Wednesday, February 04, 2015

An Intersection of Ableism and White Supremacy Involving Autistic people

I participated in an online project testing social intelligence. It involved looking at a photo of someone's eyes and deciding which of four different words describe what you think the person is feeling. One of the things I noticed was that almost all of the examples involved white/white-passing people. They were taken from British magazines in the 90's. Were they REALLY unable to find any people who aren't lily white? It isn't measuring social intelligence at all. All it shows is a person's ability to determine what white people might be feeling. Am I the only one who sees that as flawed?

Then, on the end page, it explains that the test was developed as a part of research on autism. I guess only autistic folks who live among white people are worthy of research. To top it all off, it explains that this version of the test was described as a part of this study:

Baron-Cohen, S., Wheelwright, S., Hill, J., Raste, Y., & Plumb, I. (2001). The "Reading the Mind in the Eyes" Test revised version: a study with normal adults, and adults with Asperger syndrome or high-functioning autism. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, and Allied Disciplines, 42(2), 241-251.

"A study with NORMAL adults and adults with Asperger syndrome or high-functioning autism"

There is so much unethical and ableist about this that I don't even know where to begin with unpacking it all. It posits autistic people as abnormal. According to this, autistic people aren't just different. They are sick, disordered, diseased. This is why so many people reject the medical model of disability. Mainstream psychology and psychiatry shows an utter disregard for anyone outside of their enforced norms. It's no wonder that many autistic people avoid these two fields altogether. Psychologist and psychiatrists can't be trusted to even treat autistic people as humans. It can be downright dangerous to be an autistic person of color receiving treatment based on the results of these kinds of studies.

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Creoles and Colorism in my Community

I feel like the discomfort that privileged people feel in conversations like this is something to be embraced. If talking to those who are marginalized (by us and by the community around us) isn't uncomfortable and messy and challenges what we believe about the world and about ourselves, then we are definitely doing it wrong. Solidarity isn't supposed to be easy or life-affirming. Solidarity is sacrifice.

For me, when dark-skinned/non-mixed race Black people talk about colorism, my first inclination is to want to believe that I'm one of them and not someone in the group they are talking about. I tell myself "After all, I'm not as light as SOME Black people that I know" and "Both of my parents have some Black heritage, so I'm not as mixed as MANY Black people". That is sooooo much easier than thinking of myself as someone who could be contributing to the marginalization of some Black people.

I want to believe that the ways that I embrace my Blackness are enough to make me no longer a part of the problems associated with colorism and racial privilege. It sounds silly to say it to other people, but in my mind I think, "I wear my hair in an afro and I personally believe that dark-skinned Black folks are gorgeous and make it a point to say so to others and I taught my kid to embrace hir Blackness. Isn't that enough to make me on the right side of this issue?" It seems legit to me. But, yeah, no.

I'm part of an extended family. We have definitely benefited from access to more educational opportunities back when most Black people in the West had none or very few. My immediate family was definitely poor compared to some folks in our Creole community. However, we weren't so poor that I wasn't able to spend my childhood raised in nice houses, in safe suburban neighborhoods, with decent area schools. There were many times in my life that I remember my mom getting certain jobs or us being able to get into even better schools and programs specifically because we could lean on our privileged mixed-race community, even though those were places where non-mixed race Black people were rarely to be found.

It's taken me years to own up to the fact that our inclusion was at the expense of darker-skinned people, because schools, employers, and programs could use us our presence to inoculate them from accusations of racial discrimination. We were "respectable negroes". It was easier for white people to relate to little light skinned kids with a father in academia and a stay at home mom. The way we spoke didn't confuse white folks nor was it associated with the Black community. We could be their Black friends or coworkers without them having to deal with those dark-skinned/non-mixed race Black folks who weren't as assimilated and/or whose unapologetic Blackness reminded them that the social hierarchy is changing to one where their whiteness won't keep them safe.

So, yeah. I'm a part of the problem of anti-Blackness and colorism. I figure it's never a bad time to start owning up to my privilege and it's probably even a good time to do it when my dark-skinned/non-mixed loved ones are saying that they're suffering as a result of these attitudes and behaviors.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

My Dating Patterns

Ebony magazine's website has an uplifting and engaging article on it called "Black Girls Only". What the author says in the last paragraph about desire comes as a sort of revelation to me.
"...I'm well aware that desire is different from love. Desire is definitely constructed around social influences and signifiers of what is beautiful and worthy of love. From body type to complexion we are inundated with messages about who should be wanted and who shouldn't. My choice to love black women only is revolutionary. It's a reflection of my radical politics.  It's my straight no chaser lust, love and worship of black femininity. Black girls are magic. From high yellow to blue black. And I love them all.
I've tried to understand my own dating patterns. I ask myself why, despite how much I love POC and try to emphasize my pride in my African heritage, have most of my partners been white or or really passe blanc. I know that it's not a coincidence. It's a pattern. I see beautiful Black people all of the time and there are many of them that I'd definitely be willing to date. But for some reason, the only people that I wind up getting serious with are those with euronormative features.

Perhaps this is pattern stems from my background in a culture where European features are preferred as a result of the advantages society confers upon those who have them. While I decided a while back ago that I would no longer date white guys, I haven't made up my mind to only date Black people. I can definitely respect those who do choose to love Black women, especially those who are also People of Color. Being white means that you have more leeway with regards to dating. Being with a Black woman won't really result in much of a loss in stature. However, A Black person with a white spouse definitely does reap some of the benefits of their partner's white privilege. A Person of Color who marries a Black woman, especially a darker skinned, kinky haired Black woman, will never benefit from that in a white-dominated society.

However, I can't deny that my dating pattern may also be influenced by who I'm around the most. Out here, I don't come in regular contact with a single Black person other than my two coworkers. I simply don't have the opportunity to meet people outside of work. So, it would be difficult for me to decide to only date Black people, because that would mean remaining single until I move or get another car. I don't think I need to make the same decision as the author, but I think that it does help me to formulate better questions to mull over during introspection.

Monday, November 03, 2014

Lord Make Haste to Help Me!

I have a prayer request. On Wednesday, I have to find a way to get all the way to Baton Rouge (which is an hour and a half away from here) even though my roommate is working and can't take me unless I can convince the doctor's office that's contracted with Social Security to let me be seen earlier in the day. Please pray that something works out. I don't want to borrow my roommate's car. I really don't like using anyone else's things. She has said that if it comes down to it, she'll let me, but I don't want to do that. I kind of have a policy of not using something that belongs to someone else unless I can afford to replace it, if something happens to it while I'm using it. Still, Social Security says they will close my case if I don't make it to this appointment.

I'm a bit fed up and frustrated and close to tears over this whole review process. They're sending me to have a physical with a doctor who's never even seen me and has no experience with my disabilities. I have a really rare cancer and there are no doctors in the Mississippi/Louisiana/Arkansas region who've even seen a case of it or treated someone with it. It just seems like this SS case manager is trying to kick me out of the program. She said that I have to do this because the records she's received for me are insufficient. My oncologist, my pain management doctor, my rheumatologist (I also have systemic lupus), my psychiatrist and my GP have all sent SS their records for me. I see at least one of my doctors every month, because it takes a lot to keep me alive. So, it's not like the records aren't up to date.

Furthermore, it's not like a regular physical is going to be able to show them much about my disability. It's not like I'm an amputee or someone with an obvious disability like Trisomy-21. My cancer is inside my chest! At best, this guy can listen to my breathing, poke my torso, and ask me a few questions. Nothing he can tell SS will be more informative than what my medical records show. I mean, if this is supposed to root out fraud, it's a waste of time. It's rather difficult to fake cancer so well that the doctors actually imagine that they removed part of tumor out of my chest.

I feel like SS still tries to make things so hard for people who have already proved that they are disabled. I don't just "sit around collecting a check" like some people think most disabled people do. I actually hold down a job and work as much as I can. I'd love to be independent and capable of working enough to support myself and physically able to care for myself all of the time.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Gaze Upon the New Boss, Same as the Old Boss / Why I ain't Impressed by Young White Liberals

Another white liberal/progressive removed themselves from my Facebook friends list today. Apparently, I'm too upsetting to her gang of racist friends and the more assimilation minded POC buddies. At first this bothered me. This was someone I'd been giving the benefit of the doubt for over a year. She always seemed just one step away from strictly claiming to care about POC and PWD to understanding that it was time to act on those supposed feelings of regard for us. It never happened. In the end, whiteness is just too comfortable and comforting for most people to willingly reject it.

I should have seen it coming. She had no problem posting articles about Indigenous folks and occasionally claiming to have some Indigenous ancestry. However, whenever her white friends started spouting anti Indigenous crap she was quieter than the grave. In that world, it's fun to be able to start all sorts of conversations about marginalized people and then disappear, knowing that your friends will spout all of the hateful pro-extermination of cripples arguments and crude racist stereotypes that would make even the staunchest Southern republican feel obligated to back away from them. It gives them plausible deniability. She can continue to posit herself as "one of the good ones" by providing a forum for her less "refined" bigoted buddies to come out and do the dirty work. Then she can stroll in and say a few "Now, y'all know that's not very nice!" comments and then proceed to scold any marginalized person who gave as good as they got.

I hated seeing the way other POC and PWD were treated by her gang o' bigots. She would NEVER speak up when this was going on. So, I did. I simply can't sit back and watch privileged people take advantage of the fact that many POC are so trained to be civilized and long-suffering that they'll actually try and convince these bigots to TREAT them like human beings even though we KNOW--or at least we should know--that they'll never really believe that we ARE human.

Welp, I guess somebody has to be the bad guy. I know many POC who interact with white people online have a lot invested in these relationships. Doing what I do is about the fastest way to find yourself rejected by them. Fortunately, I don't mind. I'd rather be known in those circles as someone who is too "crazy" or "out of control" to deal with than to be someone who sits back and watches our people being killed off by the families and friends of the nice white liberal moderates. In the end, this chick didn't even have the guts to just say she didn't want me defending my people. She had to throw some unnamed POC under the bus by claiming that she was defriending me for their sake, because even they agreed that I was just too over the top. Now, how can I do anything other than laugh and shake my head? There's a verse in the Holy Bible that says there's "nothing new under the sun". Well, if you don't believe anything else about the book, believe that. They may not know it, but everything they do is stuff that POC have witnessed and dealt with a thousand times before.

If I didn't have radical POCWD who taught me our history, I might be shocked to find out that it isn't the KKK or the Aryan Nation that we need to be fighting. Those folks are so tiny in number as to be basically insignificant. Really, it's these "Well, I believe in what you say, but you can't go around saying it like that" folks who are the bigger danger. Some folks might be surprised to know that I actually have quite a few Republicans, right-wingers, conservatives, et cetera on my friends list. I can't even think of the last time one of them was even rude to me in a conversation. Regardless of what we disagree about, not even one of them would sit there quietly while their friends talk about supporting a child-killer. Not even one of them would be so uncouth as to openly degrade the culture of my people. It simply doesn't happen.

When I say, I'm going to get myself a gun and protect my people from anyone who tries to come for them, they don't scold me or try to feed me some garbage about how awful I am for saying that, if it comes down to me or them--my child or them, my lover or them, my cousins or them--I'm going to do my best to make sure it's my people who live to see another day. They understand why marginalized people want liberation, even if they aren't too eager to see us get it. They understand that this system is FUBAR and no gentle tweaks like the phony "marriage equality" nonsense and "Obamacare" will be enough to produce equality. They understand that none of these campaigns are really about fairness or saving the lives of people like me and my loved ones. They know that none of these attempts to isolate "big meanie" POC like me are really about protecting vulnerable individuals in my community. At least they have the candor to admit that they'd just rather not be bothered with marginalized people who make them feel bad about their decisions. I wish to God that I could find as many nice white liberals who were that honest.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The Switch to Online Courses Presents Challenges for Students with Disabilities

Slate has an article about how universities are switching from using original content generated by professors to online courses produced by the major textbook companies. It's a very disturbing trend.

My child is taking one of these Pearson math courses in college right now. Ze also took an online math course in high school. The high school version was great for a student like hir who could zip through all of the assignments at hir own pace by utilizing resources like Youtube for learning concepts that weren't explained well by the course material. Ze says the math course ze's in now is going well. Still, I worry about students with other kinds of disabilities.

Students who need screen readers or video captions are going to face barriers because of the way that many of the sites are set up. I seriously doubt that the companies are going to produce alternate versions of each course's material in order to accommodate students with disabilities. So, what are these students supposed to do when these online courses are used for the majority of freshmen and sophomore level classes? This is obviously the direction that things are headed. As usual, people with disabilities are the first to be sacrificed when Western educational models mutate.

Monday, September 08, 2014

Goats and Disabilities

I spent the morning mucking out the enclosures for 17 goats. It was really, really physically taxing. After the first pen, I regreted taking this job. When you're sweeping and shoveling goat poop, your clothes get covered in a fine dust consisting of dirt, hay, and dried poop. It was impossible to keep cool. I quickly ran out of water in my thermos and I was too far from the house to go back for more.

Still, I kept at it. The second and third pens were easier and I think it was because I developed a strategy for cleaning them. The fourth and last pen was THE WORST. I couldn't even get to the wood on the floor without having to break up slabs of compacted crap. Regardless of those challenges, I got it done.

I'm proud of myself, I think. Well, what I'm most proud of is that I was able to get my body to accomplish all of that. My body often does things that I wish it didn't and then, at other times, it just won't or can't do what I want or need it to accomplish. It feels great to be able to go beyond what's safe and pain-free. I did what I went there to do and I did it well. After it was over, all of the hard work that it took to get to that point sort of faded away. I got to enjoy a cold drink, come home and take a shower, and now I'm going to schleep!