Ableism and #ADA25

Disclaimer: I am writing this as a physically abled and neurotypical person whose life is not directly impacted by ableism. I cannot write about the experiences of people who do have disabilities and are in fact impacted by ableism and I can only amplify the words of those people.

A group of handicapped people led by 8-year-old Jennifer Keelan, left, crawl up the steps of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, March 12, 1990, to draw support for a key bill now pending in the House that would extend civil rights to disabled persons. The group of about 1,000 people or rode in wheelchairs down Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House to the Capitol. (AP Photo/Jeff Markowitz)

A group of handicapped people led by 8-year-old Jennifer Keelan, left, crawl up the steps of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, March 12, 1990, to draw support for a key bill now pending in the House that would extend civil rights to disabled persons. The group of about 1,000 people or rode in wheelchairs down Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House to the Capitol. (AP Photo/Jeff Markowitz)

The American Disabilities Act was only signed into act 25 years ago, with its birthday being just a few days ago. The Act is legislation that prohibits discrimination based on disabilities and to make sure that people with disabilities have the same opportunities.Getting the ADA signed into legislation took decades of advocating and in March of 1990, a large scale protest took place at the foot of the Capitol building in Washington DC. That protest eventually became known as the Capital Crawl, as those protesting were people with disabilities literally crawling their way up the 83 stairs in protest.

But just because the ADA has been federal legislation for over two decades does not mean the fight against ableism and discrimination based on disabilities is over. The ADA is far from perfect and the fight for justice will have to continue. Erica McFadden wrote about how after 25 years, there is still not equality for people with disabilities, especially in jobs. Hannah Finnie also wrote about how discrimination against people with disabilities still happens, saying in particular that:

The ADA … acts as a sort of dam for discrimination against people with disabilities: it blocks much previously legal discrimination, requiring larger bathroom stalls for people with disabilities … for instance. But the dam also has a few holes in it, permitting systemic discrimination against people with disabilities to flow through. Discrimination under the guise of religion is one such hole–a gaping one.

And ableism is still something that happens on a regular basis, something that the ADA hasn’t stopped yet. Over at disabledfeminists, there’s a post from several years ago about the five things to know about ableism, including what exactly the term means. There is also a difference between ableism and disableism – both terms are defined below to highlight the differences:

Ableism – a set of practices and beliefs that assign inferior value (worth) to people who have developmental, emotional, physical or psychiatric disabilities.

Disablism – a set of assumptions (conscious or unconscious) and practices that promote the differential or unequal treatment of people because of actual or presumed disabilities.

(source)

There are ways, of course, to avoid everyday ableism (including stopping with the inspirational porn), ways to help stop hate crime against people with disabilities, and ways to act as an ally to people with invisible disabilities. It’s also important to acknowledge that mainstream feminism helps to perpetuate ableism (in addition to other -isms…), particularly in regard to using ableist language. It is so important that every able bodied and neurotypical person works against ableism whenever possible.

There are so many things to keep in mind in this discussion as well. Remembering that language can often be problematic is crucial – for example, Lydia Brown wrote over on Black Girl Dangerous about how the term ‘pyschopath’ is both racist and ableist. Also remembering that intersectionality is always important in any discussion, like how Rory Judah Blank wrote about how capitalism, racism, and disability all work to fuck people over.

#BlackWomenEqualPay

CLBmOD1UsAAgAZGToday, the hashtag #BlackWomenEqualPay on Twitter has been taking about the intersection of race and gender in regards to wages and money. Sarah Mirk wrote an article about five facts to know today about the issue, including the fact that women of color are more likely to work for minimum wage than white Americans (despite being one of the most educated groups in the US). Today was chosen as the day for the hashtag because it would take a black woman a year plus until July 28th of the next year to make what a white man is paid in one year.

The nonprofit group Atlanta Women for Equality was the group to start the hashtag to bring attention to the differences in wages between black women and white men, as research has shown that black women are typically paid $0.64 to every $1 that a white man makes. The group called for everyone (especially black women) to take selfies with a symbolic time card graphic that shows you clocking out at 2:07pm (64% into the average 9-5 job). Yesha Callahan also wrote about the hashtag and background behind it for The Root and Monica Simpson also wrote about black women pay for inequity.

And all my support goes out to the black women speaking out on the hashtag today because the internet has never been a safe space from the racist and sexist trolls that occupy space. To all the trolls out there denying the fact that black women are not paid enough for their work, it’s hilarious how unbelievably wrong you are. And one way (of so many) to be an ally in this situation (especially as a man) (and other than not harassing people, which should be a given) is to give your money to women.

Even More Resources for White People on Race and Racism.

This is yet another post for all of my fellow white people to learn more about race and racism. We will never be able to stop learning and it’s important for us to keep learning, reading, amplifying, supporting.

Some more resources, in addition to the ones I’ve already posted, include:

  • Curriculum for White Americans to Educate Themselves on Races and Racism- from Ferguson to Charleston – a long list of resources pulled together by Jon Greenberg
  • Coalition of Anti-Racist Whites – Seattle Based
  • Here’s the Perfect Explantion for Why White People Need to Stop Saying #AllLivesMatter – Jamilah King
  • 4 Things We Should All Teach Kids About Racism Right Now – Mia McKenzie
  • 7 Actual Facts that Prove White Privilege Exists in America – Zerlina Maxwell
  • White People Have a Race – But Everyone Flips Out When We Talk About It – Jenée Desmond-Harris
  • Listening to Ta-Nehisi Coates While Dreaming – Mark Gunnery
  • White Fragility, Silence, and Supremacy: Why All White Hands are Bloody – Malik Nashad Sharpe
  • Study: Watching racists be racists can make you more racist – Jenée Desmond-Harris
  • White Fragility: Why It’s so Hard to Talk to White People about Racism – Dr. Robin Diangelo
  • Rage Against the Minivan posts on race
  • How White People Sound When They “Disagree” With PoC About Racism – BlackGirlDangerous

Ignoring race is literally one of the worst things to do as a way to stop racism from continuing. Acknowledging the history of white supremacy, understanding how whiteness works and how the powerful have defined race to meet their violent needs, and realizing that there is a hell of a lot of stuff we as white people often don’t understand is critical. Not talking about race to other white people will solve nothing – after all, white silence is violence.

BreeNewsomeActively dismantling white supremacy is more than past due. We as white people have hundreds of years and countless generations of spilled blood and violent colonialism and it’s time that we destroy the system that allows for police brutality against communities of color (especially black people) goes unchecked, that allows for things like slavery, Jim Crow, and so many other things to be perfectly legal.

Borderline Personality Disorder.

I can’t remember exactly how I came across it but a few weeks ago, I started looking into borderline personality disorder (BPD) and realized very quickly that there’s a good chance I might have it. My first reaction when realizing this was relief – I had more words to describe things that have been happening my entire life. I finally had a better way to describe many things that I have been feeling for years. I mean, I’ve known I’ve had anxiety for years and depression for even longer than that but looking into BPD, I found an even better way to talk about how I often felt.

borderline-personality-toby-allen1[Image from artist Toby Allen’s Real Monsters project and text reads: “The Borderline Personality monster is one of the most delicate but perhaps the most sinister of monsters. They gather in small swarms around their victims and use pheromones to heighten the emotions of their victim before feeding upon the emotional energies. They feed upon any emotion but tend to favour feelings of depression. The monster is made almost completely of clear ice, rendering it invisible. Only the maple shaped leaf on its tail is visible to the naked eye and looks like a falling leaf. At times when the monster gorges itself too much on any given emotions, it can overwhelm them and they shatter like glass.”]

Reading through the resources and information about BPD from the Mayo Clinic and National Institute of Mental Health helped me to put more words to the things I’ve been experiencing and explained the symptoms of the disorder. And over at the Good Men Project, Nathan C. Daniels wrote about his experiences with BDP, particularly saying something that I can identify with:

I’m hypersensitive on an emotional level and extremely over-analytical, intellectually. My thoughts and feelings are balls in a lottery tumbler, and I never know when the next drawing will be or which ball will be drawn.

To anyone out there struggling with borderline personality disorder, depression, anxiety, or any other mental illness, I love you so much. You are so wonderful and amazing and fantastic and everything that’s saying you’re not any of those things, they’re wrong.

#WhatHappenedToSandyBland and #JusticeforSandy

Many have probably have heard about what happened to a black woman named Sandra Bland in Texas a few weeks ago. A brief recap though: on Friday, July 10th, Bland was pulled over for a minor traffic violation (not using her turn signal I believe) and the situation esculated quite quickly. Bland was assaulted by the officer and eventually arrested, with the dash cam later showing no legal cause for the arrested. On the following Monday, she had been found dead of a supposed suicide.

Many are crying foul play for the call that Bland had committed suicide, finding the decision on how she died suspicious. Tom Clearly wrote about five things we all need to know about what has happened, including the facts that Bland was just about to start a new job at her alma mater and many friends and family members say she would not have committed suicide.

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An article on Mic by Natasha Noman also brings up the fact that Bland was politically active and outspoken in the Black Lives Matter movement and posted videos on social media talking about racial injustice within the US. And apparently, she had attempted to post bail after being arrested. DeRay McKesson also toured Waller County Jail (where Bland was being jailed) and shows how someone could have harmed Sandra Bland without being caught on camera.

Hashtags on Twitter and other social media platforms have been calling for more in depth look at what really happened to Sandra:

  • #JusticeForSandy
  • #JusticeForSandraBland
  • #WhatHappenedToSandyBland
  • #SandraBland
  • #SayHerName – a related hashtag calling for the attention to the killings of black women because of police brutality and violence

Trans Enough.

tumblr_n2so1cV4oe1qehl8to1_500It’s taken me pretty much my entire life to finally identify as trans because I never saw myself as being enough to identify as trans. A big part of that was I lacked the resources and community to understand what being trans is for most of my life – I was 20 years old when I first met a trans individual and had no exposure to the trans community before that.

I had no exposure to the trans community when I was a kid and many of my experiences growing up were passive aggressive comment to be more feminine and to be more like my assigned gender. I’m not entirely sure I had any contact with the LGBTQ+ community until high school and even then, it was extremely limited and I was still very much in the closet.

And a big part of why it took so long for me to identify as trans is because I don’t fit into the general trans narrative of knowing from childhood that I was “born in the wrong body” and I don’t really identify across the binary, just away from it mostly. I never saw myself as trans until a couple months ago because I never saw myself on the gender binary and thought that because I’m non-binary, I couldn’t also be trans.

While I’m incredibly thankful for the rise of representation of trans individuals and stories in the media, there’s a part of me that worries about the universal narrative that’s being painted on the entire community. Janet Mock wrote about being trans in the media and unlearning the ‘trapped’ narrative and taking ownership of our bodies. Drew Cordes also wrote about the emergence and danger of the ‘acceptable trans narrative’. Julia Serano wrote an article for The Guardian about how a transgender 201 is now necessary now that there are more trans individuals in the media.

“Being of the times”.

Last night I started rewatching a show that I was a causal fan of during high school. I hadn’t seen the first few seasons in a really long time so finding out they were on Netflix was really nice! But rewatching the first season has been really awful, especially since many of the episodes focus solely on terrorism and many of the foiled terrorists are from the Middle East or of Middle Eastern descent.

I ended up texted a friend about my frustration and anger regarding this representation because so far in my marathon, there’s been exactly one reoccurring person of color in the cast and he’s an assistant who barely talks and didn’t have a name until the second or third episode (if I recall). (And if knowledge serves me right, he gets replaced by another white man late on – I know it’s so shocking.)

I could go into depth about generalizing and representing an entire group of people into one homogenous stereotype but for the sake of clarity and for me to not get completely sidetracked at the moment, that’ll be for another day.

So during the middle of my texting rant, my friend responded with the fact that the show started in 2003 and the writers were just “being of the times”. This response only made me want to even more tables in frustration because that’s not a justification for what happened. That’s an explanation for the racist bullshit that occurs but that doesn’t mean people are suddenly exempt from not being shitty.

I’ve been trying to think of the best way to articulate why this idea that the problematic nature of different things is okay because of historical context is so frustrating. A part of it has to do with the fact that this idea also seems to imply (to me at least) that the US has gotten better about racism when in reality, it really doesn’t matter. Mychal Denzel Smith wrote how the question of whether or not we’re better in regards to racism is actually pretty useless, saying among other things that:

…I truly believe “Are things better?” is one of the most useless questions in a discussion about racism. It’s another in a repertoire of rhetorical tricks we use in this country to avoid the hard work of addressing racism in its modern form. By reframing the conversation around how much progress has been made, we further the false narrative that racism is a problem that belongs to history. While we pat ourselves on the back for not being as horrible as we once were, we allow racism to become further entrenched in every aspect of American life.

And I think that’s what really articulates my frustration with using the phrase “being of the times” as far as racism goes. Because it removes all sense of responsibility to own up to shitty past behavior and places blame on context. Noah Berlatsky wrote about the ‘product of its time’ defense is no excuse for both sexism and racism, saying in particular that:

…the idea that sexism or racism is “a product of its time” assumes that the past was self-evidently worse than the present, that culture progresses in some sort of straight-line fashion, and that we can therefore assume that folks now are smarter and more enlightened than folks in the past. This is unduly flattering to the present, which has by no means overcome prejudice or stereotype.

The Future.

Today, for what felt like the millionth time, my mom asked me what I was going to do with my future. Her exact words were something along the lines of “you can’t be a dog walker when you’re 40!” My parents are particularly great at the whole guilt tripping thing regardless of the topic and lately that focus has been on the fact that I don’t have a traditional 9-5 job.

IMG_4300But the thing is? I’m 23 years old and dog walking and house sitting has been so great over the last few months. I love hanging out with dogs and people’s pets because I just love animals. This has been the first job in which I’ve been able to hang out with animals and it’s just been so great. (Despite how stinky they can sometimes be…)

And I don’t know what I want to do with my life. I literally have no idea what the future has in store for me and I have no idea what career path I want to go down. There are a few different things that I’m so interested that committing to a grad program or career seems fruitless.

I also recently realized that on top of my depression and anxiety, I probably have borderline personality disorder. One of the symptoms of BPD, described by the National Institute of Mental Health, is “distorted and unstable self-image or sense of self, which can result in sudden changes in feelings, opinions, values, or plans and goals for the future (such as school or career choices)”, which is something I often go through. (Also want to be clear that I’m not basing my self diagnosis on just having this symptom but having many of them…)

Ultimately, I have no idea what I want to do with my life. I’m so glad that I do have a degree in sociology and I’m also so glad that I’m working as a dog walker and pet sitter because both those things have had a huge impact on the person I now am. But I don’t know what the future holds for me and where I’ll go in life. What I want to do changes on a regular basis and having my parents constantly question my life choices isn’t helping exactly.

 

Online Community and Social Media.

Older family members and family friends occasionally make fun of the fact that I’m often on my laptop or on my phone. But the fact of the matter is that moving back to a place where most people I know are in different cities, states, and/or countries, finding a community was more difficult than I realized. Having access to the internet, to my phone has been lifesaving because I’ve been able to communicate with others that live far away or that I’ve never actually met in real life.

So when I watched the below video about homeless youth finding community online, there was a big part of me that could relate to some of their experiences. After spending a year of flip flopping between multiple living places (particularly the constant moving between my parents’ places), having a constant place to come and just be me has been lifesaving.

The producer of the video, France Costrel, spoke with The Advocate and said that:

“All of the homeless kids I met in Atlanta told me the same story: when they were kicked out by their parents, the only thing they had left is a bag of clothes and their phones… They had nowhere to go and no one to speak to. As a result, the online communities became one of the only ways they could still connect with the world. While their families rejected them, they found acceptance on social media and in online communities.” (source)

That, for me, touches on the importance of online communities and on the necessity for the internet as a whole. Having access to a community that isn’t physically available to you for whatever reason can be revolutionary, life saving even. And in a world where ableism thrives and accessibility is often not truly accessible, getting to physical places and events can be difficult for some. So having a space to talk with others, to learn, to come together can be really great.

Social media can also be incredibly important for activism and social change as well. How much would we know about different events if people on the ground witnessing what was happening didn’t tweet or use any kind of social media to talk about their experiences? Often mainstream media and news stations get information wrong (not to say that everyone on social media is always right) or they might be actively excluded from certain things.  And social media can give others a platform that they might not have access to in any other way.

#FreeBree – Bree Newsome and the incredible act of capture the flag.

image1This is yet another really late post and many probably have already heard what happened but I still wanted to write about Bree Newsome – the black woman who scaled a flag pole and removed the confederate flag that was still flying over the South Carolina capitol. She, along with her partner in crime who was on guard below the pole, were both arrested and were charged with “defacing monuments on state capitol grounds”. There has been a petition started to drop the charges that also has more information.

Newsome released a statement to Blue Nation Review, where she wrote about her work regarding racial justice and community organizing and overall, wrote an incredibly powerful statement. She wrote about standing in solidarity with all marginalized and oppressed and being heartbroken over the murders of the nine black Bible study members in Charleston and that #BlackLivesMatter. At one point, she wrote in particular that:

For far too long, white supremacy has dominated the politics of America resulting in the creation of racist laws and cultural practices designed to subjugate non-whites. And the emblem of the confederacy, the stars and bars, in all its manifestations, has long been the most recognizable banner of this political ideology. It’s the banner of racial intimidation and fear whose popularity experiences an uptick whenever black Americans appear to be making gains economically and politically in this country.

It’s a reminder how, for centuries, the oppressive status quo has been undergirded by white supremacist violence with the tacit approval of too many political leaders.

There have also been many amazing art works done in honor of Bree and what she did. All of them are so well done and capture the amazing grace of Bree and her act.

Unfortunately Bree has been getting a lot of death threats and general negative comments because of her amazing act of civil disobedience. So her family has been asking for people to send in encouraging words and love for her to [email protected] I’ve sent in an email with some love and encouragement but again: Bree – you are wonderful and amazing and thank you so much for your act of civil disobedience! The flag needs to go and you scaling that flag pole was tremendous.