30 April 2013

decadence and frivolity

street signs flicker and burn in stunning neon colors
where some are tacked to crumbling bricks and gaping pain
and some cast shivering shadows over the lapping waters,
their light wavering through the fog and slicked with rain.

"I wish you hadn't come here."

he lives in a disintegrating cardboard box beside an overpass,
and sometimes you can see his fingers jutting toward strangers' faces
as they hurry past with harried glances caught in storefront glass,
unwilling to linger long in such crowded, lonely places.

"It's not a good place for you to be."

i heard you screaming when the windows shattered
and i know you well, so i know how much you shook,
and i know how your breath came short and shafted,
and i know how long it might have been before you could look.

"It would have been better if you'd left me alone, I think."

she dreams of beer-stained wood and aching jaws,
and babies' screams and sweat clinging to summer skin,
and beautiful brown flesh and fingers bloody and raw,
and fights to keep the fermenting fear-ache within.

"I suppose I'm afraid I'll die here, you know."

and what was i supposed to do when there were only pennies left,
and even gods and goddesses might have laughed at our misfortune
as you sidled from the door to silent, darkened streets cleft
between misery and monotony in ever-present social burdens.

"But everyone dies eventually, and death is no great concern of mine now."

they walk with heavy steps in a strange kind of shuffle
while the chains of leg irons clink against one another,
and try not to think too hard of the coming struggle,
not reassured by promises they'll remain together.

"There are so many other things to worry about in life."

we live in a world of wonderment at ten thousand dollar dresses
and two hundred story towers housing titans of power and wealth.
we live in a world of bewilderment where casual violence stresses
the ambiguity of normativity on either side of breath and death.

"You can keep your pity for yourself — I don't need it."

where the humming fan drowns out the screaming behind closed doors
and carefully tended smiles hide the knowledge in bloodied clothes and hands,
where lurching, over-sweetened perfume does little to smother the corpses,
this is where the ghosts of cruelty lie and where empty houses stand.

"I think you should go now."

"I think it's already begun."

24 April 2013

Erasure and Silencing by the Omicron Pi Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha

Trigger warning: Ableism, Autism Speaks, erasure, silencing, profanity.

--


On Monday of this week, I discovered the following event page had been posted to Facebook:


EVENT: Autism: Putting the Pieces Together
The Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. Omicron Pi Chapter will be holding an event in honor of Autism Awareness month, and will have a guest speaker from Autism Speaks.
Don't miss out on what promises to be a great event!


Image description: The header has a blue background and says in a script font, "In honor of Autism Awareness Month, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., Omicron Pi Chapter presents..." Then the rest of it is a white background with a watermarked red, blue, and yellow puzzle piece design, with text overlaid that says the following:
"Autism: Putting the Pieces Together
with a representative from Autism Speaks
April 24, 2013 at 7pm
Georgetown University: New North 412
This event is open to students from Catholic, Georgetown, and Trinity Washington
Did you know:
- Autism now affects 1 in 88 children and 1 in 54 boys
- Autism is the fastest-growing serious developmental disability in the U.S.
- There is no medical detection or cure for autism"
 By Shauntell Lamatrell Pinckney, Alexandra Tucker and Breania Smith
     [When]
    Today
    [Time]
    7:00pm
[Where]  
New North 412

[Description]
    Did you know ...
Autism now affects 1 in 88 children and 1 in 54 boys
Autism prevalence figures are growing
Autism is the fastest-growing serious developmental disability in the U.S.
Autism costs a family $60,000 a year on average
Autism receives less than 5% of the research funding of many less prevalent childhood diseases
Boys are nearly five times more likely than girls to have autism
There is no medical detection or cure for autism
In response, I sent an email to the event organizers, who organized this event on behalf of the Omicron Pi chapter of the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority:


Dear Shauntell, Alexandra, and Breania,


As an Autistic woman of color at Georgetown University, I am incredibly disappointed that a sorority originally founded to empower Black women has chosen to support the organization Autism Speaks. Autism Speaks is an organization that has very little support from actual autistic people, does not include autistic people anywhere in its leadership (Board of Directors or administration), engages in fear-mongering and pity-based advertising for "awareness," and works toward goals that fly in the face of what Autistic disability activists actually want for ourselves and our community. Autism Speaks is roundly criticized in the Autistic community, and definitely does NOT speak for us. 


I am a person, not a puzzle. 


I am Autistic, and I can speak for myself. 


I have, in fact, written extensively about the problems with Autism Speaks on my personal site:

If you wish to support the autistic community, there are many worthwhile organizations to support that do not promote the fear-mongering and pity-based advertising that paints autistic people as tragedies as puzzles but that do actually support and empower actually autistic people. Some of those organizations include the Autism National Committee, the Autism Women's Network, the Autistic Self Advocacy Network (full disclosure -- ASAN is my employer), the Autism Network International, TASH, the American Association of People with Disabilities, or the National Council on Independent Living. 

I would be more than happy to discuss this issue further, but I cannot in any way, shape, or form condone any form of support or validation of Autism Speaks and their harmful, dangerous practices. I strongly encourage the Omnicron Pi chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha to reconsider its support of Autism Speaks and to host events that promote real dialogue about autistic people with autistic people rather than lending credence and a platform to Autism Speaks's oppressive and ableist rhetoric. 

Regards,

Lydia Brown
______________
Lydia Brown
M: [redacted]
P: [redacted]

"Evil is not the absence of righteousness but of empathy."
— Mohsin Hamid

This message is intended for the designated recipient(s) only. It may contain confidential information or be subject to confidentiality protections. If you are not a designated recipient, you may not review, copy, or distribute this message or any attachments. If you have received this message in error, please notify the sender by reply e-mail and immediately destroy this message and any attachments. Do not retain, copy, or use this e-mail or any attachment for any purpose, nor disclose any part of the contents to any other person by any means.


I had also posted a one paragraph abbreviated version to the public Facebook page as follows:

Lydia Brown7:42pm Apr 22
As an Autistic woman of color at Georgetown University, I am incredibly disappointed that a sorority originally founded to empower Black women has chosen to support the organization Autism Speaks. Autism Speaks is an organization that has very little support from actual autistic people, does not include autistic people anywhere in its leadership (Board of Directors or administration), engages in fear-mongering and pity-based advertising for "awareness," and works toward goals that fly in the face of what Autistic disability activists actually want for ourselves and our community. Autism Speaks is roundly criticized in the Autistic community, and definitely does NOT speak for us. I am a person, not a puzzle. I am Autistic, and I can speak for myself.

Lydia Brown
lydia@autistichoya.com

Autistic Hoya: Responding to Autism Speaks
www.autistichoya.com

Autism Speaks routinely excludes Autistic people from discussions about us, and to date, has not one...

Today, I discovered that my wall post had been deleted from the Facebook page without comment or private message. Needless to say, the email that I sent also did not receive a response.

As a result, I am writing about this publicly. This was not my first course of action. My first course of action was to post a brief note on the Facebook event page directly for the organizers and anyone else to see; my second course of action was to contact the event organizers directly. However, their choice to passively avoid acknowledging my email as well as their choice to actively erase my message on the Facebook page have left me with no alternative but to broadcast this publicly.

It is shameful that representatives of a sorority founded by and for women of color have chosen to engage in such appalling erasure and silencing techniques. At a minimum, they could have chosen to acknowledge my email, however succinctly or tactlessly. Instead, they chose to disregard my email and remove my wall post, neither of which were outright attacks on the sorority or the event organizers, but rather, statements about the organization Autism Speaks. Further exacerbating the seriousness of this situation is that I wrote explicitly as an Autistic person, a woman of color, and a Georgetown University student in both my email and Facebook message, and yet my perspective has been disregarded without any acknowledgement whatsoever. It is particularly egregious that people who are already multiply-marginalized by virtue of being women of color have chosen to commit the same types of injustices regularly perpetrated against them against someone from another marginalized population.

I should hope that if an event were hosted by a group of white people discussing issues facing people of color in a highly problematic way, any attempt by actual people of color to contact the event organizers would not be met with the same humiliating erasure and silencing tactics that AKA's representatives have used here. Yet I know without a shadow of a doubt that if that were to happen and those people of color were to write publicly, anywhere, about such erasure and silencing, even people outside the community would be appropriately bothered and disturbed, while those genuinely interested in actively supporting and empowering people of color as allies would be outraged.

At the same time, I know that this is not the case because this is autism and I am Autistic. Therefore, my voice doesn't count, and if I am capable of writing an email message (and going to Georgetown), I am obviously "too high-functioning" to matter or mean much. After all, only non-disabled people could possibly be capable of speaking on behalf of the poor, wretched persons who happen to live with the diagnostic label of autism.

Autistic people, writ large, do not want to be cured of being autistic any more than women want to be cured of being women. The problems and challenges that we face in society across the lifespan do not occur because of the ways in which our brains work, but because of institutionalized oppression that dehumanizes us and permits murder, torture, and abuse to occur in the name of care, love, and treatment. The solution to the puzzle of autism is not a cure; it is an end to ableism. Autism Speaks's rhetoric of fear, pity, and tragedy serves a eugenics agenda with the elimination of autistic people as its ultimate goal. I don't know about you folks, but I would like very much to see my children grow up in a world where there are people like them, where they aren't pathologized and told to hate themselves, and where institutionalized oppression doesn't impact every waking moment of their lives. That is not the world that Autism Speaks wants, and actually Autistic people know this very well. 

Yes, I am upset. This is happening at my university.

Fuck. No.

I refuse to be erased.

I refuse to be silenced. 

I am Autistic, and I can speak for myself.

Autism Speaks does NOT speak for me, and if anyone cares to dispute that, feel free to explore the vast array of essays, blog posts, and videos that actually Autistic people have made and written over a period of years to expose the many criticisms of this hypocritical and dangerous organization that has blood on its hands.



20 April 2013

Why I'm Afraid of Doctors



Trigger warning: Ableism, disability slurs (specifically, the r-word), profanity, violence, and medical malpractice/bad medical situations.


This is a piece that I performed for Saxa Slam 2013 and Diaspora 2013. I wrote this in response to what happened is happening to Mel Baggs, for those who've been following the story. 

* Note from 2014: Mel is referred to by the name zie was previously known by in this poem. I've corrected the reference in the text here, but left the original words in the poem intact for now. That might change. 


Image description:
A young Asian woman with chin-length straight black hair and rounded rectangular glasses from about the waist up appears in the center of the photograph. She is speaking, with her lips open mid-word, looking into the distance at something past the camera. She is wearing a light pink collared button-down untucked dress shirt with ivory translucent buttons, a black suit jacket unbuttoned with a small circular white pin on her right lapel, and light olive green pants. She also has a blue lanyard around her neck with the words "UNH Institute on Disability" printed in a sans serif font in white, as well as a thin white string with a plastic name badge holder with a white name badge that says "Lydia Brown" in big letters in the middle and "Commitment to Diversity Awards 2013" in smaller letters on the top, as well as a chain with a silver shield pendant and a black pen hanging from it. Her left hand is tucked in her pocket and she is wearing a gold and silver chain-link bracelet. her right hand is holding two sheets of white paper in front of her with no text visible to the viewer. She is standing in front of a wooden paneled wall, with the bottom part of a large projection screen visible behind her, where a blue background can be seen.

 Why I'm Afraid of Doctors


Doctors are supposed to save lives, that’s the oath they take.
Hospitals are supposed to be where anyone can know they’ll be safe,
Where you could be Barack Obama or Paris Hilton or Osama,
And it wouldn’t matter, because doctors are there to save your life and make sure you’re okay.

But let’s talk about what happened Easter Sunday, two thousand thirteen. 

Let’s talk about what happened to my friend, Amanda Baggs.

Amanda Baggs, published author, nationally known activist, pioneer of Autistic rights, Autistic culture, Autistic community

She went to the hospital

She had gastreoperesis, something I don’t quite understand, but I know because she told me, told the whole community, that all she needed was a feeding tube so she wouldn’t die

Standard procedure

No big deal

Then the doctor came to her room

Tried to tell her not to go through with it

Tried to tell her to consider the alternative

And you know what the alternative means?

When they say, consider the alternative, what they’re really saying is, your life really isn’t worth saving, so instead of waiting for the operation you should get around to starting dying

She almost died

The doctors, the ones who’re supposed to save Amanda’s life, almost murdered her

Because she’s autistic. Because she’s disabled. Because her life isn’t worth saving

And you know, it only became worth saving when hundreds of us who care called and called and called and told the hospital 

No You Cannot Do That

No You Cannot Murder Amanda Baggs

No You Cannot Kill People Just Because They’re Disabled

No You Are Wrong

So they did the operation and they did it without anesthesia

They said squeeze our hand if it hurts and she screamed

She fucking screamed

And they didn’t care

And they kept going

And they didn’t even have the decency to give her the right pain meds after

And her abled, typical roommate was fine

But Amanda wasn’t

"The fuck’s a retard like me matter anyway?"

And the sad thing, the funny thing, you know, is Amanda’s one of the lucky ones

Because people like her, people recognize those names
So they’ll call the hospital, tell those bastards where they can put it
For her

The rest of us, people like me, most of my friends

If it happens to us, who’ll ever know?

They’ll kill us with the machinery that’s been grinding on for years, specializing in ending disabled lives because we’re not human, we’re subhuman, we’re burdens foisted on societies and families undeserving of our pitiful existences.

They’ll murder us.

And who will listen?

The fuck retards like us matter anyway?





13 April 2013

TEH EEBIL AUTIZMS

(Note: The following is sarcastic overdramatization of ableism. It is trigger warned for those who may be triggered by even sarcastic renderings of incredibly ableist ideas.)

--

Conversations that Shain Neumeier and I have (posted with permission!):

Me: YOU MEAN PERSON WHO HAPPENS TO HAVE AUTISM

Shain: PERSON WHO HAPPENS TO HAVE THE EXPERIENCE OF BEING DIAGNOSED WITH A LABEL OF AUTISM

Me: PERSON WHO /UNFORTUNATELY/ HAPPENS TO HAVE THE EXPERIENCE OF BEING DIAGNOSED WITH A LABEL OF AUTISM

Shain: TRAAAAAGICALLYYYYYYYY

Me: DEEEEEVAAAASTATINGLYYYYYY
(for the families, AFFLICTED WITH THE UNHOLY BURDEN OF CARING FOR A CHILD WHO HAPPENS...)

Shain: TSUNAMICALLY. (IF THAT ISN'T A WORD YET IT IS NOW. BECUZ TEH AUTIZMZ)

Me: ERMERGERD SER SCEREHR

Shain: IT'S LIKE THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE AND THE GAY AGENDA COMBINED. THE SOULLESS HUSKS ARE CONTAGIOUS AND STEALING OUR CHIIIIIIIIIILLLDREEEEENN

Me: EEEEMMMPTYYYYY SSOOOOOOULLEEESSSSSS HUSSSSKSSSS
LOCKING OUR CHILDREN INSIDE THEMSELVES
DOOMED TO BE FOREVER ALONE
THEIR POOR, PITIABLE PARENTS DESTINED NEVER TO MAKE HUMAN CONTACT WITH THESE INHUMAN CREATURES

Shain: THEY CAN'T EVEN TELL THEIR PARENTS THEY LOVE THEM. THROUGH, YOU KNOW, REAL PEOPLE MEANS. LIKE TALKING. BECAUSE THAT'S THE ONLY REAL WAY OF COMMUNICATION.
AND THEY TOE WALK
TOE WALK I TELL YOU
OH THE HUGE-MANATEE

Me: AND THEY FLAP THEIR HANDS AND ARMS
IT'S SO HORRIFYING
THEIR POOR FAMILIES CAN NEVER GO OUT IN PUBLIC

Shain: AND THEY WON'T MAKE EYE CONTACT THAT WOULD REVEAL THEIR TRUE SOULLESSNESS.

Me: OOHHH IDEA!

Shain: OH?

Me: MAYBE IF WE SHOCK/RESTRAIN/SECLUDE/CHELATE/HYPERBARIC OXYGEN CHAMBERIZE/UNVACCINATE/EXCORCISE/SCREAM AT/QUIET HANDS THEM ENOUGH, THEY'LL START TO SEEM LIKE /REEEEAAALLL/ PEOPLE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1!!!!!

Shain: YOU FORGOT BLEACH ENEMAS.

Me: OH NOEZ! NOW I CAN'T RID MY CHILD OF THIS EPIDEMIC!

Shain: THERE IS HOPE IF YOU STOP THE SPREAD OF THE EVIL VACCIIIIINEEEEZ
ONLY ONCE THE WORLD IS FULL OF SMALLPOX AND RUBELLA AND WHOOPING COUGH ONCE MORE WILL WE BE RID OF THE PLAGUE THAT IS AUTISM

Me: THE HORRIFIC, TRAGIC PLAAAAAGUE

Shain: THAT'S CAUSED BY POLLUTION AND THE INTERNET EXCEPT MOSTLY VACCINES.

Me: AND A GOVERNMENT CONSPIRACYYYYYYY

Shain: WITH THE EEEEEBIL PHARMACEUTICAL COMPANIIIIEEEEZ
EXCEPT WE LOVE IT WHEN THEY GIVE OUR KIDS RISPERDAL
IT MAKES THEM SLIGHTLY MORE LIKE PEOPLE.

Me: AND OTHER PSYCHOTROPIC, ANTI-PSYCHOTIC DRUGS

Shain: EXCEPT SHOCKING THEM IS BETTER. AND THOSE ARE THE ONLY OPTIONS, EVER.

Me: BETTER IDEA.

Shain: WHAT

Me: HOW ABOUT WE PUT THEM ON ANTI-PSYCHOTICS /WHILE/ SHOCKING THEM?!?!

Shain: THAT WAY WE ELIMINATE ALL THE BEHAVIORS. BECAUSE THAT'S HOW PEOPLE WORK. YOU MINDFUCK THEM AND TORTURE THEM AND THEY DO WHAT THEY'RE TOLD.

Me: YOU CAN HOLD UP A REMOTE CONTROL AND THEY'LL ACT LIKE HUMANS.
IT'S SO CONVENIENT.

Shain: BECAUSE HUMANS ARE REMOTE OPERATED. I BOUGHT MINE AT RADIOSHACK

Me: I BOUGHT MINE AT BEST BUY.

Shain: THIS ONE'S DEFECTIVE THOUGH. AND I'D RATHER KILL IT THAN SEE IT CLOSE ITS EYES FOR TEN SECO- I MEAN, HIT ITS HEAD AGAINST THE WALL REPEATEDLY TILL IT NEEDS HOSPITALIZATION. FATE WORSE THAN DEATH I SAY.

Me: IT SHOULDN'T BE SUFFERED TO LIVE ANY LONGER

Shain: UNLESS IT'S BEING SHOCKED AND RESTRAINED.

Me: AND THEN, IT SHOULD BE GRATEFUL YOU CARE SO MUCH.

Shain: BECAUSE OTHERWISE IT WOULD BE OFF IN SOME BACK WARD. IT'S NOT LIKE WE COULD ACTUALLY EVER TRY TO LEARN FROM ITS BIZARRE NOISES AND MOVEMENTS AS TO WHAT IT NEEDS.

Me: WHO ARE YOU KIDDING; WE ALL KNOW THOSE ARE THE EEBIL AUTIZMS

Shain: YOU'RE NOT SHOCKING A PERSON. YOU'RE SHOCKING AN AUTISM.

Me: AN AUTIZMS

Shain: YOU ARE HELPING TO DEFEAT TEH AUTIZMS.

Fighting ableism with ableism doesn't work

Fighting ableism with ableism doesn't work. In fact, it's just bad policy. Yet that's precisely the tactic that Disability Scoop, "the premier source for developmental disability news," decided to use in its criticism of the latest episode of Glee, in which the character with Down syndrome brought a gun to school. Here's the relevant part of the Disability Scoop article:

“Acting like every other teenager in doing things like sports and going to college, those are things great to portray for Becky,” said Julie Cevallos, vice president of marketing for the organization [National Down Syndrome Society]. “Taking a gun to school is something very serious and would likely come with a mental health condition. That’s not appropriate for someone with Down syndrome and not a stigma they need.”

Meanwhile, comments from viewers on Twitter criticized the characterization for being “disgraceful” and “seriously lame.”

The first bit of this is simpler to process and explain. It's in the second paragraph quoted, where one of the quotes from a Twitter used reads "seriously lame." Lame means someone who can't walk, whether because of amputation or paralysis, quadriplegia or paraplegia, or certain types of cerebral palsy. Using this word as as an insult or a criticism already denotes that "lame" is understood as a negative attribute or characteristic. This wouldn't be the case if being "lame" were not also implicitly understood to be a negative state of being. Lame can only be an insult so long as being lame is a bad thing, just as using "gay" as an insult only works with the understanding that being gay is a bad thing.

Given that the criticism in question is directed toward the (potentially?) ableist representation of a disabled character, this is particularly ironic and biting.

(I say potentially because I've never seen Glee and didn't see the episode receiving the criticism across the netscape, and so feel unqualified on that basis alone to make much commentary on the actual TV episode in question. I'll agree, though, that based only on what I've read, it was probably an incredibly poor choice at best, given the dangerous and inaccurate stereotype of disabled people, particularly the developmentally disabled after the recent media hullabaloo after Newtown, as [more] [more likely to be] violent.)

The second bit of ableism, encapsulated in the first paragraph of the quote above, is quite a bit more serious, where Julie Cevallos from the National Down Syndrome Society says, "Taking a gun to school is something very serious and would likely come with a mental health condition. That’s not appropriate for someone with Down syndrome." Unpacking this is going to take quite a bit longer to do.

Ms. Cevallos is actively contributing to the oppression of people with psychiatric disabilities. Read that first sentence again -- "Taking a gun to school is something very serious and would likely come with a mental health condition." This statement implies a) that people with psychiatric disabilities are more likely to bring a gun to school, b) that they are more likely to do this with violent intentions, c) that they are more likely to commit a school shooting or other act of violence, and that d) it would be more accurate to portray someone bringing a gun to school as "mentally ill."

These are untrue for a variety of reasons. In certain parts of the country where hunting continues to be a major part of the culture, students with and without disabilities might "bring guns to school" in the sense that they're in their cars or trucks for hunting or sport shooting after school. Further, there is no evidence to suggest that murderers are more likely to have psychiatric disabilities than not. Here's an excerpt from a recent New York Times article (and yes, the sources are linked in the original article -- if you want more, see my earlier post with links to full texts of several peer-reviewed articles on the topic):


Only about 4 percent of violence in the United States can be attributed to people with mental illness. This does not mean that mental illness is not a risk factor for violence. It is, but the risk is actually small. Only certain serious psychiatric illnesses are linked to an increased risk of violence. One of the largest studies, the National Institute of Mental Health’s Epidemiologic Catchment Area study, which followed nearly 18,000 subjects, found that the lifetime prevalence of violence among people with serious mental illness — like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder — was 16 percent, compared with 7 percent among people without any mental disorder. Anxiety disorders, in contrast, do not seem to increase the risk at all.

Alcohol and drug abuse are far more likely to result in violent behavior than mental illness by itself. In the National Institute of Mental Health’s E.C.A. study, for example, people with no mental disorder who abused alcohol or drugs were nearly seven times as likely as those without substance abuse to commit violent acts.

[...]

But mass killings are very rare events, and because people with mental illness contribute so little to overall violence, these measures would have little impact on everyday firearm-related killings. Consider that between 2001 and 2010, there were nearly 120,000 gun-related homicides, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. Few were perpetrated by people with mental illness.


Ms. Cevallos is wrongfully suggesting that while it would be "inappropriate" to portray someone with Down syndrome bringing a gun to school, it would be perfectly "appropriate" to portray someone with a psychiatric disability -- say schizophrenia, bipolar, post-traumatic stress disorder, reactive attachment disorder, or dissociative identity disorder -- doing the same thing. If we did not live in such an ableist culture where stereotypes about disability and violence didn't exist, I would have no problems with portraying someone with any type of disability bringing a gun to school. Unfortunately, because of the cultural context in which I am writing this piece, I must urge against such portrayals of disabled people because they further affirm and reinforce existing negative and inaccurate stereotypes of all types of disabled people.

I'm a writer (of fiction, I mean -- I'm working on my seventh novel right now). Don't get me wrong; I'm all for creativity and freedom of expression. I see nothing inherently wrong with portraying someone disabled bringing a gun to school; however, the extremely heightened potential for such a portrayal to ignore current cultural realities, as well as the certainty of such a portrayal further contributing to dangerous and harmful stereotypes about disabled people, mean that I cannot condone such representations of disability.

Granted, the offending remarks are contained within quotations of things other people said or wrote, but the author and editors at Disability Scoop would have been perfectly capable of selecting quotations expressing criticism of the episode that didn't also espouse ableism. In fact, I believe that they had a responsibility to either use different quotes (especially in the Twitter case) or to distance themselves from their problematic content (more relevant to Ms. Cevallos's remarks, had they chosen to keep the quote) and make it clear why the distancing would be necessary.

In any case, it's readily apparent to me that criticizing ableism using, well, more of the same, simply isn't the right thing to do. It's not merely hypocritical; it's actually completely counterproductive. It significantly diminishes the strength and force of your arguments, and it does absolutely nothing to actually benefit any disabled people. When some of us fall, all of us fall. As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote from the Birmingham City Jail, "Moreover, I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly."




04 April 2013

Updates on the Judge Rotenberg Center and Autistic Hoya in the News

Judge Rotenberg Center Updates

For background on the Judge Rotenberg Center (JRC), where disabled people are subjected to abuse including painful electric shock as punishment (not the same thing as electroconvulsive therapy), food deprivation, sleep deprivation, and other forms of torture, see my page with JRC resources.

Today, Nancy Weiss announced that "the New York State Department of Education is requiring that JRC stop using the GED 3A and the GED 4 (the two electric shock devices currently in use) on any New York State student within 30 days. While we don’t have specific figures, it is assumed that about half of the people at JRC are New York State residents. This is an important step."

You can read the NYSED letter, dated 12 March 2013, at one of the following links:

  • Click here for the original scanned PDF, which is not text accessible.
  • Click here for my transcribed text-accessible version with standard white background and black font.
  • Click here for my transcribed text-accessible version with high-contrast/visibility, black background and white font.

I also mentioned a few months ago that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) also sent a letter in December to the Massachusetts Executive Office of Health and Human Services, prohibiting any federal Medicaid money from going toward any person who lives at any facility that uses electric shock interventions, even if the person in question isn't being shocked.

You can read the 14 December 2012 CMS letter (as well as its 11 July 2012 predecessor) at one of the following links:

  • Click here for the original July letter.
  • Click here for the July letter in high-contrast/visibility, black background and white font.
  • Click here for the December letter.
  • Click here for the December letter in high-contrast/visibility, black background and white font.


Autistic Hoya Updates

For World Autism Awareness Acceptance Day, I was featured both in an interview in Poor Magazine with Krip Hop Nation's Leroy Moore about Autistic community, and in an article in Campus Progress on ableism and the media. A few weeks ago, I also published this op-ed piece about the JRC, entitled "When Treatment Becomes Torture: This is What Disabled Oppression Looks Like," for the opinion section of The Fire This Time, Georgetown's multicultural newsmagazine.

On Friday 5 April 2013, I will be presenting a paper co-written by myself and Adam Gluntz entitled "Deconstructing Rhetoric on Disabled (A)Sexuality" for the annual DC Queer Studies conference at the University of Maryland, College Park. This year's theme is Debilitating Queerness, and will explore the intersections of critical disability, gender, and queer studies. (Alyssa of Yes, That Too will also be presenting.) If you're in the DC area, registrations is free and open to everyone!

And on Monday 8 April 2013, I will be speaking at the College of William and Mary's Commonwealth Auditorium at 7pm for I am W&M Week; the title of my talk is "Politicized Disability and the Crisis of Disabled Oppression."

(I do in fact do things off the internet. ;) )