By now, many of you may have heard of the hashtag #DisabilityTooWhite. It was created last Wednesday on Twitter impromptu by me, and has gained a lot of support, resistance, and interest from those within and outside of the disability community. I have been interviewed by many pertaining to the hashtag, and felt that it was very much appropriate to discuss it on my blog, and to be very candid on how I felt about what has transpired in the past week.
In the past week, I have been a part of two discussions about appropriation occurring in the disability community. In both incidences, the ignorance and disregard in respecting the oppressions of marginalized groups were shared, and the outcry for the offense to stop is great.
How is appropriation occurring? It occurs when we compare our struggles as a community to those of other marginalized groups, particularly racial minorities. The widely used appropriation “scapegoat” is Black people and the Black experience; words like “cripface” are derivatives of words that have roots within the Black community (e.g. “Blackface”). When we “refurbish” words from other histories and cultures to explain our own struggles, we are stripping the true historical roots of those experiences to the bone marrow, and tossing them aside like yesterday’s garbage. Our movement have been around long enough to establish our own terms, lingo, etc. – we should not appear to be “lazy” in developing terms that we can call ours. When we “reinvent” words, we are being disrespectful to the cultures and experiences we are borrowing from, AND the individuals within our communities who may identify within those groups.
I want to make one thing crystal clear: it pisses me off as a Black disabled advocate when I see disabled people, mostly disabled Whites, rehash words from the Black experience and attach them to our movement. I know why this is done – sheer laziness, plus we all are knowledgeable about the successes of the Civil Rights Movement, which provided the “blueprint” for other movements like ours when it comes to fighting for our rights in society. HOWEVER, that does not mean disabled people have the right to compare our struggles to Black people and say that they are the same, or to microwave words from Black history in trying to make them fit into our history. That is NOT how you strengthen your own movement – doing this is an absolute slap in the face for those of African descent in this country, especially for Black disabled advocates like myself. My culture and history are not for you to appropriate in any regard, and I will fervently call out any advocate who does this with zero hesitation.
Over the weekend, I noticed a lot of chatter on Facebook surrounding the story of Anaya Ellick, a 7 years old girl from Virginia who won a national penmanship contest. Anaya is an African American girl who is a congenital amputee. The contest she entered into and won was the Nicholas Maxim Special Award for Excellent Manuscript Penmanship. Participants of the contest must be a student with a disability, and a team of occupational therapists judge the entries and award a winner. Anaya beat out 50 other participants to receive this honor, and in the video below, you can watch Anaya accept the recognition, and hear from her mother and school administrators about her penmanship.
Over the past few weeks, I have been approached by individuals who wanted to understand the Black disabled experience, particularly the plight of Black disabled women and why our struggles matter. (The inquiries picked up when I published my “Lemonade” post last week.) I noticed a pattern from those who asked of my knowledge and personal reflections: many are ignorant of the experiences of Black Americans in general, Black women particularly, and when broken down further, Black disabled women specifically.
I decided that as someone who views herself as an “educator” within my advocacy scope, it would be fitting to create a compilation of books, essays/articles, speeches, music, and other bodies of work that accurately explains the diverse forms of Blackness that exists for Black women, and how the lives of Black disabled women meshed within that discourse.
I asked some of my incredible friends and fellow advocates for resource recommendations for this idea, and was provided a wealth of information that surpassed my hopes in establishing a “syllabus” of our intersectional experience.
The Black Disabled Woman Syllabus is a “living” document; meaning that I aspire to update it as needed, when resources become available that should be added to it. In order to do that, I need your help: If there are bodies of work that should be on the syllabus, there are two ways to make recommedations:
Use the hashtag #BDWSyllabus on social media to share your recs.
Important Disability-Related Videos You Should Watch
Here's the Out of Step's TOOST Radio interview I participated in as a panelist on Nov. 6th, 2013. During the interview, I discussed my personal & professional viewpoints about the choice of discussing disability status while seeking employment opportunities. The part that I'm featured begins 15:29 minutes into the interview.
In this video, Beyoncé helps Kid President with World Humanitarian Day 2013. The Kid President has OI like I do. I think that his messages are ones that all walks of life & ages can learn from. I'm so jealous that he met one of my idols & favorite music performers, Beyoncé! I wanted to share with you all the interview the Kid President did with Beyoncé for World Humanitarian Day, which was August 19th, 2013.