was to blame. He did the right thing. It's not that Carreno was wrong, although please do not take pictures of disabled people and broadcast them on the internet without permission. It's that such media coverage tells us the wrong lessons.

A just society doesn't revel in an act of kindness from an underpaid employee of a mega corporation, but develops structures to make that act of kindness unnecessary. Inspiration porn works directly against that fight for a more accessible society, simultaneously convincing us that disability is necessarily tragic and that a little compassion is all we need to make everything better.



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