Friday, March 30, 2018

Love Ain't Enough

Roxane Gay wrote about the new "Roseanne" for the New York Times with typical brilliance, including this paragraph:
As I watched the first two episodes of the “Roseanne” reboot, I thought again about accountability. I laughed, yes, and enjoyed seeing the Conner family back on my screen. My first reaction was that the show was excellent. But I could not set aside what I know of Roseanne Barr and how toxic and dangerous her current public persona is. I could not overlook how the Conner family came together to support Mark as he was bullied at school for his gender presentation, after voting for a president who actively works against the transgender community. They voted for a president who doesn’t think the black life of their granddaughter matters. They act as if love can protect the most vulnerable members of their family from the repercussions of their political choices. It cannot.
I think about this a lot in the context of people in my extended family and friend network who, in particular, care about my son. They know him. They love him. They recognize that he has a discrete set of needs and that meeting those needs requires complex systems aligned just right (to be clear: my son's needs and vulnerabilities are not as intense as the fictional characters in the sitcom or the real people from those communities; pretty intense though). 

But they voted for Trump, who has vowed to strip away the systems that support my son's needs. 

Their love is not enough. 

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Rape and History Departments

I'm writing a piece right now on sexual harassment and history departments (and Title IX offices). This piece from Catherine Clinton came through my feed. Ample warnings for descriptions of rape and harassment. A sample:
Finding myself on the job market several years later in 1987 in New Orleans, out of nowhere, apropos of nothing, a rival male scholar (also on the job market) suggested, while standing in a circle of male historians at the book exhibit, that I should just go with him up to his hotel room and “get it over with,” as it was inevitable that “he would have his way with me.” I was dumbfounded, and upbraided him, but what alarmed me most was none of the other men called him on this behavior. When I phoned a male mentor who knew this character, he tried to smooth over the incident, remarking my rival might have been joking, or might have been drunk (at eleven o’clock in the morning!), and suggested I ignore him. But later that day I was told by a “friend” that this historian had told a luncheon table full of the most eminent southern historians of the Civil War that I was unable to secure a job because I had a reputation for sleeping with married historians, and departments were afraid to hire me. Setting aside that such trash talk was totally false, I was aghast. But again, I felt there was nothing I could do to derail such sexist slander.
The question is ... has anything changed?

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Guns and Fox

I went on Fox Business and got yelled at a bunch, as expected. It was an interesting experience to be shouted at about demonizing "objects" by folks who treat those objects as if they were the golden calf. I'm not sure the conversation in such a format is useful. I'm also such a visual person that it's hard to fake eye contact when I'm actually in a tiny room in Minneapolis staring at a camera lens (and a clock ticking to the right of the lens).

I wrote this, in February, on guns:
I am not saying that we should criminalize all private ownership of firearms. The burden of such mass criminalization would mostly fall on non-white and poor people anyway. But we must dethrone firearms as a specially protected class of objects in our most important political documents. They should be treated like all other tools: assessed, regulated, studied, insured, and subject to legal remedy when we need to hold both owners and manufacturers responsible for their use. In fact, these moves to keep better track of firearms and hold appropriate parties liable ought to be a nice incremental consensus position. It isn't, thanks to the Second Amendment.
No one read it much, but I needed to put the thoughts down. Essay writing is iterative and often prospective

Then Justice Stephens wrote a call to repeal the amendment for the New York Times and suddenly I got invites onto Tucker Carlson and this show "Kennedy," which I hadn't seen.  I hadn't done this type of "people shouting at me" TV, so I thought I'd try it. A couple dozen more reps and I think I'd get pretty good at it, but I'm not sure that will happen.

You can watch the video here. I'd embed it but their video player's code is buggy.

P.S. John Paul Stephens was appointed by a Republican and identified as a moderate Republican. If he's not a Republican today, it's worth asking why. But laughing and mocking me also works.

Domestic Terrorism - Enough Lone Wolves make a Pack


My latest for Pacific Standard. And there are hundreds more incidents.

One good response has been to point out that instead of calling these men terrorists, we should disregard "terrorist" as a category. This is wholly correct, but I don't know how to effect the cultural changes to make that possible. Expanding the category seems more feasible.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Non Apologies Aren't Apologies

I wrote for Pacific Standard on not accepting apologies as apologies just because the famous guy says the word "apology." In the case of Sherman Alexie, he used his apology to smear

Friday, March 23, 2018

The Atlantic Hires Right-Wing Racist Sexist Columnist

I know that it's a complicated moment to hire right-wing writers. The right-wing itself has become so radicalized, regressive, and violent, that no writer emerges to prominence without promoting terrible things. I don't have a solution other than to change our culture, change our politics, change our discourse, change.

But how do we do that without drawing a line of some sorts? Without saying that if you advocate for horrible, violent, bigoted, positions, you're not welcome?

This can't be just glossed over. I don't know what else to say.


Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Stopping Gun Violence - Lydia Brown writes for The Task Force

This is very good. Starts with demilitarization, which is word I'd like to hear more often from progressive policy types. And of particular interest to this crowd:
3. Do not insert mental illness or disability into gun violence policy-making. 
Linking mental health to gun violence is a myth that must be put to rest, and we are committed to countering the shaming of people with mental health issues from all sides in the gun debate.
As an intersectional progressive organization, the National LGBTQ Task Force is a strong supporter of disability rights (including the rights of people with psychiatric disabilities and mental illness, or who identify as mad), and believes that advocacy around mental health should be led by and for people with lived experience as consumers and patients.
Policies that single out people with mental illnesses or psychosocial disabilities, such as tying mental health reform advocacy to gun violence prevention advocacy, stigmatize people with mental illnesses/ psychosocial disabilities as violent, and are not effective. That stigma directly causes many harms including increased stereotyping, medical discrimination, heightened risk of police violence, and lower likelihood that people who would like to access supports, services, or treatments will seek them out. Even mention of mental health reform in the context of gun control and gun violence prevention is stigmatizing and harmful. Measures such as law enforcement registries of people with mental illness or who have been institutionalized, increased police access to mental health treatment records, imposition of a psychological or psychiatric evaluation in the gun purchasing process, or increased funding for assisted outpatient treatment (a form of coercive treatment) will not curb gun violence but will add to pervasive stigma, and will establish dangerous precedents on the legal rights of people with disabilities.
As such, we advocate strongly against any use of mental health as a criteria or category related to gun ownership or gun violence prevention. We recommend that when discussions of mental health arise, they are referred and moved to other forums unrelated to gun violence prevention because the use of mental health within this context will generally imply the outdated and mistaken notion that mental illness and psychiatric disabilities lead to violence, and by extension harm people with disabilities.
READ THE WHOLE THING.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Ohio Down Syndrome Law - Working as Intended

I am continuing to follow these laws. PA is next.

No one explains how they will actually solve the problem they are allegedly intended to solve. The rhetoric is: "Down syndrome is good, abortions after pretnatal testing are bad, so we'll make them illegal!" And too much of even the left-wing DS community applauds wildly, ignoring the way that Down syndrome is being used to undermine reproductive justice without, again, helping anyone with Down syndrome.

I often think that getting overturned by courts is exactly the desired result. The goal is to divide people. The goal is to get people who are nominally pro-choice to agree conceptually to exceptions.

Meanwhile, we're not actually having the tough conversations around the future of human procreation in the age of CRISPR.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Stephen Hawking - Bad Obituaries

I wrote for NBC about the death of Stephen Hawking, arguing:
A life like Hawking’s might easily fall into one of two ableist (discrimination or stigma based on prejudice and misconceptions about disability) tropes: The “supercrip” and the body/mind split. In the former, his accomplishments might suggest he “overcame” his disability. In the latter, his disability vanishes from the story as we emphasize the beauty of his mind.
Not only would either be untrue to Hawking’s own words about disability, it sends the wrong message to others. We need to see the scientist as a whole person with a complicated life story. He was a genius, he worked incredibly hard, he had access to great health care and social support, he had plenty of privilege and received help from countless people behind the scenes.
My editor, widely, advised me to cut a bunch on bad journalism as it becomes seriously naval-gazing for a general readership. But here's on my blog I can kvetch and overthink stuff all I want. So here are two cut paragraphs:
In 1988, a lush profile of the scientist in Time opened with, “Hawking is confined to a wheelchair, a virtual prisoner in his own body, but his intellect carries him to the far reaches of the universe.” Thirty years later, nothing has changed. . The New York Times, USA Today, Ars Technica, The Telegraph, and Science all described Hawking as “confined” to his chair. CNN used the much-loathed phrase, “wheelchair-bound.” For the Los Angeles Times, Hawking was “was chained to a wheelchair... but whose mind soared [beyond] the boundaries of the universe.” The Guardian called him a “Delphic oracle” whose “physical impairment seemed compensated by almost supernatural gifts, which allowed his mind to roam the universe freely.” Obituary writing is a tricky art, but these cliched structures reveal a desire to split the disabled body from the brilliant mind, rather than seek an integral whole person.

Then there were the cartoons. An image of him walking away from his chair into the cosmos went viral. Another cartoon showed him standing at the Pearly Gates, chair nowhere in sight. Hawking, of course, was an atheist. Obituary writing is a tricky art, but these cliched tropes reveal a desire to split the disabled body from the brilliant mind, rather than seek an integral whole person.
Obituaries for famous people are often written long in advance. I wonder how long ago these obituaries were drafted. I hope that when the next famous disabled people die, obituary writers do a little more editing.

There's a better way:
Here's two great pieces to read on Hawking:
Here's some coverage of the bad coverage.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Your own personal inclusion rider

Today news is going around Twitter about a 30 person white male "applied history" conference at Stanford. Here it is, in all its pasty glory.
It's likely most of these august chaps didn't bother to ask about diversity before taking the gig. I can't speak for what the organizers were thinking, though perhaps we'll found out. The one speaker who responded to queries on Twitter, so far, is being smug about it.

My response is this: If you are, like me, a white dude academic and/or writer, diversity needs to be part of your INITIAL response to invitations to speak.

I'm not perfect. The answers aren't always simple (sometimes I'm a lone speaker, then I try to make sure the overall series isn't all white dudes). No single event can incorporate every type of diversity in the cosmos.

But we, the white dudes, can do the work of diversifying events in which we participate. We have to.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

A Note on Stephen Hawking

Stephen Hawking, an amazing man, died yesterday.

I plan to spend much of the day being surly about the word "despite," as in, "despite his disability." Watch the tropes ...

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

ICE Targets Local Prof

ICE is trying to deport a local professor at Augsburg, destroying yet another family.

Someday, we're going to have a new government and we will need to have a reckoning. I can't really imagine what it looks like, but at least a very public process where we find out exactly who decided to destroy all these lives. At least.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Higher Ed and the NYT Op-Ed Page

I wrote for Salon: Higher Ed's got 99 problems ...

It started as a jokey, surly, listicle, then expanded into a pretty serious exercise and naming and providing a link to a broader discussion of issues that matter.


Over at Slate, Ben Mathis-Lilley put together a good list of all the NYT pieces on the "intolerant left" over the last few months. They just keep re-writing the same essay. And Jamelle Bouie, also at Slate, wrote a good piece on the real threats on campus. It's like my listicle, but serious and important. And then at Vox, Matthew Ygelsias shows that college campuses are far more supportive of free speech than elsewhere.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Autistic Child Hit by Van Driver

This is my family's school district. I'll be watching closely.
The mother of the student told KSTP she did not want her family's identity revealed publicly, and said her son told her it was the van driver's aide who assaulted him.

"My son has autism, and he can act out at times," she said. "And he told me the van driver's aide warned him to stop doing what he was doing or he would be hit. And my son said she then elbowed him in the chin and backhanded him across his cheek."
The mother said the district was informed of the incident. But she decided to file a complaint with the Ramsey County Sheriff's Office Wednesday when the same van driver's aide showed up to take her son to school.
There's video monitoring on these vans but ... it was turned off.

I am angry. I am also afraid for my son. I worry about the abusers all the time and don't know what I can do to help, other than to keep writing (on a macro level) and keep alert (on a local level). 

Thursday, March 8, 2018

#CultOfCompliance - The Stun Belt

This was new, and ghastly, to me:
Judges are not allowed to shock defendants in their courtrooms just because they won’t answer questions, the court said, or because they fail to follow the court’s rules of decorum.
“While the trial court’s frustration with an obstreperous defendant is understandable, the judge’s disproportionate response is not. We do not believe that trial judges can use stun belts to enforce decorum,” Justice Yvonne T. Rodriguez said of Gallagher’s actions in the court’s opinion. “A stun belt is a device meant to ensure physical safety; it is not an operant conditioning collar meant to punish a defendant until he obeys a judge’s whim. This Court cannot sit idly by and say nothing when a judge turns a court of law into a Skinner Box, electrocuting a defendant until he provides the judge with behavior he likes.”
The stun belt works in some ways like a shock collar used to train dogs. Activated by a button on a remote control, the stun belt delivers an eight-second, 50,000-volt shock to the person wearing it, which immobilizes him so that bailiffs can swiftly neutralize any security threats. When activated, the stun belt can cause the person to seize, suffer heart irregularities, urinate or defecate and suffer possibly crippling anxiety as a result of fear of the shocks.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Suspensions and Minnesota Schools

Yesterday, I wrote about a series of incidents in which disabled children, mostly non-white, whose stories of arrest and abuse in Florida schools have become national news. These stories pair with policies from DC that increase the criminalization in our schools, drive parents to private schools, where they have to surrender their rights. I made it clear it was a national issue, but focused on Florida because lawmakers were pushing more guns into schools and adding more mental health services. The latter are great, in theory, but doing so in the context of mass violence continues the false association of violence with mental illness. It's a tough read, I found (as did some readers), but I tried to make some connections visible around the #CultOfCompliance.

Late in the afternoon, then, I came across a similar story from Minnesota.
Students of color and those with disabilities are twice as likely to be suspended or expelled from Minnesota schools than their white peers or students without disabilities, a new study reveals.
The statewide analysis, released Friday by the state's Department of Human Rights, showed that students of color accounted for 66 percent of all school suspensions and expulsions in the 2015-16 school year, even though they make up only 31 percent of Minnesota's student population.
Disabled students were involved in 43 percent of all suspensions and expulsions, but make up only 14 percent of the student population.
"For some schools, this information was somewhat surprising; they hadn't examined this before," Human Rights Commissioner Kevin Lindsey said. "I'm hoping, by us raising the awareness, it does stay front and center for people in Minnesota. I think there are a lot of folks in the state who want kids to succeed. Hopefully we'll see the disparities drop."
If this is a surprise to schools, they haven't been paying attention to both state and national trends. 



Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Sherman Alexie and Daniel Handler

Yesterday, NPR broke the Sherman Alexie story. It's been an odd one, even in this moment of "me too," because the allegations went public and then viral long before the story, followed by an Alexie statement that generated more news, and then finally the women's voices were heard. NPR did a great job.

I did a few days' reporting on the story after my Daniel Handler article went live, as people reached out to me. This meant that as the story emerged, but before NPR's story was published, I watched Alexie's statement land and generate news with some tiny inside knowledge. As a result, I had a few thoughts on the journalism issues of taking Alexie's statement as a simple apology.

It wasn't. It said: 1) He did bad things. 2) But not the worst things. 3) And then he smeared the source, a woman with whom he had an affair. That's not an apology and reporting it as such reinforces rape culture.

I wrote a short thread on the issue here:

Ideally, one would take such a statement and describe it more or less as I did, factually, rather than embracing Alexie's "apology" frame.

In my Daniel Handler story, I referenced a series of anonymous comments accusing Alexie. I received a little pushback on that, but felt confident in the appropriateness of citing it. I brought it up because of this twitter thread from Allie Jane Bruce, one of the women who talked about Handler.
Bruce writes, "What you will hear, if you listen, is two cis men who speak the language of liberalism, progressivism, and feminism *perfectly* and are capitalizing on it. Using it to promote themselves and their books."

We have a lot of work to do unraveling patriarchy (more on that in a forthcoming piece). Each field is going to have to reckon with how it promoted abusers to celebrity status and consider how to undo celebrity culture. One of my new mantras: community, not celebrity.

The work continues.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Academy Awards and Film Disability

Million Dollar Baby was heavily criticized by disability groups for promoting the view that being paralyzed was worse than being dead. This, of course, was also the case for the less-critically-successful Me Before You. You can see an archive of such responses here.

For Shape of Watersee Sara Nović at CNN. She writes:
Critics have been quick to declare the film a positive representation of disability -- Elisa is employed, independent and a sexual being, a rarity for a group of people often portrayed in movies and books as childlike and asexual. Then again, the only one who finds her sexually desirable is a semi-human sea creature.

Also problematic is Hawkins' American Sign Language, her only mode of communication in the film, which is abysmal -- halting, stilted and not at all like someone who'd been signing since she was a child.

Friday, March 2, 2018

Handler Cancelled - Now Fight the "Free Speech" Framing

Daniel Handler, aka Lemony Snicket, has cancelled his plans to speak at Wesleyan for commencement, and will be replaced by Anita Hill. This is the correct outcome. If somehow you missed it, I wrote about Snicket and the allegations of sexual harassment last week.

Now the usual "free speech" folks are going to claim this is about intolerance for controversial speakers. We need to resist that framing. It's about not putting a sexual harasser on stage with a woman who has spent her career fighting sexual harassment and giving them both honors. Fight the category error.

More to come on this. In the meantime, I really think Handler should just cancel his public events for awhile, do some work, and then come out with an affirmative statement about how he's going to change his conduct, and then he should change his conduct.

Meanwhile, the silence from male authors on social media has been very, well, silent. Around this and far too many other abusers in their industry. Folks notice.




Thursday, March 1, 2018

Disability Day of Mourning 2018

The folks at DDoM are aware of 143 disabled people killed by their parents or other caregivers in 2017 (if I counted correctly). 117 since the last Day of Mourning. 11 disabled people are known to have been killed in a similar fashion so far in 2018.
I wrote about the Disability Day of Mourning last year for Pacific Standard, after collaborating in a white paper for the Ruderman Family Foundation on media coverage of these types of murders. I wrote:
Small, marginalized communities are used to grief. They’re also used to being blamed for the violence perpetrated against them. A disabled person is killed by a caregiver — usually a family member — at least every week. While individual stories sometimes splash sensationally across page and screen, there’s a sense among activists that the broader context remains unknown or ignored. Worse, too, often those sensationalized stories perpetuate the idea that it’s better to be dead than disabled, rewarding the killers with sympathetic profiles and understanding.
Mourn the dead. Fight for the living. 

SF Disability Rights Advocates Sues Uber

In San Francisco, Disability Rights Advocates is suing Uber. Report from SF Examiner:

Although Uber has a wheelchair-accessible service, called Uber WAV, in the Bay Area, Disability Rights Advocates wrote in the complaint that the service is “a sham.”
The group conducted a test of the service and found that in Alameda County, not a single wheelchair-accessible Uber was available during a total of 120 tests, according to the complaint.
In more than 60 tests the group conducted in San Francisco, a wheelchair-accessible Uber was completely unavailable almost five times out of six. In the rare instance where a WAV was available, the average wait time was about five times longer than the wait for an UberX at the same location.
I wrote for Newsweek on both these types of lawsuits and the broader frame. Regulation is good. Regulation protects rights. Business models that make models by dodging regulations will inevitably harm disabled folks. I wrote:
From Uber to AirBNB to TaskRabbit, the gig economy presents itself as the hyper-flexible way to work, to get things done, and to find the professional services you need. Through promoting “sharing,” using other people’s property like cars and apartments or services like driving, repair skills, these companies have created broadly profitable industries that successfully dodge decades of red tape and other bureaucratic roadblocks.
Over the last three decades and more, access to public space and public infrastructure has been a major goal – and victory – for the disability rights movement. Thanks to numerous state and federal laws, all government services – from trains and buses to court documents and DMVs – must be made accessible. Private businesses, at least once they get to a certain size, have to provide access to their product. A restaurant needs accessible seating. A hotel needs accessible entrances and rooms. Taxis need put some WAVs on the road.
More to come on this suit and the disability issues related to the "gig economy."