Despite the seemingly limitless TV programming options that exist for our entertainment pleasure, very few target the identities I have in a manner that are affirmative and validating. However, this month, two shows managed to meet this feat. Black-ish and Speechless aired episodes that touched on difficult topics that rarely are discussed as candidly as they should – race relations and inspiration porn, respectively.
Being that the nature of both episodes resonated with me profoundly, I thought it would be appropriate to discuss the significance of both, and why we need more shows to be authentic about the experiences and thoughts of marginalized people.
Image of a group of protestors outside of a school building holding signs to show solidarity to the injustice committed to a disabled student.
The intersection of race and disability is often ignored when we discuss the injustices that disadvantage disabled students of color within our schools. This oversight can mean grave consequences to students who live within these margins. The school-to-prison pipeline disproportionately impacts disabled students of color (especially Black disabled students), yet very few are addressing what occurs in our schools; a recent incident in Pittsburgh caught my attention as being yet another example of how we are failing to advocate for and protect Black disabled students.
On Twitter, disability rights advocate Dustin Gibson shared details about a Black disabled student at Woodland Hills High being victimized and dehumanized by his principal. Dustin is a revolutionary in training in Pittsburgh that has centered his identity as a Black man with bipolar disorder in his work. He builds with people impacted by systems both locally and nationally. Organizing with the perspective that the people closest to the impact are closest to the solution, many of his efforts are grassroot.
I asked Dustin if he would tell the story of the Woodland Hills incident, the connections between racism and ableism, and why Black disabled lives matter. Here are his words:
It has been a month since the Presidential election, and the dust still has not settled from the shock of Donald Trump winning the coveted seat or the demand for recounts of votes.
It took me some time to find the words to articulate the reality that I will live in a Trump-led America come January. This is the America that has no regard for human dignity, empathy, or compassion. This is the America that we have tried so hard to deny that existed by erroneously stating that we lived in a post-racial society after electing our first Black president. This is the America that those who are multi-marginalized like myself live in every day, and such realities will only get harsher as officials are appointed who actively support every type of bigotry and offense there is.
Luke Cage was one of Netflix’s original series I had waited all summer to watch. Being a blerd and someone who enjoys comics, I was proudly a part of the #Cagetember fandom seen on Twitter. What excited me was not just Luke’s amazing abilities, but the fact that he was a Black disabled character, an existence that does not receive enough attention or respect within comic spaces. Luke represents so much to disabled blerds like myself, and I felt that it would only be justly to share why Luke’s existence matters, and the need for more Black disabled characters.
Me in front of the Smithsonian Museum of African American History and Culture sign, with the building in the background.
It is no secret how big of a disabled blerd (black nerd) I am, and my love for anything related to Black culture and history. During my hiatus from the blog, I took a much-needed trip to Maryland, and over that week and a half, visited the new Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture that opened late September. I went to the Museum with two of my awesome Black disabled advocates, and the three of us set out to explore the Museum that was for us, and has been the major talk within our community.
If I die in police custody, I died a soldier, a warrior, a hell-raiser, an instigator, a maker of the good trouble.
If I die in police custody, Make them respect my disabilities in the news reports. Don’t dare let them erase a damn thing. I am unapologetically Black and disabled.
If I die in police custody, Don’t weep for me. You better NOT shed one fucking tear. My name means “to love and cherish life” in French. That’s what you are to do for me – share about the love I gave you and how much I cherished the little and big things. Don’t play that weak ass sad music at my funeral. Play Beyonce’s “7/11,” Rihanna’s “S&M,” N SYNC, Britney Spears, Nicki Minaj, anything by Lil Jon & the Eastside Boyz – that is how you are to celebrate my life at my funeral.
Being a Black disabled woman in America is a sheer act of defiance.
What brought me to this statement was the gross amounts of ableism, racism, and misogynoir I witnessed and read last week during the coverage surrounding Korryn Gaines’ encounter and death at the hands of the police.
Korryn’s existence represents me – a Black disabled woman. Korryn had a developmental disability due to lead exposure from living in housing that had toxic lead paint levels. Korryn’s life and death made me think back to what I had written about Blackness and police brutality last month regarding Alton Sterling and Philando Castile.
To be Black, disabled, and female means that you always have eyes on you. You must be “on” at all times; must be willing to “perform” for White, Black, & non-disabled Americas. You must be perfect and a good cripple, or be crucified at the cross, as we saw when Korryn’s story unfolded.
There were two matters in particular that struck me profoundly about the coverage surrounding Korryn’s fatal police incident: the way Black men discussed Korryn’s story on social media, and the Black community’s continued miseducation regarding disability.
#GetWokeADA26: Disabled People of Color Speak Out, Part One
by Vilissa Thompson and Alice Wong
On July 5th, we published the #GetWokeADA26 Call for Stories, asking for disabled people to share how the Americans with Disabilities Act has impacted their life experiences, gaps in the mandate that fail to support the unique challenges of disabled people or color, and the need for intersectionality in the disability community and how the lack of visibility affects this subgroup.
As disabled women of color, we believe the disability community needs to ”get woke” on race, racism, and intersectionality. The work of getting “woke” can be hard, awkward, and uncomfortable, but this is something disabled people of color expect and deserve.
For #GetWokeADA26, there were enormous responses to this project through the countless reblogging, sharing, and retweeting across the major social media platforms by disabled advocates, allies, and organizations. In the two weeks that the Call was open, 50 individuals representing various people of color communities, disability types, ages, and sexual identities and orientations answered our request to share, and we were not disappointed by the rich, emotional, and direct responses to each question on our survey. The data we were able to collect was extraordinary – there is so much that it is impossible to include everything in our summary, but we will capture the most poignantwerful and moving points of view shared.
What follows is a description of the themes of the survey questions askedn overview of the survey questions, the representation makeup ofa description of our participantsrespondents, and a breakdown of the responses by specific topics.
We are at our boiling point in this country. The police violence that transpired within the last week set off a deep fire within all of us with the murders of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge and Philando Castile in Minnesota. To see two Black men murdered during encounters with the police in such savage regards was sickening to watch and comprehend.
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.
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.