Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Where the similarities in the history between being 'only' Black or Disabled in the USA stop

I will come back to this as I think on it more - but I've been thinking on the similarities between the history of people who have disabilities and who are originally slaves from Africa.

Both have been taken from their communities of origin to live far away
Separated from the families they love
To work for no pay
Raped and abused by the people they are entrusted to
Forced to give up their children, be sterilized, and to abort
Not be allowed to learn
Considered less than fully human
Disenfranchised to vote
Not permitted to sign contracts
Not allowed to marry
Given substandard, if any, health care

I'm sure there are more.

The difference I see is that far too little of this has changed for far too many Americans with disabilities, while all of it has changed for the (eta) nondisabled descendants of slaves.


Nadia said...

the two are not mutually exclusive identities. in this post, you seem to be racializing disability as a white thing, so i must ask, "what about disabled people who ARE of african descent?"

Susan said...

I can see in retrospect how that can be perceived that way.

Teddy, the son I am raising is Black and disabled. He personally doesn't face any of these issues except substandard health care via Medicaid. But his peers at school (many of them Black) face them - and they do so on account of their disability, not on account of their ethnicity. Several of his friends have parents who have become their legal guardians - so they cannot vote, sign contracts, or marry. I know at least a two were sterilized while still children. They are in a school training program where they work for no pay - and will do that from 18-26 years old. Their parents plan that they will live in groups homes where known abuse is all too commonplace.

I think the way I titled this (so I am going to change it) led you to that conclusion. And also the last line. So both I will change.

The two identities are not mutually exclusive - but no one does most of the things on that list on account of a person's racial identity alone (speaking now from a US perspective alone). Maybe that is what needs to change in the title - Where the similarities in the history of being Black and/or Disabled in the US stop.

When my son was a denied a job interview it was not on account of his Blackness, it was his disability.

When my son is questioned as to whether he should be allowed to vote, it is on account of his disability not his Blackness.

Discrimination and maltreatment continue for people for many reasons - but much of the discrimination against people with disabilities is enforced/ created by law.

Nadia said...

right after reading your response i came across this post i remembered from back in may:

you've probably seen it already, but it seemed complimentary to this discussion.

i've been thinking a lot lately about making comparisons, based on comments to this post: (i hope this comment doesn't get marked as spam for all these links!) in which the original post compared apu from the simpsons with aunt jemima, and a commenter took issue with it (it is comment #6, really worth reading his points if you have time). one quote: "Just because Aunt Jemima was used by a corporation to profit from the Mammy stereotype does not mean that people upset by this new Simpsons promotion need to reflect on Aunt Jemima’s insanity to justify their position.

Apu offends enough on his own, thank you.

African American history is not a random grab-bag for all other racial minorities to pull justifications from whenever they consider themselves oppressed by mainstream American pop culture. "

his point, which he elaborates on in subsequent comments, is that these offenses are egregious enough; they don't need to be viewed through the filter of african american (or anyone's) history. at the same time, i think comparisons can often illuminate similarities and create feelings of solidarity between groups...this is something that requires a lot of careful thought and even a whole lot of words to fully articulate complexities, nuances and differences. for me, it is a challenge to more clearly communicate. comment #20 is also really good: "But as I see it, identifying the similarites between our respective experiences with white supremacy can comfortably co-exist with recognizing the unique dimensions of each community’s circumstances and experiences."

that discussion is relevant to our conversation here but, in the interest of being a better communicator (lol) it has differences, namely that disability is not racialized while ethnic groups, of course, are.

Susan said...

I think perhaps I need to start back where I began and elaborate.

People with disabilities throughout history have been forceably removed from their families and put in places where they would be segregated from others. This continues today when people with disabilities want to live in their communities, but can't, because the only way they can receive the health care or supervision/support they require to live/ survive is in institutions.

The institutions have improved in the past 200 plus years, but they remain as convenient places to stuff people with disabilities away from view. Fernald - the oldest remaining institution in use in the US was built in the 1887.

It doesn't close (like so many others) because families want to keep their adult children there. They don't want their kids living in the community. An organization called VOR (Voice of the retarded) goes so far as wanting there to be a law that prevents people other than guardians from trying to represent their adult children when they want out of these institutions.

The nursing home lobby is one of the most powerful lobbies in this country. Why has MiCassa been so difficult to pass? Who is harmed by allowing people with disabilities to spend their dollars where they want to spend them - the nursing home industry and only the nursing home industry.

Too many people with disabilities do not have the choice to live in freedom where they choose.

More later today.

Nadia said...

i had no idea about the nursing home lobby. that is really interesting, and it explains a lot.

also, i didn't introduce myself, but we spoke at the allied media conference. i was with my friend johanna at the women of color zines booth, we talked about the ashley x case. i wrote a post about it on my blog: