I wrote this last year for BADD and it’s still true. I want to highlight it again in light of what’s happening in AZ, the fact that the Atlanta protest had just a handful of black folks and others marching in solidarity with an almost entirely Latino crowd, and the fact that movements really need to figure out how to connect to each other. I hope this piece will ring a little less true 2011.
So I’ve been reading the blogs for Blogging Against Disablism Day 2009 (2010) and I’m overwhelmed with the daily violences enacted through ableism. So much of ableism seems to be connected to a capitalistic understanding of the body, i.e. the body is a tool for generating capital in the world as constructed by temporarily able bodied people. There’s no understanding or room for folks who challenge the very structure of our social structure with the ways they move (or don’t) through the world.
I’ve been trying to imagine a different world, one in which “work” was not assumed to be a requirement for anyone. Instead of thinking in terms of what people can do, it would be about how people care for one another and the earth. How can we each do a bit to care for each other and help sustain each other and help sustain the things that help sustain us (plants, animals, ecosystems, etc.)? A radical decentering of humans is necessary, and even how we understand humanity has to shift too right?
Critiques of temporarily able bodied or nondisabled bodied folks fears of disability, particularly drugs and disability, really reached me. I wonder about my own problematic beliefs about drugs and my desire not to use them, my own belief in an evil consumerist big pharma selling sickness to the world. And I wonder if this might be a both/and. That I am both ableist in my thinking that I’m a wimp for needing tylenol for cramps every month but biomedical interests need some serious critique for testing in Africa, patenting plant compounds that indegenous communities have been using for centuries, and over medicating the world. Isn’t some disability the by product of oppressive capitalism and other isms, like racism, sexism, and ageism?
As today was also May Day, Labor Day, International Workers’ Rights Day, I was thinking about the connections between the two and how these blog communities seem so segregated. Race is rarely mentioned in these disability blogs. Class, gender, and even sexuality come through more clearly than race. Yet if we investigate, we see that most of these bloggers are white. Most of these bloggers live in the US and UK. White is a race. Race matters. This always makes me wonder.
I have a lot of people in my family with disabilities, though none of them would consider themselves disabled. In talking with another radical woman of color, it seems that disability is so the “norm” in our communities, it’s often not marked as an identity unto itself. I often wonder about what a release it might be for women of color to see disability as a framework that intersects with race and gender, to not always feel the need to keep fighting, even when it hurts, to let go of the ways that we as cis and trans women of color in particular, have taken up ableism in ways that reproduce harm to ourselves and the communities we “work” so hard and care for. Why does disability mostly look white?
And while it seems so necessary, to bring these movements and experiences together, to use an intersectional lens, I think it’s so important that we don’t flatten out difference when we look for similarities. I think we are so use to ticking off that ever expanding list of race, sex, class, gender, sexuality, age, dis/ability, indigeniety, etc. we forget that intersection does not necessarily mean equal or parallel. While there may be no hierarchy of oppression, I think that there are ways in which our tendency to compare racism to ableism to sexism to homophobia can make us miss the nuances and the unique ways each of those plays out in the unique constellation of individual lives.
This is why I’m so excited to be a part of this blog community. I think this is proving to be a space where we all see the situatedness of our analysis and yet we still reach for each other and understand the value of each others’ standpoint. I’m ever hopeful these days and I thank you all for contributing to my optimism.