Seventeen years ago I went to a conference with my friend and colleague Jenni. We were both students, idealistic and outspoken, committed to making our society accessible to people with disabilities. We were making this happen by forcing the campus to comply with the ADA, and coordinating a task force for the Governor's office with the objective of reforming structural (translation: boring) policies.
For three quarters of my adult life I have earned as much or more than my partner. Going way back to my teens, this included a stake of cash - an emergency fund - consisting originally of blood money from the accident. Thanks to that haunted reserve I was able to cover rent, buy books, stay in school, demonstrate my academic skills, long enough to earn merit scholarships sufficient to pay for my entire education.
I was born and raised in the rural south, where racial difference was like oxygen. You inhaled it, you exhaled it and you learned about the function and composition later. While my family checked the white or caucasian box on forms, my county was predominantly African-American, a term that did not exist yet. I learned to say "colored", which my mother said was polite, and then to say "black", the term preferred by my classmates to whom it referred.