Thursday, March 31, 2016

The Wrong Approach on Media, Policing, and Disability

My home-away-from-home community of Minneapolis-St. Paul just learned that the police officers who killed Jamar Clark will not be charged. This case has become a focal point for Black Lives Matter in the Twin Cities.

There's another case though, that is getting both legislative and media attention: John Birkeland. He was killed during a mental health crisis when police came to check on him in February. Despite knowing he was in crisis (I'm told), police found he had a warrant for giving a false name once and decided to arrest him. He fled into the house, they broke open his door, sent in a dog, found him a closet, he came out and stabbed the dog, and they killed him. It's a tragic case and a classic "lawful but awful" example of how police mishandle mental health crises.

The problem is this piece by Minnesota Public Radio columnist Bob Collins. who positions this as "protest Birkeland, not Clark."
With so much activist and media attention focused on Jamar Clark, there’s been little energy left for the community to wonder why John Birkeland of Roseville had to die because he once gave a wrong name to police.
Birkeland, 57, was in the middle of a mental health crisis in February when Roseville police were asked to check on him and make sure he was OK. Assured by Birkeland that he was, police discovered that there was an outstanding warrant for his arrest for giving a false name to police. So they broke down his door, sent a police dog in, and followed. Birkeland fled to a closet.
When the cops opened the closet door, he stabbed a police dog (the dog recovered), so nearly a half dozen police shot him dead.
There were no protests. No calls to see the police video, and almost no public consideration of how it might have gone differently.
Many police reform activists are suspicious that disability rights folks, especially white folks like me and Collins, are trying to use disability rights to derail the Black Lives Matter movement. This kind of framing only confirms that analysis, that to talk about mental health or disability is to diminish the need to talk about race. That's 100% wrong. They intersect and the specifics of the discrimination are not the same. The reasons black men are harassed and killed by police are not the same reasons that people with disabilities are more likely than abled people to encounter the police and for those encounters to go wrong. And yet, to understand the totality of the problems with American policing requires thinking about both racism AND ableism (AND classism AND heterosexism AND AND AND).

I've been explicit in the aspirational intersectionality of my project, but I see Collins' framing far too often from folks who want to talk about disability.

The most vulnerable are people who are multiply marginalized. Here's what I said in a recent interview that does a pretty good job of summarizing my approach:
Sarabia: Does what you're doing, putting it into a different context, does it minimize what so many people have been pointing out lately, that this is an attack on African-American civilians.
Me: It /is/ an attack on African-American civilians. And it plays into our long history of both individual and structural racism in American society. But one of the things that we've learned under the principles of intersectionality, is that when you are marginalized in multiple ways, you are multiply endangered.
So for example, many of these names of high profile victims of police violence - Kajieme Powell, Eric Garner, Sandra Bland, Freddie Gray - these were all African-Americans and that's not a coincidence. It's an indictment of our, of the racism in American society. But all four of those people were also disabled ... and I don't think that's a coincidence either. So if we're really going to work on this, we need to look at these people as whole people, and think about the ways that racism and ableism intersect with each other and magnify each other.
Note: I was pleased to see a link to the recent Guardian coverage of the Ruderman report I co-authored at the bottom, as the whole point of that report was to conveniently provide journalists with a frame in which to place individual cases. I'd like Collins to re-read the discussions of intersectionality in the report, such as:
Taking an intersectional approach allows us to examine the roles of ableism—individual or structural discrimination against people with disabilities—in police use of force, without ignoring racism, classism, sexism, or other relevant issues.
We argue that disability intersects with other factors (such as race, class, gender, and sexuality) to magnify degrees of marginalization and enhance risk of violence. When the media ignores or mishandles a major factor, as we contend they generally do with disability, it becomes harder to effect change. We also operate from a broad, cross-category, set of definitions for disability, inclusive of physical, developmental, intellectual, psychiatric, emotional, and any other form of disability that might fall under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
We need to find and make allies across categories, across movements.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Disability and Policing: Equip for Equality

I spent the morning at Equip for Equality in Downtown Chicago, learning from attorney Amanda Antholt as she discussed policing and disability.
Antholt has a long history as a police misconduct lawyer, so I was especially pleased to hear her say the above. We agree that there are many specific issues about specific disabilities that matters, but that the bigger picture is this basic pattern of how police are trained to seize control.

See more tweets in my feed on the event. Feel free to storify if that's useful to you. I'm writing Chapter 7.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

#CripTheVote on Sub-Minimum Wage Policy

A few months ago I wrote about Clinton's policy on helping people with Autism and their families. More recently, I wrote about disability entering the political frame of "interest groups."

Yesterday (Monday, 3/28), I was alerted by Ari Ne'eman of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network that Clinton was asked by an autistic adult about subminimum wages for disabled workers. Clinton's reply was excellent (transcript from Ne'eman):
"When it comes to jobs, we've got to figure out how we get the minimum wage up and include people with disabilities in the minimum wage. There should not be a tiered wage, and right now there is a tiered wage when it comes to facilities that do provide opportunities but not at a self-sufficient wage that enables people to gain a degree of independence as far as they can go. So I want us to take a hard look at raising the minimum wage and ending the tiered minimum wages, whether it's for people with disabilities or the tipped wage....When people talk about raising the minimum wage, they don't always talk about the legal loopholes that we have in it and I want to get rid of those and I want to get rid of that for people with disabilities too."

If you are not a Clinton supporter, you need to push your favorite presidential candidate to take a public position, not on their website, but in their speeches, on this issue. It's not enough to just "know they would be good on this," because for generations politicians generally good on social issues have failed disabled Americans. 

If you are a Clinton supporter, you need to push your favorite gubernatorial, Congressional, or more local candidates to take a public position on this.

A few years ago, Senator Reid appointed a friend of his who promoted sub-minimum wage and sheltered workshops to the National Council on Disability. That can't happen again. Let's shift the window.

Monday, March 28, 2016

"My Canada Includes an Extra Chromosome"

Don't miss tomorrow night's SEASON FINALE of the RICK MERCER REPORT at 8:00pm on CBC (8:30NT). Here's Rick's Rant.
Posted by Rick Mercer Report on Monday, March 28, 2016
Gorgeous rant about the Canadian eugenic immigration laws currently getting exposure.

When people say, "I'll move to Canada if Trump wins," I think - not me, not unless I want to leave my son behind.

Story on the family threatened by these laws.

Also elsewhere around the world.

Friday, March 25, 2016

The Disabled Child Body as Object

A teacher in this video knocks a child with "special needs" over with her knee, because he was pausing at the door to the classroom and she wanted him to get inside. It was probably an accident, she just wanted to prod him along. When he gets up, she talks above his head to the adult in the room as she keeps pushing the child in the back.

She's resigned and been arrested. Video at the link. It's distressing in its casual violence, but not graphic.

The child's body here is just treated like an object. He's a non person.

I have become a pro-surveillance partisan in "special education" classrooms. I just can't see any other way to stop the abuse.

Good tweet here:

Keeping South Carolina Kids Safe from Cops

Last fall, a South Carolina school resource officer (a school cop, called SROs) was called into a classroom to deal with a student who wouldn't get off her phone, and who refused to leave the classroom when ordered to do so by the teacher and then the assistant principal. He ripped her from her desk and threw her to the floor.

Fortunately, other students filmed the incident and the officer was quickly followed. The reaction didn't end there, however, as South Carolina Superintendent of Schools quickly convened a task force to reconsider how SROs are used.

For Pacific Standard, I wrote:
A few weeks ago, Molly Spearman, the superintendent of schools for South Carolina, released the recommendations of the "Safe Schools Task Force," a group of educators, parents, and law enforcement that Spearman had convened in the wake of Spring Valley to address the use of SROs. The task force's report, released earlier this month, coalesces around one simple principle: Stop calling the police for disciplinary reasons.
If this policy gets put into practice and succeeds in changing disciplinary culture in their schools, the results could be significant. There's a chance that South Carolina could narrow the school-to-prison pipeline and protect vulnerable students from abuse at the hands of law enforcement without eroding overall school safety.
I think this is really important. Also, something interesting is happening in South Carolina when it comes to police reform.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Disability and Race: Testimony from Autistic Hoya

Great writing from Lydia Brown on healthcare disparities for disabled people of color.
From both personal and professional experience, I am keenly aware that healthcare disparities are one of the most insidious and pervasive forms of discrimination impacting any underrepresented or minoritized group. These disparities are evident in quality of care, diagnostic accuracy, network adequacy, service delivery models, multicultural competency, and overall health outcomes. These disparities result in lower life expectancy, less access to any healthcare including mental health services, and other deleterious effects on well-being and social stability.
Read the whole testimony here.

Here's a post on racial disparities in the Down syndrome community from Stephanie Holland.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Give AnnaRose the Camera!

There are two distinct types of message driven inspirational videos. One type focuses inward at the community it represents; the other pushes outward.

#HowDoYouSeeMe claims to be directed outward. The makers and their PR folks claim that its goal is to change the way people see Down syndrome. In fact, headline after headline over the last few days have been telling us that the video has already changed the way people see Down syndrome, thanks to Olivia Wilde. Nothing like inspirational feel good + celebrity clickbait to get people over to your website.

My thesis: Basically no one's view of Down syndrome has been changed by this video, at least not as the makers intended. No one has watched this video and had a transformational moment after the reveal. No one sees the video and comes away with new realizations about the full humanity and complexity of people with Down syndrome. Rather, the focus of the press has been classic inspiration porn gushing over the famous abled person giving her time to this worthy cause.

It's arguable that the video is a much better job at the second task – building community among the already persuaded. The video confirms the feelings that people Down syndrome matter among people who already believe it. The production values, the celebrity involvement, and beautiful words spoken by Anna Rose, promote good feelings among people who already feel good, and thus the video gets shared by folks who mean well. Everyone behind the video means well. Everyone who shares it means well. But it just doesn't "change the way you see Down syndrome," no matter how much the makers want to make that claim.

In my Establishment piece I focused on the wonderful video from Argentina (the tl;dr is watch this; not that) because I think it really does change the way people see Down syndrome, including for parents like me.

Our image of Down syndrome is white, cute, and compliant (and generally a child). This surly teen in his Ramones t-shirt, his leather wrist cuff, cutting school and jamming in the park with his friends, then riding mass transit alone, changes the way Down syndrome is generally portrayed. I'm wildly for it. I was glad that Born This Way had a black man with Down syndrome and an Asian woman with Down syndrome as two of the characters. Best of all, the "Libertad" video shows rather than tells, then concludes with the filmmaker (who also has Down syndrome) making a few comments AFTER the viewer has already been persuaded. 

The Olivia Wilde video – notice how everyone calls it the Olivia Wilde video – tells rather than shows. And when people complain, the makers and the supporters of the video continue to tell, and tell, and tell. If you have to keep telling, rather than showing, your video is a failure. 

In this piece,  we get a few great quotes from AnnaRose. I wanted more. She's clearly a rivetingly interesting young woman with a lot to say about disability and identity.

So here's my proposal to CoorDown and Saatchi and Saatchi, the well-financed folks behind the "Olivia Wilde PSA." GIVE ANNAROSE THE CAMERA.

Give her a budget. Give her access to professional editors. Let her direct, star, produce, whatever she wants. Give her full control.

Then let's see what she can do. Now that would be changing the narrative.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Tasers and the Cult of Compliance: Maryland Investigative Report

Here's a big study on taser use from Maryland, thanks to the hard work of the Baltimore Sun.
In reporting Taser incidents to the state, police departments must record the reason for discharging the weapon. Officers have only three options: "non-compliant and non-threatening," "use of threat" or "use of force."
Of all incidents from 2012 through 2014, police reported firing Tasers in 59 percent of cases because individuals were noncompliant. Officers said they fired because individuals used force against them in 23 percent of cases and because officers were threatened in 18 percent.
I don't have hard stats, but almost all "lawful but awful" (and plenty of non-lawful and awful) cases of police use of force start with an officer escalating an encounter due to non-compliance. I'm often asked what changes I'd like to see, and I have a long list of topics for discussion, but here's the first - teach law enforcement officers not to treat non-compliance, on its own, as a reason for escalation.

Tasers, too often, work in the other direction. They can be really good tools, but only if they are used in lieu of lethal force. Instead, officers use tasers in lieu of patience or conversation.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Accommodations in Academia - Some positive models

As I wrote about the job discrimination ads last month for Al Jazeera America​, I kept thinking about the hashtag #ILookLikeAProfessor and Kelly J. Baker​'s work. My thesis is that the inadvertent part of this was based, at least in part, on people who had just never considered that a disabled person might be able to be a professor. So I put out a call for disabled professors who would be willing to speak to me about their accommodations and tried to write a positive piece about potential, even as I also pointed out the structural issues. I concluded:

"As long as our common image of the professor remains white, male, straight, well-off, and abled, people outside that circle will encounter both structural and direct discrimination. It’s an image that’s increasingly inaccurate. Disabled academics — like academics from so many other diverse communities and claiming so many types of intersecting identities — are here. They're working hard. And when they receive institutional support, they’re thriving. Let's work on making that the new normal."

With thanks to Stephanie Kerschbaum​ Joe Stramondo​ Heide Estes​ and Brian Kruse​ for their kind assistance, as well as the many other people who kindly contributed their experiences but who I didn't quote directly.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Annals of Patriarchal Equilibrium: The Alewife and the Park Director

In the book History Matters, as well as the focused studies on which the book is based, Judith Bennett discusses the curious history of the medieval village alewife. She tracked the way that the internal ale-based economy worked, then, as ale shifted to beer, suddenly men took over the field. It turns out that beer, which kept better, could be made as a high value commercial product. With more money and status involved, women were gradually squeezed out. They lacked the capital to parlay their expertise in ale into commercial beer production. Moreover, the arrival of beer closed off some of the benefits of the less formal ale-economy that local women enjoyed.

Bennett used this case study as one of her examples of what she defined as the patriarchal equilibrium. Her argument is that sure, women's experiences of work and wages have changes over time, but that the relative status of their work has remained flat. The great work transformations - women heading into the factories in the early industrial period - may look different in kind, but in status, nothing has really changed. When a field's status rises, men take it over. When women enter a field, the status/remuneration drops. That's the patriarchal equilibrium.

Yesterday, New York Times reporter Claire Cain Miller wrote a piece on the same phenomenon:
Once women start doing a job, “It just doesn’t look like it’s as important to the bottom line or requires as much skill,” said Paula England, a sociology professor at New York University. “Gender bias sneaks into those decisions.”
She is a co-author of one of the most comprehensive studies of the phenomenon, using United States census data from 1950 to 2000, when the share of women increased in many jobs. The study, which she conducted with Asaf Levanon, of the University of Haifa in Israel, and Paul Allison of the University of Pennsylvania, found that when women moved into occupations in large numbers, those jobs began paying less even after controlling for education, work experience, skills, race and geography...
A striking example is to be found in the field of recreation — working in parks or leading camps — which went from predominantly male to female from 1950 to 2000. Median hourly wages in this field declined 57 percentage points, accounting for the change in the value of the dollar, according to a complex formula used by Professor Levanon. The job of ticket agent also went from mainly male to female during this period, and wages dropped 43 percentage points.
England seems more sure this is about intentional gender bias, whereas Bennett, working in a remote period, argues a little more abstractly about broader patriarchal forces. Still, the phenomenon tracks across time.

Friday, March 18, 2016

How to avoid Inspiration Porn

The worst elements of inspiration porn appear in local papers, then move outward. So I was pleased to see the local River Falls, WI, paper respond to a disabled student winning a big scholarship by just talking about Alma's dreams and academic achievements.

This is a screenshot link, so I don't have an accessible version, but the piece describes the surprise announcement when Alma won a full-ride to St. Catherine's in St. Paul, MN. It describes her academic achievements and interests, her writing, and otherwise offers her as a full person. Nowhere does it use words like "overcome" or "inspiration" to others.

This happened because her mother, when contacted by the local paper for a surprise story, taught them how not to cover her daughter.

Go advocacy.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Bioethics of Cognitive Drugs for Down Syndrome

"Ally’s story, and Penny’s story, don’t negate the significance of these new neurological findings, or the fact that drug interventions for cognition will come as good news for some people with Down syndrome. I am not certain that Penny needs medical interventions to improve her cognition, but I know she needs a social context that welcomes her."

Amy Julia Becker on the ethics of a "pill for Down syndrome," in The Atlantic.

I think about these issues all the time. There's a major trial going on in Chicago, in which we are not participating, but Nico frequently reveals frustration at his communication delays. If a pill could help him through those, I'm pretty sure he'd consent to it.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

#CripTheVote - Voting and Autism

It's voting day in Illinois. Today I'm going to vote in my first consequential presidential primary of my life. In all other primaries since 1992, the decision had been pretty much made by the time the primary got to me (except in 2008. IL was consequential, but Obama was obviously going to win his home state, so ...).

I'm most excited about voting for Kim Foxx for Cook County States Attorney, hoping to throw out Anita Alvarez, who has not held bad cops accountable for their actions. 

Here's a piece from the Washington Post on a woman helping her autistic son register to vote. It mentions the hashtag #CripTheVote, which is nice to see. Twitter activism has real impact!
Recently, however, I noticed the Twitter hashtag #CripTheVote, which is a rallying call to political candidates to take note of this huge constituency. As a disability rights advocate, I retweeted dutifully. The shadow of sadness for Nat never quite cleared, though, and one day I found myself angry about it: Why couldn’t Nat vote? Who was to say that he couldn’t make such decisions for himself?

Monday, March 14, 2016

Where Is Hope - Police Violence and Disability

Today at the Ed Roberts Campus in Berkeley, CA, I'll be attending a showing of Where is Hope, a film on police violence and disability. I've seen the film, and it's direct and powerful, forcing viewers to really think about the experience of violence at the hands of law enforcement, and particularly why that violence falls so heavily on people with disabilities.

Here's the event page. If  you're in the area, come see it. Or follow them on Facebook/Twitter and find out when there's a showing you can attend.

Here's a piece by Moore on a forum on the issue from 2001, but he's been working on this since the early 90s. I feel very fortunate to be able to learn more about the history of this movement from him.

If you are concerned about police use of force and disability - and if you read this page you probably are - you could try to bring Moore and his co-creator, Emmitt Thrower, to your campus, organization, or community. 

Friday, March 11, 2016

Debating the Cold War

Charles Pierce has a piece on the many victims of the Cold War in Latin America. It's being raised as an issue versus Sanders (and will be used to hammer him in the general, if he gets there, because much of America remains afraid of "socialists" and "Communists").

History in public!

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Intersectionality: Including Disability In the Police Use-of-Force Discussion

Yesterday the Ruderman Family Foundation published their White Paper on Media Coverage of Law Enforcement Use of Force and Disability. I have been working with Lawrence Carter-Long on this for months, tracking hundreds of newspaper stories. We see disability as a missing piece in so many of the critical conversations about police use-of-force and hope this document functions as a useful tool to help shift our perceptions.

One of our concerns, and something I think about daily as I've been writing on this beat for most of the last three years, was to make sure that our contribution added to the broader efforts to reform American policing, rather than offered a way to derail from critical ongoing conversations such as Campaign Zero and Black Lives Matter.

On Monday morning, Chicago Public Radio (WBEZ) had me on their show "The Morning Shift" to talk about the white paper. Tony Sarabia, the host, gave me a chance to talk about our intersectional approach, asking:
Sarabia: Does what you're doing, putting it into a different context, does it minimize what so many people have been pointing out lately, that this is an attack on African-American civilians.

Me: It /is/ an attack on African-American civilians. And it plays into our long history of both individual and structural racism in American society. But one of the things that we've learned under the principles of intersectionality, is that when you are marginalized in multiple ways, you are multiply endangered.
So for example, many of these names of high profile victims of police violence - Kajieme Powell, Eric Garner, Sandra Bland, Freddie Gray - these were all African-Americans and that's not a coincidence. It's an indictment of our, of the racism in American society. But all four of those people were also disabled ... and I don't think that's a coincidence either. So if we're really going to work on this, we need to look at these people as whole people, and think about the ways that racism and ableism intersect with each other and magnify each other. 
We wrote something similar in the White Paper:
Taking an intersectional approach allows us to examine the roles of ableism—individual or structural discrimination against people with disabilities—in police use of force, without ignoring racism, classism, sexism, or other relevant issues.

We argue that disability intersects with other factors (such as race, class, gender, and sexuality) to magnify degrees of marginalization and enhance risk of violence. When the media ignores or mishandles a major factor, as we contend they generally do with disability, it becomes harder to effect change. We also operate from a broad, cross-category, set of definitions for disability, inclusive of physical, developmental, intellectual, psychiatric, emotional, and any other form of disability that might fall under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Intersectionality is tricky. It's not a magic word that cures all forms of unconscious bias. It remains my aspiration, however, in every word I write about social justice and civil rights.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

More "Special Rights" for "Special Needs"

Yesterday I wrote about an ID Card for autistic drivers, with links to similar stories.

Now we have "autistic wrist bands."

These are well intentioned efforts to stop police from hurting neurodiverse people. There's a better way, though, and that's to train police not to hurt people who aren't causing active threats.

As always, I quote my friend Jisun:
It is not an individual’s responsibility to wear or show evidence of his or her diagnosis in order to remain safe and retain their basic civil rights.
Read the post. Keep this in mind.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Three Bills In Florida on Police and Disability

There are three new bills working their way through the Florida legislature on policing and disability. One of the interesting things about disability is that even people who refuse to consider most structural reforms to policing and reject the #BlackLivesMatter movement are still willing to push for reforms when it comes to disability.

That's actually a problem. My argument is that the issues with disability and law enforcement reveal broader issues with policing and society at large. Fixing that is tricky and involves widespread reforms, so instead lawmakers like to do two things:

  1. Provide disability-specific training for cops. Lawrence Carter-Long (my frequent collaborator) and I have taken to calling this the "Special needs cops" approach. It is not meant to be complementary. It's basically fine but limited in impact.
  2. Less frequently, but worse, is to find a way to label disabled people so that cops can recognize them as disabled and give them extra rights. But no one should have to label themselves in order to receive their basic rights under our laws (from the Constitution to the ADA and beyond).
Florida, it turns out, is doing both right now (h/t Leroy Moore for this link), along with a third bill (which I support) defending the rights of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities when being interrogated.

Here are the bills:
  • CS/CS/SB 936 [my emphasis] - "Citing this act as the "The Wes Kleinert Fair Interview Act"; requiring the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles to issue an identification card exhibiting a special designation for a person who has a developmental disability under certain circumstances; requiring a law enforcement officer, correctional officer, or another public safety official to make a good faith effort, upon the request of a parent, a guardian, or the individual, to ensure that specified professionals are present at all interviews of an individual diagnosed with autism or an autism spectrum disorder, etc."
  • CS/CS/HB 1043 - Interviews of Victims, Suspects, or Defendants with Autism Spectrum Disorder: Designates act "Wes Kleinert Fair Interview Act"; requires qualified professional or relative or caretaker of certain individuals to assist law enforcement officer, correctional officer, or other public safety official during interviews in specified circumstances; provides responsibility for payment of related expenses; prohibits failure to have qualified professional, relative, or caretaker present from serving as basis for specified actions; requires agencies to develop & implement appropriate policies & procedures & provide training.
  • SB 1352 - Autism Awareness Training for Law Enforcement Officers; Requiring the Department of Law Enforcement to establish an online continued employment training component relating to autism spectrum disorder; providing that completion of the training may count toward continued employment instruction requirements, etc.
Previous coverage of my trouble with labeling provisions:

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Disability and Media: Inspiration Porn Continued

One of the continuing issues I address is inspiration porn, media that may seem to praise disabled people, but in reality objectifies and dehumanizes. I wrote on it recently here.

After it came out, Lydia Brown, one of my favorite writers, let me know that they also had a recent post about the "Down syndrome wrestling story," which I gladly share. Must read! Their categories were a little different than mine (in part due to speaking broadly about the genre, whereas I focused most recently just on the slice of stories on teenagers with Down syndrome):
(1) Disabled person does something extremely extraordinary (climbs Mt. Everest, is elected to a country's highest governing body, publishes New York Times bestseller, etc.), and it's presented as inspiring because the person is disabled, and not because 99% of the total population (disabled and non-disabled) could have never achieved it.
(2) Disabled person does something pretty mundane for most people (graduates middle school, plays in a basketball game, bakes cookies, etc.), and it's presented as inspiring because apparently disabled people are assumed to be incapable of doing ... anything. At all. With or without adaptive equipment. With or without practice and instruction geared to their learning style.
(3) Non-disabled person does something not overtly negative or generally shitty to disabled person (doesn't call them names, invites them to a birthday party or a prom, doesn't discriminate against them during a job interview, etc.), and it's presented as inspiring because LOOK AT THE MAGNANIMOUS, KIND-HEARTED (non-disabled) SAINT BEING NICE TO A PERSON SUFFERING FROM A DISABILITY. (*language intentional)
(Note there is often a racial component to these stories too: white disabled people and or white "helpers" present more easily accepted caricatures of saintly, angelic, heroic, courageous, inspirations.)
As always, read the whole thing!

Friday, March 4, 2016

Racism/Ableism: New Rule from Department of Education

Last week I was pleased to see the announcement of this new rule tracking ways in which racism and ableism intersect in our school system. From the National Council on Disability press release:
The National Council on Disability (NCD) – an independent federal agency – applauds the new “Equity in IDEA” rule proposed by the U.S. Department of Education which seeks to address widespread disparities in the treatment of students of color with disabilities who too often enter the "school-to-prison pipeline,” which refers to all policies and practices that have the effect of pushing students – especially those most at risk – out of classrooms and into juvenile and criminal justice systems. 
Some of my reporting on racism/ableism intersections in schools.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Sex with Shakespeare

Jillian Keenan, one of my favorite writers, has a new book: Sex with Shakespeare.

The blurb:
When it came to understanding love, a teenage Jillian Keenan had nothing to guide her—until a production of The Tempest sent Shakespeare’s language flowing through her blood for the first time. In Sex with Shakespeare, she tells the story of how the Bard’s plays helped her embrace her unusual sexual identity and find a love story of her own.
Four hundred years after Shakespeare’s death, Keenan’s smart and passionate memoir brings new life to his work. With fourteen of his plays as a springboard, she explores the many facets of love and sexuality—from desire and communication to fetish and fantasy. In A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Keenan unmasks Helena as a sexual masochist—like Jillian herself. In Macbeth, she examines criminalized sexual identities and the dark side of “privacy.” The Taming of the Shrew goes inside the secret world of bondage, domination, and sadomasochism, while King Lear exposes the ill-fated king as a possible sexual predator. Moving through the canon, Keenan makes it abundantly clear that literature is a conversation. In Sex with Shakespeare, words are love. 
I know Keenan's work through her writing against corporal punishment of children. She persuasively argues it's sexual abuse. She's also written extensively on kink as identity.

What I find interesting here is the way that we need to process aspects of our identity that society deems deviant (or at least atypical) through broadly accepted cultural products. It's a way of finding patterns that give us permission to be ourselves (even if most of us don't then take our complex self and place it in the pages of the New York Times, as Keenan did). For Keenan, it was Shakespeare, but as K, a literary critic and friend of mine pointed out, there's a world of people who have found similar self recognition in the world of Jane Austen, or other modes of fiction.

In the end, as always, my argument is this: Representation matters. So does the ability to read and process great literature.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

End The Office Hour: Guns on Campus

Professor Dan Kline at University of Alaska - Arkansas speaks about violence, guns on campus, and the mistake the Alaska Legislature is making.
While some schools worry about issuing psychological trigger warnings about emotional material, UA professors would be worrying about actual triggers.

“The presence of a gun fundamentally would change the kind of things I would feel comfortable teaching and the way I would react and interact with students,” Kline said. “There’s an implied threat there. Not an implied threat. There is a threat there. Whether it is direct or indirect, the presence of guns is correlated with more violence.”
The University of Houston - Downtown (not the same university as the Houston I've been writing about) has released their draft guns policy. Yesterday, University of Houston did the same.

There are many things to say about these policies, but here's one that hasn't been heavily reported.

The draft policies both deny faculty the right to ban guns from their offices (on pain of a $10000 fine. CLARIFICATION: The fine would be for the university, not individual faculty).

Meanwhile, Sources on faculty at both institutions tell me that they are required to continue to hold office hours as part of their duties as a faculty member. Failure to hold office hours could result in negative results in tenure, promotion, and other review procedures. 

Therefore, faculty members now have to choose between being cornered in their offices by a student with a concealed handgun or suffering professional consequence for abandoning office hours.

The universities are being pushed by the legislature to permit guns on campus, but they get to define professional obligations in any way they want. That must include allowing faculty to end office hours.

And for the record, guns are allowed in admin offices too. It's a disaster all around. Right now, though, I am focused on the needs of my colleagues. 

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Bunnies with Teeth: Newman resigns

This was good news:
My piece on the illegality of his plan under Section 504 of the 1973 Rehabilitation act was here, for The Establishment.
Welcome to the Trumpification of higher ed.
There are many reasons to be concerned about the bunny-drowning president. He’s trying to discard at-risk students, ignore the best traditions of Catholic higher education, and attack core principles of academic freedom and the meaning of tenure. What’s gotten less attention is this: the tool Newman’s administration hoped to utilize involved identifying mentally disabled students and driving them from the university. That’s not just ableist; it’s also probably illegal.
Both the Faculty members who stood up to Newman (prompting the now infamous bunny comment) and the student newspaper that reported on it deserve a lot of credit, followed by the general uprising from more students, faculty, parents, and beyond.

One underreported angle: Accreditation. From Inside Higher Ed:
In June, Mount St. Mary's University received reaffirmation of its accreditation, with strong reviews, from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
But after a month of controversy at the Maryland institution, Middle States may be having second thoughts. It has told the university that it must provide answers by March 15 to questions about how “recent developments” may “have implications for continued compliance” with one requirement and four standards that are crucial to being accredited. And the standards in question aren’t minor technical issues, but core requirements on issues such as integrity, admissions and the way faculty members are treated.
Alas, he's not alone. See the University of Iowa and beyond. Swaggering CEOs who think they can fix higher ed, or lower ed, for that matter. Turns out swaggering CEOs are generally fairly ignorant about education.
At any rate. this is good for the Mount, and best of luck to them going forward. And watch out for killer rabbits that jump about and have sharp teeth.