Thursday, August 17, 2023

The System of Ableism Can Be Weaponized Against Anyone

Imani Barbarin is a wealth of information and so funny! If you're new new to TikTok, and you think it's all just dumb trends like eating Tide pods, Crutches & Spice is a great starting place to remove that bias against the younger forms of social media. Like any social media, it's only as good as the people you choose to follow!

Recently she tweeted this t-shirt worthy quote:

"Remember kids: It's not an inspirational story; it's a systemic failure that's being talked about through the lens of an individual good."

This could be about so many things, but she's been talking about the "adoption" (conservatorship) of Michael Oher as featured in the film The Blind Side. He's currently suing this family.

First, listen here about why she centers ableism first among prejudice against any other group (2SLGBTQLIA+, women, racism...):

"If you are a marginalized person in any other way, you're the most likely to get a disability. You're the most likely to feel the impacts of systemic and structural ableism. . . . That is the entire point of ableism in this country because ableism is the greatest weapon in their arsenal. Not only is the system designed for this, but even people within these groups will agree that disabled people deserve to be discarded. That's the point of ableism."

And this bit of history:

"We can't ignore that the Great Depression in the 1930s happened because of the 1918 flu pandemic, and the economic pressures of the Great Depression LED to the rise of fascism and eugenics whose greatest indicators initially was obsession with fitness and the perfect body, which gave way to phrenology and race science. You know that canthal tilt filter? Mmm. All that culminates in genocide. We are on a fast track towards genocide because of what is currently going on with the pandemic, and disabled and immunocompromised people are the people who are going to be impacted the most, particularly those who are Black and Brown as well. But then it'll get into the people what were disabled from Covid. You know that 20% of people who are permanently disabled from Covid, whether they were symptomatic or asymptomatic? Lots of bad things are gonna happen to them very very quickly. Happening right now. But I need y'all to start asking yourselves, What happens next?"

I said more about this very thing last spring, in Social Darwinism and "Useless Eaters" 

Then here's the gist of the current controversy:

"Basically Michael Oher is suing because the entire idea behind The Blind Side was a lie, and he was actually tricked into being put into a conservatorship and them having ownership over his entire career, money, and business management for the rest of his life. Those things are extremely difficult to get out of.  This is what disabled people have been warning about. That if you all are about "Free Brittney," you all have to reorient your thinking to be for radical autonomy for disabled people because the system of ableism could be weaponized against literally anyone. Anyone. This is what we've been warning about. There's a reason why this was so easy to do to him. There's a reason why they want trans people to get screened for autism before they receive gender affirming care. There's a reason why Black and Brown children who graduate high school are tricked into fake diplomas. Ableism is one of the greatest toolkits that could be weaponized against anyone. If your advocacy regarding anything else skips disability, all you'r creating is a loophole later on. Conservatorships and guardianships should not even be a thing. There are other less restrictive tools to help disabled people make decisions."

Finally, here she explains that whether or not he has a disability does not matter: 

"Anybody could say that anybody else has a disability. There are entire companies and organizations dedicated to stripping people who are disabled or elderly or confused in a lot of cases of their rights. The discussion of a specific diagnosis is functionally useless in advocacy around these cases because even if you do not have an official diagnosis, by virtue of you even being in a conservatorship, the courts have designated you as disabled. And that's why we need to get away from, Well, this person isn't really disabled, and THAT's why they shouldn't be treated like that. Nobody should be treated like that, right?

I went to a workshop about working with kids with disabilities wherein I was told that presenters and participants would not be asked to mask and that, no, we couldn't bring in a HEPA unit, so I participated remotely. The irony!! Here's part of the feedback I sent to the organizers afterwards:

"A lot of the evening was about inclusivity and belonging. I spend a considerable amount of time each week hearing from parents who are moving toward homeschooling or staying in remote learning -- despite wanting to be in the classroom -- because it was no longer safe for their child once masks were removed. They send me pics of HEPA filters shoved in a corner of the room and unplugged, etc. So it feels like there's a disconnect between being inclusive on one hand and, on the other, not offering physically safe spaces for kids who can't risk getting this virus (which can affect the health of the brain even in mild cases - specifically affecting oxygen levels in the prefrontal cortex, which might increase the number of kids needing help with school). They can mask, but one-way masking is far less effective than if everyone does it. Could this be considered a form of ableism -- that being immunocompromised is a disability/limitation (it's less that they're disabled and more that they're being limited by society) that should be accommodated in the classroom? To me it seems not much different from a parent who has to withdraw their child because the school has no wheelchair access."

I got an email back that they'll craft a "fulsome" response soon, and then never heard anything further. This is an "othering" that sets up some children to have less than others right out of the gate, but we're just going to keep ignoring it. It won't lead to anything good. 

And here's even more history from EVN the (Bio) Ethicist who wrote her thesis about misinformation being a threat to public health (at 10 minutes long, this is just a tiny bit of it). She explains what foundational groundwork was necessary to enable the Nazi death camps in WWII:

"How it all started was the institutionalization and then the move to euthanization of people with disabilities. . . . The way that they were able to make the general German populace comfortable with the idea was a slow boiling pot design, at least legislatively speaking. There was a huge public health campaign related to the fact that an immense amount of poverty occurred in response to losing WWI . . . This made it very easy to have a public health campaign basically calling people with disabilities useless eaters. . . . and then wouldn't we be able to do all these things with all this money if we didn't have to take care of these individuals." 

MAiD much?

If you think think this is just an American thing, it can happen everywhere. Here's just one more great one from Americans United. Here's the bulk of it, about how a very small group can garner control through changing the basic belief system of a nation:

"White Christian Nationalism (WCN) is an anti democratic political movement that's specifically rooted in racial and religious nationalism and this movement that's taking place in the US is part of a larger rise in authoritarianism that's happening all across the globe, and it is in fact having an influence on what's happening here. But there are also some very particular manifestations that make US based WCN have some features that we want to be paying attention to. This system hijacks Christian theological frameworks in order to perpetuate Christian supremacy, white supremacy and very rigid and patriarchal definitions of gender and family. The goals of this political movement are ultimately to maintain and reinforce and never let go of power and control for white Christians in the US. 
There's a series of tenants that uphold this political philosophy: the mythology of American exceptionalism, that real Americans are descendants of white Europeans, that there is a justified use of violence to protect the nation from others (and they are the ones who get to define who others are), the erasure of the separation between church and state, and the maintenance of particular economic systems to maintain wealth and ongoing resource hoarding for a tiny subset of white Christians. This set of tenants creates a very comprehensive worldview that then allows more and more beliefs to continue to make that worldview manifest in the world.  A few of those beliefs are this idea that the US should be governed through the lens of Christian values (by their definition). There's a very strong correlation between this belief system and very explicit anti-Black, anti-Indigenous, anti-immigration, anti-semitic, and anti-Muslim beliefs. And entrenched in this is the belief that white Christians are victims." 

Now that you know, pay attention to how often ableism creeps into different conversations and policies, then make others aware, and always keep in mind the growing number who are becoming disabled in front of our eyes merely because it's inconvenient for people to wear a mask.  

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