26 February 2014

GUSA Exec 2014 Disability Questionnaire: Thomas Lloyd and Jimmy Ramirez

I have condensed the questions, which appeared in long-form in the questionnaire sent to candidates with background information and examples, to highlight each candidate's answer. These are the responses provided by Thomas and Jimmy. You can also read the other responses from Trevor and Omika, Zach and Dan, and Ben and Sam.


Image description: Thomas Lloyd, a young white man with short blond hair, and Jimmy Ramirez, a young Latino man with short dark brown hair and glasses, smiling and laughing at the camera. They are in Lau with many books on shelves visible behind them. The test in the middle at the bottom says in large letters, THOMAS AND JIMMY FOR GUSA. 

Question 1

What would you do or change to combat ableism (disability oppression, prejudice against the disabled) and make Georgetown a more welcoming and inclusive campus for disabled students if elected?

A culture that permits Ableism, like most forms of discrimination, is made up of language, micro-aggressions, and formal systems of oppression. Unlike many of the other D7(+) identities though, ableism isn’t as visibly addressed or unwelcome at Georgetown. Students and professors use many ableist phrases in classrooms, without even someone batting an eyelash. Discussions and events about disability are held without any disabled advocates or just disabled people in the planning conversation. This often allows disability to be seen solely in medical terms, rather than as an element of diversity, that our society should make efforts to work to remove unfair burden from. And when a disabled student or faculty or staff member has to endure all of these microagressions or more overt forms of oppression, such as being forced to take an MLOA, or having few resources other than the ARC, they have few means of seeking recourse.

To combat ableism, there are a few things that are necessary: education, visibility, and advocacy. Before getting in to how our platform, and our experiences influence all three, there is one thing that is essential to point out. Jimmy as a homeless advocate, and myself as an LGBTQ advocate, we believe in a principle that you phrase clearly in your work: nothing about us, without us. We acknowledge that good allyship, requires that we allow those who case the most about issues be the ones to take the lead and direct us on where to put our resources. These suggestions then, are always subject to review and revision by the disabled advocates that we would want to recruit to our executive.

On the education end, we would take a third of the GUSA fund’s budget and allocate it to the “What’s a Hoya” fund. The What’s a Hoya program has drawn hundreds of freshmen in to GUSA sponsored talks with faculty and staff on issues of 1) Safety 2) Mentorship 3) Diversity. What we want to do is tie thousands of dollars of funding and that powerful housing incentive to student events that are put on by student leaders and groups on these issues. Any event then on disability, put on by the disabled advocates and or their allies, would not only get a higher profile and funding level, but also would reach a whole new range of students from their first year here at the hilltop.

Also on the education end, we would be happy to use any excess executive discretionary funding, or excess SAO funding, to prepare a media campaign to end the use of certain phrases and words, including those that we may not even think about today (a list based off of your glossary of ableist terms and phrases). Any executive communication would be checked for use of any of these phrases or words to ensure that the executive itself does not commit any micro-aggressions.

Finally on the education end, in our platform, and through our endorsements, we have committed yourself to advocating for certain parts of the Cura Personalis initiative, perhaps incorporating studies on disability in to new or extant courses (obviously sensitive to make sure these classes don’t reinforce systems of oppression) is a way to add this awareness to our extant channels of advocacy.

Visibility is accomplished not just with the language campaign that would take place, but also in whom we would recruit to the executive. As the President of the most diverse Pride Board in years, I have learned how important it is to have an organization be lead by a chorus of different voices, who on occasion help me check and unpack my own privilege, but who also bring fascinating perspectives and ideas to the table that help us make a change that can include everyone. Jimmy also understands this, as the student leader who spear-headed the diversity initiative in the Corp so that they would track demographic information as a company/ We would recruit a similarly diverse exec, and while that means in part to a secretary position on disability, and a disabled representative on the What’s a Hoya Fund/Program, but also to any other position to which a disabled student would apply on the exec for which they have a passion and are qualified, we would make every attempt to ensure that they are supported. Recognizing disabled students AND faculty through our Hoya of the Week, AND Faculty of the Week programs, could also help raise the profile of disabled students at Georgetown.

As for advocacy, well, all of the above is part of advocacy, but we would want to encourage all programs related to disability have an advocacy or administrative component where possible. When Pride brought Mia Mingus comes to mind, where not only did she speak to students, but she also joined administrators for a luncheon, where she could discuss disability rights with them, beginning to give them a better understanding of disability justice. More on advocacy will follow in the later questions.

Question 2

What would you do if elected to ensure that conversations and initiatives on diversity, especially those managed or initiated by the GUSA Executive, meaningfully include disability and disabled members of the campus community?

As RA’s Jimmy and I have had to spend at least an entire day learning about each of the D7 identities. Now, one week does not an advocate make, and we did not limit our ally ship to learning during this one day. That said we do know that having these conversations with the RA staff greatly increased the sensitivity of RAs to ableism, and made them better equipped to deal with it when confronted. At the start of the new exec, I would seek to have all members of the exec undergo similar D7 based team building exercises, especially during the summer term. This would make the executive more sensitive to issues important to the disability rights community, but also set a tone in any writings, advocacy, and conversations going forward.

As for campus initiatives, the approach of the What’s a Hoya fund, and its housing incentive assignment process, would first and foremost believe in the principle of “nothing about us without us.” The idea of turning the What’s a Hoya program over to the student leaders, such as yourself, is to ensure that not only are the conversations about identities being had in a way that truly represents those identities but also allows those advocates to pick the topic of conversation. We are creating the financial and publicity incentives for groups to address disability going forward.

Should the campaigns I listed in #1 be carried out, it would make it more difficult for conversations to include ableist language, or to further oppress disabled people.

Question 3

If elected, what steps will you take to advocate on behalf of a plan to create and sustain a Disability Cultural Center at Georgetown?

WE would work with student leaders to help create a clear set of steps for the university to take to create the DCC. This will require securing funding, space, and staff among other things, but we are enthusiastic to offer any and all help that you or any other student leader would require to accomplish those things. We would push for spaces in new buildings to be included, or for existing spaces that are not used to be set aside for the establishment of the DCC. We would finance more publications similar to the pamphlet you designed to raise awareness about the effort. As per “nothing about us without us” we would want to set up meetings with administrators as soon as possible, before the year ends, including all stakeholders including those outside of the executive in the meetings. 

My only experience or knowledge of creating a center rather, is the LGBTQ resource center, which we all know was born out of massive protests after a period of great violence. Hopefully, we won’t experience a similar set of hate crimes that could breed that sense of urgency. Instead, we would highlight cases of ableism to the administration to continue to make our case. In the interim, we would want to facilitate the coordination of disability related programming and resources as a DCC ultimately would. This includes taking elements of the no wrong door campaign and incorporating them in to easier to digest media, and marking all disability related What’s a Hoya events in our GUSA weekly email. 

Question 4

What steps will you take, if elected, to increase visibility and representation of disabled students (both with apparent and invisible disabilities) in leadership roles on campus, whether in GUSA or elsewhere?

We would recruit disabled students (both with apparent and invisible disabilities) to the executive board, including in a continuation of the GUSA undersecretary for disability affairs, and with their help choose the appropriate people to serve on the “What’s a Hoya” Board to make sure that the conversation about disability is one that is never left out and never misrepresented.

We have in our budget a $1500 allocation for co-sponsorships and programs related to disability in addition to the larger What’s a Hoya Fund. This is money that could be used to sponsor an initiative to get more students with disabilities to run for leadership positions in different student groups, or to support events that raise the profile of extant student leaders with disabilities. 

Question 5

What steps will you take if elected to investigate the full range of accessibility barriers at Georgetown and advocate for meaningful progress from the administration in addressing them?

That $1500 allocation can again be used to help conduct this survey of barriers to access at Georgetown, we would hand off any and all lists to those in facilities, planning, and residential education, to ensure that no future building has the same barriers to access that we have already identified, and that we can begin o phase out the barriers that already exist. Even without that allocation, we would work to make sure that all new plans for buildings, and any long term planning involves investment in accessible spaces. 

When planning Mia Mingus, I learned about the difficulty (and price) of securing an ASL interpreter. It should be a priority of the University and of all funding boards to have money set aside for making events open to everyone. I would advocate at the budget summit, or at least in future budget summits, for the establishment of a separate fund be set aside for events to be made more accessible to all students, and reduce the barriers to providing any form of interpretation for any student group.  

Question 6

Conversations about disability that occur in classes, student organization sponsored events, departmental sponsored events, and administration sponsored programming frequently omit the perspectives of disabled people both during the planning process and during the actual event. What would you do if elected to advocate for meaningful inclusion of disabled people in conversations about us on campus?

As I think all of the above answers have demonstrated, we have a commitment to “nothing about us without us” for all types of diversity. Events that GUSA sponsors would be put on by disabled student leaders themselves, and advertised with our complete student listserv. Attendance at these events would sky-rocket given the What’s A Hoya incentive, which is currently drawing hundreds of freshmen in to packed rooms to hear faculty panels on mentorship. We have the finances and the will to recruit and assist any and all disabled students who want a leadership position, so that more of these events will take place. Our language campaign, and team building exercises, will begin to build a sensitivity in to this campus. With all of these steps, we hope to make Georgetown more accessible to all.


GUSA Exec 2014 Disability Questionnaire: Ben Weiss and Sam Greco

I have condensed the questions, which appeared in long-form in the questionnaire sent to candidates with background information and examples, to highlight each candidate's answer. These are the responses provided by Ben and Sam. You can also read responses from Trevor and Omika, Zach and Dan, and Thomas and Jimmy.

Image description: Sam Greco, a young white man with short light brown hair, and Ben Weiss, a young white man with dark brown hair, sitting on the steps in front of Copley Hall's gray stone facade, smiling at the camera. At the bottom is a dark blue banner with white text with the Facebook icon for Ben and Sam for GUSA, the Twitter icon for @VoteBenandSam #achieveyours and the website benandsamforgusa.com, with large text BEN AND SAM. 

Question 1

What would you do or change to combat ableism (disability oppression, prejudice against the disabled) and make Georgetown a more welcoming and inclusive campus for disabled students if elected?

Our main priority will be is empowering each individual student so they can achieve their goals. We will use this same approach for every student and every community at Georgetown. We will provide the resources disabled students need so that their Georgetown experience can be the best possible.  It is self-evident that Georgetown does not currently provide the resources that ensure accessibility at Georgetown. Unfortunately, real change will only come through a cultural shift in the collective Georgetown psyche.

The first step to combating the problem of ableism on Georgetown’s campus is to start a dialogue around the issue that ensures that all students recognize the causes of the current, unacceptable campus attitude.  We recognize disability as an issue of diversity, in which much-needed campus dialogue can only come through engaging students of diverse backgrounds. We plan to use the unique nature of GUSA as a bully pulpit to galvanize the university’s attention and dialogue around disability issues, among others. With this in mind, our cabinet will work with Lecture Fund to bring in speakers on ableism to grow this dialogue on campus.

We hope that by supporting a campus-wide accessibility survey that you worked on over the past semester, we will be able to assess the current campus sentiment, and then identify the problem areas that are revealed. This will produce a very productive narrative regarding the current status on campus.  We will engage student leaders from all across campus in these discussions. We plan to be facilitators to these discussion, but envision the greatest stakeholders as the leaders of these discussions.

Furthermore, the No Wrong Door guide should be provided at New Student Orientation so that students are immediately aware of the resources that are available to them. The location of these resources should become second nature to anyone that needs them, and by providing them in this guide, we  can help students feel at home.

We hope you would engage with our administration and help our GUSA guide dialogue and policy around ableism  at Georgetown  This is not a topic limited to a specific group of people.  The discussion needs to involve the entire campus, and it starts with involving our entire cabinet.  In initiatives they are pursuing, accessibility should be in the forefront of their planning so that all Georgetown students can be involved in any student program or initiative.

Question 2

What would you do if elected to ensure that conversations and initiatives on diversity, especially those managed or initiated by the GUSA Executive, meaningfully include disability and disabled members of the campus community?

First, we will create a Secretary for Disability within our cabinet to advocate specifically for disabled members of the campus community. This person’s primary responsibility will be to converse with members of the disabled community and ensure that all involved parties are consulted meaningful and regularly. Based on these conversations, the Secretary will advocate for the initiatives put forward by those with disabilities.

Additionally, we will work to publicize and encourage events through our access to benefits reform and the creation of a personalizable events calendar on HoyaLife.com. Access to benefits reform will allow individual students to reserve rooms, rent equipment from the CSE or SAC, and have access to select benefits that recognized student groups already have. This will allow students to reserve adequate space and hold more successful events that can be supported, at least in part, by Georgetown.

The second policy piece, the customizable calendar of events on HoyaLife.com, will allow any student to pick what topic areas interest them and receive emails regarding events, speakers, and opportunities related to those interests. For disabled students and those wanting to be involved in the conversation, this calendar will allow them to easily learn about events. These students will then be able to effectively educate themselves and contribute to the continual conversation. We will shape our policies heavily on input from the conversations at these events.

For students who cannot access these resources online, we will provide the online resources through GUSA office  at all times


Question 3

If elected, what steps will you take to advocate on behalf of a plan to create and sustain a Disability Cultural Center at Georgetown?

As stated in our platform, we will support ongoing efforts to establish a Disability Cultural Center on Georgetown’s campus. It is essential that the Georgetown community understands the necessity for a Disability Cultural Center on campus. Through their already established relationships with Georgetown administrators as GUSA senators, we will work to initiate new conversations about the importance of funding this center to support all disabled students on campus.

Until it is, they will utilize GUSA resources to advertise cultural opportunities for disabled students at our university and expand the conversation around disability as a form of diversity. They will ensure that the voices of disabled students are heard in their ongoing mission to include every identity in the goals of student government.

As Lydia and this brochure advocating for a Disability Cultural Center at Georgetown remind us, it is an identity that has been too often forgotten in the past. We will work to change that.

Question 4

What steps will you take, if elected, to increase visibility and representation of disabled students (both with apparent and invisible disabilities) in leadership roles on campus, whether in GUSA or elsewhere?

The GUSA Executive, under both Clara and Vail and Nate and Adam, worked to increase the diversity of the GUSA Senate and Executive along a variety of axes, including improved representation of women, members of the LGBTQIA* community, and students of color. Yet there is very little representation of disabled people—either with visible or invisible disabilities—across student organizations, leadership initiatives, and GUSA.

We would be pleased to work with you and build off your advocacy for those with disabilities at Georgetown. Therefore, we will work to establish a Disability Cultural Center that would coordinate peer mentor programs, leadership training, guest lectures and symposia for students with disabilities. We hope this Cultural Center who go a long way towards ridding Georgetown of a debilitating culture of ableism that risks robbing Hoyas of individuality and identity. We hope this Cultural Center would help disabled students earn leadership roles on campus and more effectively advocate for the disabled community in general. Just as the Women’s Center seeks to ensure equity for female Hoyas and the LGBTQ resource center seeks to ensure equity for LGBTQIA*-identifying Hoyas, so too would the Disability Cultural Center seek to ensure equity for the disabled community at Georgetown.

Second, we will work to create uniform standards for accessibility at student group events, ensuring that every student has every opportunity to attend every event. This kind of accessibility for any student group event would better aid disabled students in running for leadership positions.

Finally, one of the best things that GUSA could do would be to advocate for disability reforms at Georgetown. Indeed, GUSA is unique as its institution in that it acts as the main voice of Georgetown students. We will break down GUSA’s own barriers for participation in GUSA events and elections.

We want to further empower disabled students at Georgetown by taking an active role in their representation. Our Disability Cultural Center would not only help galvanize the community around one institution, but will hopefully better focus the voices of many into one unified voice more effective in its relationship with the University administration. We look forward to hearing more from the disabled community at Georgetown in the Executive and in the last hours of this campaign.

Question 5

What steps will you take if elected to investigate the full range of accessibility barriers at Georgetown and advocate for meaningful progress from the administration in addressing them?

The issues here need to be framed in conversation with the university administration in the context of the urgency these problems prompt. A fundamental function of the administration should be to address such hurdles with definitive action and inclusion of students in the discussion. Clearly this has been lacking.

To be clear, we do not see the GUSA Executive as the solver of every problem and the arbiter of higher justice. Our view of the office in question is one of promotion and advocacy on behalf of the students. We have a number of initiatives we would like to start, but at heart, the function of GUSA is to react to wrongs suffered by the students and act as a powerful force opening dialogue with the university on how to solve these problems.

Our proposal on how to handle the issue of accessibility barriers and urge the creation of meaningful and lasting policies from the administration is to use the weight of GUSA as an elected voice of the students to open up these conversations and convey to the administration the sense of urgency with which these must be addressed. While the university may see the quality of lighting in the classroom as an issue they can push to the back of their agenda, we are here to stress the importance of addressing the quality of lighting, communicating to the university that this is an issue with serious health risks to certain students.

Our job is to be open. Any Executive ticket who cannot acknowledge the limits to their own knowledge does not deserve to appear on the ballot. As GUSA President and Vice President, we will work to be accessible, so you can come to us and tell us that the events occurring at the university are not providing disability accommodations.  In building a more open and inclusive Georgetown, we view our role as hearing everything students have to say and then fighting for them and the changes they wish to see.

When you ask us how we will investigate the full range of accessibility barriers at Georgetown, what we hear is that you and others have seen pressing issues on the Hilltop. We want to listen to what you have to say, and then solicit responses from other students who have seen similar issues. We will draw from the students for issues to pursue. Our slogan is Working for You for a reason: we intend to be your voice, with whatever weight our office may bring.

When you ask us how we will advocate for meaningful progress from the administration in addressing these barriers, we hear that you want us to stand up for you and others who for a multitude of reasons cannot stand up for themselves. Our pledge to the Georgetown community is to hear rather than simply listen, and to work with the administration. That is why we have begun to build a team involving people like GUSA Senator Abbey McNaughton, who has worked on accessibility and plans to continue working. When we pull in as many voices as possible, we can identify the pressing issues while forming a coalition of those willing to work with the administration to affect real change.


Question 6

Conversations about disability that occur in classes, student organization sponsored events, departmental sponsored events, and administration sponsored programming frequently omit the perspectives of disabled people both during the planning process and during the actual event. What would you do if elected to advocate for meaningful inclusion of disabled people in conversations about us on campus?

We believe that the heart of the issue is publicity. The Georgetown community is inherently a vibrant, active, and intellectually curious one. We want to learn. We want to understand. We want to be included in conversations so that we can better understand every issue and advocate for different student groups. Many pluralism-related events and groups receive organizational aid from GUSA and the university, but there is clearly a lack in support of disability education and awareness events.

We intend to rectify that. GUSA, and in particular the President and Vice President, should act as an arm for outreach, working for the inclusion of disabled persons in conversations and events on campus. We want to work with the administration and other student groups to centralize the events process through HoyaLife.com so all students can publicize their events and learn about other upcoming events. This will have two effects:

First, we will be able to generate publicity for these very conversations that are lacking in support. There are many at this university who are willing and yearning to be involved in such discussions, and increased publicity will strengthen these conversations while allowing for the greater participation and education our community.

The other benefit of centralizing events will create a succinct collection of upcoming programs for all students. This way, an event that focuses on disability access and advocacy can include all students in the conversation. We don’t pretend to have some higher knowledge of which programs must be bolstered and which can prosper on their own. We want to include all involved parties in the conversation so that we can determine who should participate in an event, and eventually, what policies will best serve disabled students at Georgetown.

We will work to create a proactive GUSA. Could we promise to include you and your events in a weekly email, buried under a heap of other student events? Sure, but that barely scratches the surface of what we are capable of and what a GUSA executive should be doing. We want every voice included in the policymaking process. If you feel the best course of action is to send out an all school email detailing an upcoming event, we can work to make that happen. If there is an administration-sponsored event occurring regarding disabilities that does not include disabled students and you want us to fight to change that, we’ll work to accomplish that. We want GUSA to be an organization that works for the students; we will always work for you.

GUSA Exec 2014 Disability Questionnaire: Zach Singer and Dan Silkman

I have condensed the questions, which appeared in long-form in the questionnaire sent to candidates with background information and examples, to highlight each candidate's answer. These are the responses provided by Zach and Dan. You can also read responses from Trevor and Omika, Ben and Sam, and Thomas and Jimmy.

Image description: Dan Silkman, a young white man with short brown hair, and Zach Singer, a young white man with short blondish brown hair, smiling at the camera and sitting in front of the gray stone fountain in Dahlgren Quad with the red brick facade of Healy Hall behind them.

ADDENDUM: I received the following email from Megan Murday on behalf of Zach and Dan with a request for a correction.

Hi Lydia,

I am sorry for the imprecision in our initial response to question 1 of your survey.

We never intended to imply that Zach was personally involved in the early stages of No Wrong Door but rather that he was a strong supporter of the project and was ultimately responsible for all projects conducted under the current GUSA executive from the time he became chief of staff last March.

If you are amenable, please feel free to correct the answer as follows:

"Ableism, like all other forms of discrimination and oppression, has no place at Georgetown. We will work closely with interested students to ensure that GUSA is doing everything it can to empower disabled students.

To do so, we will build on the work Zach has already done as a leader of the GUSA executive in listening to interested disabled students and support their activism to student groups and Georgetown administrators.

The formation of a Disability Cultural Center — something we endorse in our platform and explain further in question three — is a critical element in combating ableism and making the Hilltop more welcoming and inclusive. We will prioritize this issue and use our executive to finally secure the university’s commitment to this proposal.

GUSA’s successful No Wrong Door program, the creation of which Zach strongly supported as chief of staff, has already made important strides in making Georgetown more welcoming and inclusive. It is important that Georgetown continue to engage students to understand available resources.

We will use our bully pulpit to expand the program and encourage other student groups and offices that interface with students to take steps to ensure increased inclusiveness in student life."

Again, we regret that the initial version of this seemed to take credit that properly belongs to you or Alyssa Peterson.

Best,
Megan

Question 1

What would you do or change to combat ableism (disability oppression, prejudice against the disabled) and make Georgetown a more welcoming and inclusive campus for disabled students if elected?

Ableism, like all other forms of discrimination and oppression, has no place at Georgetown. We will work closely with interested students to ensure that GUSA is doing everything it can to empower disabled students.

To do so, we will build on the work Zach has already done as a leader of the GUSA executive in listening to interested disabled students and support their activism to student groups and Georgetown administrators.

The formation of a Disability Cultural Center — something we endorse in our platform and explain further in question three — is a critical element in combating ableism and making the Hilltop more welcoming and inclusive. We will prioritize this issue and use our executive to finally secure the university’s commitment to this proposal.

GUSA’s successful No Wrong Door program, the creation of which Zach oversaw as chief of staff, has already made important strides in making Georgetown more welcoming and inclusive. It is important that Georgetown continue to engage students to understand available resources.

We will use our bully pulpit to expand the program and encourage other student groups and offices that interface with students to take steps to ensure increased inclusiveness in student life.

Question 2

What would you do if elected to ensure that conversations and initiatives on diversity, especially those managed or initiated by the GUSA Executive, meaningfully include disability and disabled members of the campus community?

The creation of a GUSA undersecretary for disability affairs was an important element of the staff and cabinet that Zach spearheaded as GUSA chief of staff. However, there is more work to do and we have already begun engaging disabled students to hear their concerns and ideas for making Georgetown a better place for them — and for all of us.

We are also committed to increasing conversations for students – both through What’s A Hoya? and a new, GUSA-backed program to fund more informal conversations on pluralism-related issues — around important topics, including the experiences of disabled students and how to improve them.

Question 3

If elected, what steps will you take to advocate on behalf of a plan to create and sustain a Disability Cultural Center at Georgetown?

We strongly support the creation of a Disability Cultural Center at Georgetown. Unfortunately, GUSA cannot create a Disability Cultural Center alone. Instead, it will require the support of the administration and a detailed plan for how to roll out such a center, staff and house its operations and build its outreach and relevance to campus life.

Working directly with disabled students, we will write out a complete plan, including detailed monetary figures and a clear, comprehensive element of how the center will work. Then, utilizing our experience — the most of any ticket — in working with administrators, we will make our case directly to the decision makers, relying every step of the way on the input, advice and help of disabled students at Georgetown.

Question 4

What steps will you take, if elected, to increase visibility and representation of disabled students (both with apparent and invisible disabilities) in leadership roles on campus, whether in GUSA or elsewhere?

We will renew the role of GUSA undersecretary for disability affairs that Zach helped create in the current executive. Through our Leadership Fund and robust mentorship programs, we hope to be able to recruit interested disabled students for positions with the GUSA executive and senate.

Additionally, we will use our bully pulpit as student leaders to encourage student groups to ensure there are no obstacles that present disabled students from taking on important leadership roles.

Question 5

What steps will you take if elected to investigate the full range of accessibility barriers at Georgetown and advocate for meaningful progress from the administration in addressing them?

We are enthusiastic about pending proposals for a survey on accessibility and a map of campus for inaccessible locations. Both of these steps will provide commendably useful information to guide future advocacy endeavors.

With the results of these surveys, we will publicize the most critical issues, take the concerns of disabled students directly to the administration and remain persistent in encouraging Georgetown’s leadership to rectify these challenges.

Question 6

Conversations about disability that occur in classes, student organization sponsored events, departmental sponsored events, and administration sponsored programming frequently omit the perspectives of disabled people both during the planning process and during the actual event. What would you do if elected to advocate for meaningful inclusion of disabled people in conversations about us on campus?

Although GUSA cannot dictate the practices of student organizations at Georgetown, we can all agree that inclusion of disabled people is critical in all conversations, not just those that address disability issues.

Therefore, we will strongly advise student groups that disability-related programming include disabled students in all phases of production. We will also ensure that any diversity-related programming through What’s A Hoya? or the informal conversation series will be designed by interested disabled students.

We understand that being a good ally is about collaboration and follows the principle of “nothing about us without us.” That will govern our tenure as executive.

25 February 2014

GUSA Exec 2014 Disability Questionnaire: Trevor Tezel and Omika Jikaria

I have condensed the questions, which appeared in long-form in the questionnaire sent to candidates with background information and examples, to highlight each candidate's answer. These are the responses provided by Trevor and Omika. You can also read responses from Zach and Dan, Ben and Sam, and Thomas and Jimmy.



Image description: Trevor Tezel, a young white man with short brown hair, and Omika Jikaria, a young South Asian woman with medium-length dark brown hair, smiling at the camera in front of one of the buildings in Dahlgren quad with stairs and white banisters. The bottom right has the Trevor/Omika connect to Georgetown logo, which is teal and gray with the facade of Healy Hall.

Question 1 

What would you do or change to combat ableism (disability oppression, prejudice against the disabled) and make Georgetown a more welcoming and inclusive campus for disabled students if elected?

We must create a culture where disability is viewed as an aspect of diversity rather than as a trait that only requires accommodation. This needs to be our foremost goal as a campus and it will require a number of reforms. First off, GUSA and other organizations need to empower disabled students and listen to their perspectives on the issue.

The language of this question itself clearly articulates that disability issues are not properly understood on the Georgetown campus, and in order to combat this, it is crucial that we involve students who are already fighting for the rights of disabled students in all discussions about disability issues. This includes both disabled students and anti-ableism allies. Interested disabled students need to be appointed to decision making roles, which will provide them access to university administrators and resources.

In addition, we need to change the culture through education, which includes promoting disability cultural programming. Our primary goal is to promote the hiring of a “disability as diversity” staffer to operate this programming in a similar style as the LGBTQ Resource Center. We hope to also raise awareness through GUSA programming. Similarly, we need to explore ways to facilitate collaboration between disabled students and non-disabled students. By bringing more people, regardless of disability status, into the discussion, we expand the possibility that issues of disability will become less “taboo” on campus.

Additionally, certain procedural changes need to be made in order to ensure that disabled students have access to all aspects of Georgetown life. Some of these changes include, but are not limited to, greater funding to cover the costs of disability accommodations at student events and a memorandum of understanding to ensure that disabled students will be given the opportunity to  meet with the architects of any new construction project to discuss the needs of students with disabilities. We also support the creation of an accessibility guide for clubs, similar to No Wrong Door, so they can make their programming more accessible. We imagine GUSA as an institution that can disseminate promising practices to club leaders. By making these types of changes, disabled students are more empowered to access spaces and activities.

Omika and I are also very focused on combating sexual assault and other forms of violence such as intimate partner violence. We understand that disabled individuals are disproportionately victimized and may experience barriers when attempting to access services. As a result, we and any interested disabled students will sit down with Health Education Services, CAPS, and the Women’s Center at the start of our term to examine how they promote accessibility for disabled survivors. If their policies and procedures are inadequate, we and any interested disabled students will work with them to design better procedures.

Finally, we would strongly advocate for the expansion of the “No Wrong Door” program, particularly during NSO. It’s crucial that disabled students immediately feel comfortable at Georgetown and this expansion would assist this process. Similarly, the inclusion of the “No Wrong Door” program would give all students greater exposure to disability issues and reinforce the idea that Georgetown’s mission statement embraces and welcomes students of all backgrounds.

Question 2

What would you do if elected to ensure that conversations and initiatives on diversity, especially those managed or initiated by the GUSA Executive, meaningfully include disability and disabled members of the campus community?

As stated in the previous question, we believe that one of the most things that needs to be done in order to ensure that discussions on diversity are both productive and effective is simply get the right people in the room. We don’t purport to be experts on what initiatives would best serve disabled students, so it would be a top priority for us to have representation of disabled students in both our cabinet and staff. Specifically, we would appoint both a Pluralism representative and an under-secretary for disability. Ideally, these representatives will be individuals who are already engaged in the fight for greater resources for disabled students. At the start of our term, we would ask the under-secretary for diversity to reach out to their network and ask disabled students if they are interested in attending GUSA meetings with administrators or if they are interested in joining GUSA more generally. In addition, we would support the efforts of any disabled student to reform aspects of campus life at Georgetown outside of GUSA. This support could include resources from the GUSA fund, publicity, and other support.

Additionally, one of the biggest proposals in our platform, as well as our Executive budget, is an administrator-student committee to assess the state of disability advocacy and culture and physical accessibility of Georgetown. This committee would be crucial to ensuring that issues of disability are continually discussed and that new initiatives are always being considered. The committee would be composed of disabled students, able students, GUSA members, non-GUSA members, and administrators both from Student Affairs and other on-campus offices. Ideally, we would be able to have disabled administration and faculty members as well as representatives from IDEAA. In sum, the goal is to bring together the best possible group to engage with and address disability issues. We understand that forming a committee isn’t a solution but we regard it as an excellent way to bring the voices of disabled students, faculty, and administrators to the forefront in crafting policies.

We will also support your current efforts to create an accessibility survey to gauge experiences of disabled students.

Question 3

If elected, what steps will you take to advocate on behalf of a plan to create and sustain a Disability Cultural Center at Georgetown?

Our philosophy is that GUSA is a policy and advocacy body. If we were elected, we would use administrative relationships in order to set up the necessary meetings required to get an important initiative like this up and running. GUSA’s greatest strength comes from the respect that we get from the administration. Both of us have strong relationships with a variety of administrators, particularly in Student Affairs and the Women’s Center. These specific relationships would be crucial both to continuing the discussions about creating this type of center and to actually getting the center started. Creating a Disability Cultural Center is a major initiative that will require both much time, commitment, and financial support. Especially because of the financial aspect, this is an initiative that MUST involve administrators. We have no doubt that we would be able to successfully work with the administration in order to further the creation of this center. Our first push will be for a disability staffer housed in the CMEA that specializes in education efforts; we believe the addition of this staffer will be an intermediate step before the Cultural Center.

However, with that said, the creation of such a center must include a wide range of discussions. In order to ensure that this center is as effective as possible, it is crucial that an initiative like this be led by people who understand disability issues.

When exploring how to best start this center, we would want to both talk with disabled Georgetown students and with students at other schools that already have Disability Cultural Centers. We would draft a proposal using best practices from these meetings. Getting the insight of these groups would be potentially the most important aspect of the founding of the center. In the meantime, we would, as previously mentioned, push for the hiring of a staffer housed in the CMEA.

Additionally, this is not an initiative that could be rushed. While we would prioritize beginning the planning for this center, we could not promise that it would be completed by a particular date. Quality matters, and this is not something that we would want to be completed without enough thought. In short, the creation of this center would be led by students who best know the issue, but it would receive the full support of GUSA, both in resources, relationships, and personal commitment.

Question 4

What steps will you take, if elected, to increase visibility and representation of disabled students (both with apparent and invisible disabilities) in leadership roles on campus, whether in GUSA or elsewhere?

Within GUSA, as previously stated, we will appoint both a Pluralism representative and an under-secretary for disability. Similarly, we would hope to appoint students with disabilities to other GUSA leadership positions. Additionally, as stated before, we would advocate for “an administrator-student committee to assess the state of disability advocacy and culture and physical accessibility of Georgetown.” Our goal is to include as many voices as possible, and creating these roles ensures that disability issues are always kept at the forefront of GUSA discussions.

Outside of GUSA, we would hope to provide resources for disabled students who want to run for leadership positions, if needed. We will also, in the fall, ask the under-secretary for disability to locate disabled individuals with possible interest in running for the GUSA Senate and we will promote their candidacy informally as we did with female-presenting Senators this year.

In terms of visibility, social media is one of GUSA’s greatest tools. We would use social media to promote disability initiatives in order to ensure that students have greater awareness of the different initiatives being undertaken. Similarly, we plan on continuing the “Hoya of the Week” program. We would love to highlight disabled students serving in leadership roles alongside able students.

Question 5

What steps will you take if elected to investigate the full range of accessibility barriers at Georgetown and advocate for meaningful progress from the administration in addressing them?

As stated previously, our platform clearly states that we hope to establish an “administrator-student committee to assess the state of disability advocacy and culture and physical accessibility of Georgetown.” This would be our starting point for addressing disability issues, and through this committee, we hope to be able to conduct a full review of the accessibility barriers that exist at Georgetown and then work to create substantive improvements on campus. We also support current efforts to institute a disability accessibility survey and we are happy to assist with your idea to photograph and highlight inaccessible areas on campus.

However, we believe improving conditions on-campus is a process. There is a lot of work that needs to be done in order to make Georgetown fully accessible, and we know that this is not a process that can be accomplished overnight. Given this, our plan for addressing these issues is a long-term plan. We would want to start off with those projects that have already had some forward movement; for instance, we would continue the advocacy efforts to ensure that the Northeast Triangle is fully accessible to disabled students. We also want to sit down with departments such as Heath Ed/Women’s Center to see how they are promoting service accessibility for disabled students. This work goes far beyond the ARC. An ideal situation would be one where major campus departments are asked to identify and rectify potential bureaucratic hurdles and other barriers to disabled students.

Clubs present a major accessibility issue, and as mentioned previously, GUSA should create a guide on promoting accessibility in programming so that clubs understand what constitutes an accessible space. This, like the No Wrong Door Initiative, is a good step because we do not have to wait on administrative bureaucracy to promote accessibility.


Question 6

Conversations about disability that occur in classes, student organization sponsored events, departmental sponsored events, and administration sponsored programming frequently omit the perspectives of disabled people both during the planning process and during the actual event. What would you do if elected to advocate for meaningful inclusion of disabled people in conversations about us on campus?

This is a difficult issue because GUSA can’t necessarily control the actions of other organizations on campus. However, we can lead by example in that all disability-related programming created by GUSA and meaningful meetings GUSA has with administrators will include disabled people from the onset. If a disabled student is unable to attend the meeting or event, the students that can will loop in the disabled students in email communications and contact them about any talking points they have. Students that can attend will also provide meeting notes/summaries. This makes a lot of sense from a policy perspective because disabled students are the most knowledgeable about disability issues and as such should be empowered to lead on these issues.

We can also work with the Senate, which administers the GUSA Fund, to ensure that any disability-related programming that applies for funds MUST include disabled students in formulating said programming or at least offer a real opportunity for disabled students to join in organizing discussions. The Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee would serve as the final arbiter in these instances.

In terms of promoting awareness, GUSA’s social media efforts can be leveraged to promote disability events as well as GUSA’s name in attracting event cosponsors. What’s A Hoya also provides a valuable opportunity with high attendance to educate individuals on disability as well as highlight disability culture and history.

11 February 2014

Violence in Language: Circling Back to Linguistic Ableism

Trigger warning/content: Use or quotes of ableist slurs and language. (No profanity/swears in this post.)

The single most frequently-viewed page on this website is the glossary of ableist phrases. As with anything frequently shared and visited on the internet, reactions generally fall into one of two camps: happy and supportive, or else, highly critically or viscerally offended. Eventually, I prefaced that page with its own brief essay explaining some of the reasons for its existence. (It still receives a lot of criticism. Some of these criticisms are valid, and I continually revise the page to reflect my own process of learning and unlearning. Others span the gamut of accusations about my intentions or the page's reasons for existence.)

For example, a few months ago, someone pointed out that the list of alternative phrases assumed class and education privilege. The commenter said that a lot of the words seemed like SAT words. In response, I attempted to revise and expand the list of suggested alternatives to account for varying tones, moods, and access to education or linguistic privilege. More recently, another person criticized the list of alternatives for including profanity because swears are fairly common triggers. (At the same time, a lot of other people find swears to be the most easily accessible language. I have now added a trigger warning before a new, separate list of alternatives just for the swears, located at the bottom after everything else. I'm not going to outright delete them, though, because there's also a lot of baggage for many people who have been continually told that they should not use swears, abused for their language, or oppressed by a lot of classism and ableism in demonizing the use of swear words.)

One of the most common (inaccurate and mischaracterizing) criticisms, however, both from inside and outside the disability community, is the accusation that the list is a tool for policing language or censoring words.

So what's the purpose of the list? Why compile it at all? Because linguistic ableism is part of the total system of ableism, and it is critical to understand how it works, how it is deployed, and how we can unlearn our social conditioning that linguistic ableism is normal and just how things are or should be.

As important as it is to recognize and uncover the violence of linguistic ableism (how ableism is specifically embedded into our language), it is also critical to understand why this is important. (And this is where those who jump the gun and leap to accusations of pedantic, holier-than-thou, smug language-policing or censorship have not yet come to understand why this page, and those like it, need to exist.)

Linguistic ableism:

a) is part of an entire system of ableism, and doesn't exist simply by itself,

b) signifies how deeply ableist our societies and cultures by how common and accepted ableism is in language,

c) reinforces and perpetuates ableist social norms that normalize violence and abuse against disabled people,

d) actively creates less safe spaces by re-traumatizing disabled people, and

e) uses ableism to perpetuate other forms of oppression.

Language is not the be all end all. This isn't about policing language or censoring words, but about critically examining how language is part of total ableist hegemony. This is about being accountable when we learn about linguistic ableism, but it is also about being compassionate to ourselves and recognizing that to varying extents, we have all participated in ablesupremacy and ablenormativity. This is about understanding the connections between linguistic ableism and other forms of ableism, such as medical ableism, scientific ableism, legal ableism, and cultural ableism.

Language reflects and influences society and culture. That's why students of any foreign language often study the cultures where that language is dominant. (And that's not to dimiss the many valid criticisms of the ethnocentrism and colonialism in much area and language studies programs.) Language isn't important for silly semantic reasons, but because it cannot be separated from the culture in which it is deployed. Feminist theory, queer theory, and race theory have all analyzed how sexism, heterosexism, cissexism, binarism, and racism are embedded in language. This is the same process.

Using the language of disability (either directly or through metaphor) as a way to insult other people, dismiss other people, express your vehement loathing for them/their viewpoints, or invalidate their viewpoints is actually extremely ableist (and often sanist, neurotypicalist, audist, or vidist).

For example, I am talking about using the language of mental illness ("crazy," "insane," "psycho," or "wacko," for example), cognitive disability ("retarded," "slow," or "moron," for example), or physical disability ("crippled" or "completely blind/deaf," for example). In another example, I am also talking about using disability as metaphor.

Using the language of disability to denigrate or insult in our conversations and organizing presumes that

a.) people who hold undesirable or harmful viewpoints must hold them because they are mentally ill/have psych disabilities/are mentally disabled/are disabled in some way,

b.) having mental illness/psych disability/mental disability/any disability is actually so undesirable and horrible that you can insult someone that way (the same underlying reason why socially embedded linguistic heterosexism lets people use "gay" as an insult),

c.) it's acceptable to use ableism against one disability group while decrying ableism against another disability group (creating horizontal or intra-disability oppression) or another form of oppression against another marginalized group (creating horizontal oppression), and

d.) and that no one who is disabled in any way might actually share your opinion or be on your side,

thus actually actively excluding and marginalizing this part of our community, and making our spaces less safe and less inclusive.

For alternatives, try being more precise in your language. Maybe you meant to say one of the following (much longer list on the glossary):
- These people have completely ridiculous ideas.
- That person's viewpoint is extremely harmful.
- That idea is extremist.
- Those people have disturbing and concerning opinions.
- That comment was super problematic.
- I can't even engage with that person anymore.
- That person is a total [profanity/swear].

If you find yourself using this ableist language, please take a minute to re-examine how your perspective has been informed by ableism. This isn't an accusation or an insinuation that you are automatically an Evil Person. We have all participated in ableist structures, and are all continually learning and unlearning. But if you are truly committed to building more just and inclusive communities, then it is critical to unlearn how we have been conditioned into accepting ableism in all parts of our lives and societies, including in our language.


07 February 2014

Can we end subminimum wage for people with disabilities?

President Obama recently announced that he will issue an executive order requiring all federal contractors to pay a $10.10 minimum wage to their workers. The language there might be somewhat misleading, though, and actually does omit a fairly large group of workers. Some federal contractors hold special certificates issued under Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act that permit them to pay disabled workers subminimum wage—and the executive order does not include these disabled workers in the new, higher minimum wage.

Achieving economic justice is critical for achieving disability justice. When companies contracted to the federal government are legally permitted to engage in wage discrimination by paying disabled workers less than the minimum wage, this sends a strong message that the labor of disabled people is considered to be less valuable than the labor of non-disabled people. Since the de-institutionalization movement, more and more disabled people have been able to find work in the community, yet many of us still struggle with unemployment. We should not face the prospect of having to choose between unemployment and jobs where we will earn a mere pittance—sometimes, less than one dollar an hour—on the fundamentally inaccurate and prejudiced presumption that disabled status somehow renders the work of a disabled person lesser and less valuable.

The Obama administration has recognized the work of many disability rights advocates, and there are more disabled people in high-ranking positions throughout the federal government now than there have been under previous administrations. The White House honored eight young disabled people—myself included—for our work to liberate and empower our communities only this past year. But there is still much more work to do, and while the government certainly can’t accomplish all of it, this is one thing that is definitively within President Obama’s ability to do.

The upcoming executive order to raise minimum wage for all employees of federal contractors presents a significant opportunity for President Obama to change the landscape of disability employment. Requiring all federal contractors to pay all workers, including those with disabilities, the higher minimum wage, would set an example for other employers in the private sector as well as increase access to the community for those disabled workers currently paid less than minimum wage under 14(c).

The sheltered workshop industry, however, has been lobbying hard against any potential action to eliminate subminimum wage for disabled workers. Using the tactics of fear-mongering about the supposed inability of disabled people to work in integrated, inclusive settings, these institutions continue to argue that subminimum wage is necessary for some disabled people. We must stand against such divisive rhetoric that attempts to position some disabled people as able to work in the community and other disabled people as those who can’t work in a community setting and need to be in a sheltered workshop or other similar setting.

Image description: Disabled activists from UK organization Disabled People Against Cuts protesting in London in January 2012. Several light-skinned people in winter clothing and using wheelchairs, holding colorful signs with messages like "No meals on wheels? Eat the rich," "Real Work for Real Pay," "Fat cats get away fairness?", "We r All in it together," and "our society: the rich getting richer?"

New York, Oregon, Massachusetts and Rhode Island are all working toward eliminating sheltered workshops. It would be sensible and logical for the federal government to follow suit. There is no shortage of reasons for supporting disabled people in equal access to employment—there are the principles of equality and opportunity, there is the affirmation that the labor of disabled people is valuable, there is the correlation between financial stability and civic empowerment, and there is—rather simply—that it is the right thing to do. The fact that large groups of disabled workers have systematically been denied minimum wage solely on the basis of their disabilities as a matter of law and policy is an inequity. A potential executive order altering that inequity presents an opportunity for a move toward justice and redressing that inequity.

Those of us who are disabled must urge the White House to make the right decision—to affirm that economic justice does in fact include disabled people, and to stand by the principles of full equality and equal opportunity. But there isn’t much time for us to be heard.

The Collaboration for the Promotion of Self Determination, a coalition of twenty-one progressive and disabled-led disability rights organizations, sent a letter to the White House urging this change. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Japanese American Citizens League, Service Employees International Union, and AFL-CIO have actually all joined as signatories to that letter.

How many of those of us who are actually disabled will write or call the administration? If we make our voices heard louder than the opposition, we can start to change the unjust practice of subminimum wage for disabled people and little by little chip away at the walls of injustice.

The Autistic Self Advocacy Network is urging disabled people and allies to contact the White House and Department of Labor, to urge the administration to include people with disabilities in the new wage protections. All workers also means all disabled workers. Our lives matter and our labor matters. Economic justice must also mean disability justice.

In your emails to the White House, contact:

Claudia Gordon (Claudia_L_Gordon@who.eop.gov) and "cc":
Valerie Jarrett (vjarrett@who.eop.gov)
Portia Wu (portia.y.wu@who.eop.gov)

In your emails to the Department of Labor, contact:

Matthew Colangelo (Colangelo.Matthew@dol.gov) and "cc"
ODEP Assistant Secretary Kathy Martinez (martinez.kathy@dol.gov).




04 February 2014

I, too, am racialized.

TW/Content: Brief discussions of violence and ableism, detailed discussions of racism and racist microaggressions.


...


I, too, am racialized.

I am constantly expanding my understanding of myself, my identity, my life, and my experiences as a racialized subject—what I mean by this is how I am made to have a race in my society and culture. I am Han and was born in China. I appear to be East Asian. Yet while I identify as a person of color, I am also transethnic. I am a transracial, transnational adoptee. My parents are white Americans of European descent. I was raised in a culturally white neighborhood in a city that is over 96% white. When I was a child and usually physically accompanied by my parents, I experienced the benefits of white privilege through my white parents. It is really only since coming to college and being physically separated and thus, dissociated, from my parents that I have increasingly experienced the violence of racism against me (especially in everyday racial microaggressions). Yet I have also become keenly aware of how I still benefit from the intersections of class (middle-class-ish) privilege, education privilege (I attend an elite four-year university), light-skinned privilege, and sometimes still white privilege (as when people assume from my name only that I am white, as it is not a stereotypically Black or Asian or Latin@ or Native/Indigenous name) and socialization as white.

For example, other people often assume that because my speech/writing patterns come across as articulate or eloquent, I must be educated (in my case, I am), and therefore, must also be upper-class/money-rich (in my case, I am not), and therefore, must also be white (and in my case, am also not).

In another example, I have frequently gone to check-in or registration desks at events or conferences and given my name so the staff person could check me off the list, only to receive confused comments about my not being white because my name was assumed to belong to a white person.

Yet I also had an encounter a year ago with the DC Metropolitan Police Department that at the time left me floored and shocked, but now comes as no surprise to me. After speaking to a white officer for about half an hour (including answering his questions), he excused himself for fifteen minutes and returned with an East Asian officer who spoke to me in Mandarin (a language I don't know or understand). When I said that I don't speak Mandarin, the East Asian officer gave the white officer an annoyed expression and said, “Dude, she speaks English.” The white officer actually replied with, “How is that even possible?” I was standing less than a few feet away from them during this entire time.

(Sometimes people who appear East Asian, and probably are also Chinese, approach me and speak to me in Mandarin, but that presumption on their part doesn’t carry the same baggage as when non-Chinese people—though especially white people—assume that I speak Mandarin or any other East Asian language, or that I don’t speak English.)


...


Since then, I have also had innumerable incidents during which complete strangers or acquaintances whom I'd met maybe a few minutes beforehand have intrusively and repeatedly asked about my ethnicity, ethnic background, national heritage, national origin, real place of birth, ancestral heritage, etc. This is even after I politely deflected. The presumptions behind these interrogations are that a) I must not be from the U.S., b) they are entitled to this information despite being perfect strangers, or that c) of course, I have a race and ethnicity, but they are just “normal” or “regular” Americans. White people also frequently compliment me on my accent when I speak English, whereas most people who appear to be white would never be complimented on their accent when speaking English without an obviously foreign accent.

Perhaps this is only quasi-related, but I also distinctly remember an experience when a South Asian friend (who is darker than me but also relatively light-skinned compared to many darker-skinned people of color) casually referred to me as a “white girl.” The tone and context suggested that this was an offhand comment made as an observation of fact. Essentially, this person used the same tone someone might use to introduce me as their activist friend, rather than a tone that someone would use for an insult or sarcastic comment. This brief incident also made me more conscious of the fact that I definitely benefit from residual white privilege from my upbringing and socialization as white.

In another example of how I continue to benefit from conditional white-passing privilege, when I called the police to tell them that I would be leading a protest in their jurisdiction, my articulate, unaccented English combined with my name probably led them to assume that I was white, money-rich/upper-class, and educated—and therefore not violent and not dangerous and not a threat. If on the other hand, I had an accent on my English, a stereotypically Black or Latin@ (or maybe even Middle Eastern or South Asian) name, or did not sound as articulate when I speak, I might not have had such a cordial conversation with the police. They may have turned out in larger numbers to intimidate us the next day. They might have treated us as security threats either explicitly or implicitly. Even though there were darker-skinned people of color at the protest in question, because there were several white and light-skinned people (and more of them than dark-skinned people of color), and because I was the person who called in advance, we were probably not interpreted as a potential threat. (There may have been other factors in this presumption, but these were certainly part of it.)


...


I am also aware that as an Asian American novelist, if and when my novels are published, I may become the subject of dismissive criticism or extremely surprised acclaim among mainstream reviewers for writing about characters from Serbia, Pakistan, Iran, Yemen, Israel, and Germany on the basis that I am Chinese. Yet white authors who write about characters of races and ethnicities other than their own generally only receive similar, substantive criticisms from people of color, but often receive praise for realistic portrayals of their characters’ cultural backgrounds and identities in mainstream media and similarly are assumed to be able to write from a “universal” perspective.

I am constantly learning and growing in my desire to be a better ally to darker-skinned people of color and to all the POC groups to which I don't belong (of which there are very many) in our quest for racial justice. At the same time, I am continually learning about the many ways in which my intersected experiences of privilege and marginalization have shaped me as a transethnic, transracially and transnationally adopted, Han Chinese American, East Asian person of color. I frequently learn where I have done wrong by my darker-skinned people of color friends and fellow activists and colleagues, and am trying to learn how to hold myself accountable for my participation in racist and white supremacist structures.

For example, in an older post on Autistic Hoya, I referred to Black people/African Americans/Africans as “blacks” (I think while also referring to white people as “whites”), and more recently, a Black friend of mine corrected me. I learned that using the term “blacks” to refer to Black people is dehumanizing and carries racist, white supremacist baggage. Because I am not Black or darker-skinned, I benefited from the privilege of never having had to learn this. In fact, if I hadn’t changed my language and acknowledged the fuck-up, I would have faced minimal to no social or legal consequences. 


...


My experiences have been complicated by the fact that while I am visibly East Asian/person of color, I have been socialized as white and therefore have benefited frequently from residual white privilege or conditional white-passing privilege, but also experience the reality of white supremacy and racism in my life. Living in the United States definitely impacts my experiences. For example, I know that my ethnic group, Chinese people, remains one of very few specific ethnic groups to have had a law specifically banning us from entering the United States, along with Japanese people, because of racism (and the myth of “yellow peril”). But in another example, I am also keenly aware that the form of white supremacy prevalent in the United States has historically and currently displayed its most overtly violent racism toward Black people/African Americans/Africans, Indigenous and Native peoples, and more recently, Latin@/Hispanic people. Right now, I am studying abroad in Jordan, where the racial and ethnic demographics and politics are radically different from those in the United States. Being a U.S. citizen also means that I must learn how to become accountable for my role (passive, inadvertent, unwanted, or otherwise) in perpetuating U.S. imperialism, especially in majority-POC parts of the world.

Most people who know me are familiar with my work for disability justice and civil rights. Sometimes, I experience the reductionism that happens when people hyper-simplify my identity and work to disability-only. But in the wake of continued racism (systemic and in microaggressions) in the disability communities, it is imperative for me to emphasize that I am not merely disabled but also racialized. It is impossible for me to separate my experiences as autistic and disabled from my experiences as East Asian, Chinese, Asian American, and person of color.

This is why I am frustrated and disappointed when much of the visible leadership of the disability rights community is white (or if not white, able to pass consistently for white). That includes many high-level state and federal government appointees, board members and executives in disability rights organizations, high-profile activists and public speakers with disabilities, and disabled scholars, theorists, researchers, and professors of disability studies. This is also true of the autistic rights/neurodiversity movements as well as the disability rights movement at large.

This is also why I am frustrated and disappointed, as well as profoundly saddened, when cases of violence, abuse, and murder with disabled white victims receive significantly more attention than those where the victims are disabled people of color. Don’t get me wrong—I am happy that over 150,000 people signed the petition demanding accountability after Chris Baker (who is autistic and white) was punished by being put inside a bag and left in a hallway. But how many people in the disability community paid attention to the case of Reginald “Neli” Latson (who is autistic and Black) when he was wrongfully tased, beaten, arrested, and imprisoned? His case received notice, to be sure, but at least a good majority of the people of whom I know attempting to publicize his case were also people of color.

This is also why I am frustrated and disappointed when disability activists speak about racism as though it’s over, or dismiss racism as irrelevant to ableism, as well as when organizers for racial justice are completely ignorant to disability issues, or dismiss ableism as simply non-existent or unconnected to racial oppression and white supremacy. Just as I cannot separate my disabled identity and experiences from my racialized identity and experiences, I cannot recognize ableism without recognizing how it is affected by racism, or recognize racism without recognizing how it is affected by ableism. I frequently center my work on disability justice, but the struggle for racial justice is my struggle too.