Ntando Duma has solidified herself as one of the more popular celebrities and TV personalities on social media platforms. She’s best known for her vibrant personality on the youth programme Craz-e World Live as well as her role on Rhythm City.
The prominent social media influencer often gives us the kind of family and lifestyle content that would make anyone want to settle down and have children.
But recently the star came under fire for a live stream she did on Instagram, where she was involved in an altercation with a white woman who chastised her for parking in a disabled parking bay.
Duma retaliated by asking the woman how she knew that she wasn’t disabled or using a wheelchair. The situation was further escalated by Duma when she berated the woman replying “abelungu baya dina” (white people annoy me). The argument reached breaking point when Duma continued: “Your mother is mentally disabled,” to the woman.
There was instant discourse over the altercation, this time raising awareness of a system that ignores the needs of the disabled.
On two opposing sides, some argued Duma’s innocence in the situation, stating that she had every right to call the unknown woman out for being racist and instigating a situation that should never have involved her, while a larger majority shed light on a topic that many aren’t entirely aware of – ableism.
Ableism can be described as the discrimination, prejudice and belief of inferiority towards disabled people. The belief that disabled people are incapable has a long and complicated past and can be seen even in religious and ancient texts, where disabled people would be separated and shunned from society.
When breakthroughs were made in health and medical science, people began to comprehend mental and physical disabilities, and that these did not necessarily render disabled people incapable of completing or accomplishing things that non-disabled people could.
However, ableism is still quite prominent in ways non-disabled people do not notice and manifests itself in our everyday lives. From the inaccessibility of shopping malls and bathroom stalls to something as simple as blocking or passing over disabled people when using elevators, the effects of the devastating history of ableism can still be seen.
Duma raised valid points in her argument stating: “How do you know I’m not disabled.”
Often many people assume that disability is visible, that one non-disabled body would be able to identify disability in others from a physical perspective, however, this is not always the case – like anything else, disability is a spectrum and presents in many different ways.
While still a valid rebuttal, Duma neglected the fact that often those with disabilities have a tag on their cars that alert people that the occupants of the car are disabled, meaning that the woman could have looked for the tag and not found it.
Duma’s statement becomes more problematic when we consider how she trivialises the experiences of those who are disabled, making it less about the visibility of disabled people and more about how little is known about how disabled people navigate their day-to-day lives and the experiences they face.
One cannot excuse the fact that Duma is not a disabled person, and was taking the space from someone who potentially really need it. With an altercation such as this one, it is easy to take it at face value and excuse it for blatant racism towards Duma, without looking at the facts.
Many people are unaware of disabilities and the way they present and are also unaware that ableism exists and the effects it has on those whose lived experience exists in the disability spectrum. Many live in a world that caters for those who do not have to worry about how they will climb stairs or put on a pair of socks.
Ableism is not a term widely known or talked about, however, disability itself exists in every society imaginable, rich or poor, black or white.
With an educational system that largely separates the non-disabled from the disabled, very few people can identify and rectify ableist behaviour, even from their everyday language. Disabilities become seen as abnormal and unsavoury, and people are often shunned from society through micro-aggressive instances such as Duma’s.