End Ableism

There is a weekly Twitter informational tweet-a-thon of sorts called #SaturdaySchool.  Last Saturday, March 11th, the session called to #EndAbleism.  Merriam-Webster defines ableism as:  

discrimination or prejudice against individuals with disabilities

You’ll learn a lot about yourself if you Google the term ableism and read a few articles. And just in case you didn’t know, people with one disability can and often are ableist when it comes to other disabilites.  They don’t think about it. It’s unintentional. Isn’t it all?

I see TONS of ableist language used by activists on-line. I need to do better calling it out. Most times I notice the language & I don’t share those tweets. However, sometimes I share because I don’t notice the ableist language being used. I’m working on it.

It is exhausting to check people because people use ableist language so frequently.  It feels like very other post I read says “stupid” “dumb” “moron” “idiot” “psycho” “mental” …  I did learn that using swear words is waaaay better than using ableist language… So in that respect, it was a relatively easy transition.

I was initially irked when, my now dear Twitter friend, @MxPhoenix  would seemingly CONSTANTLY inform me of my ableist language.  I spoke about it with people offline As I verbally defended my right to use ableist language, I saw how ridiculous I was being.

YOU don’t get to say what’s OK or what’s not ableist.  Just like racists and misogynists don’t get a say on how their language offends us. Once people tell you how it harms people, who are not you, if you mean no harm, why continue the language use?  There are other words to use.  Even if someone is mentally ill, why do you think it’s OK to use that fact as an insult? 

We have to check ourselves. I checked myself many times with @MxPhoenix appearing as a tiny being floating above my shoulder urging me to choose different language.

As I read the #EndAbleism tweets, it just seemed like some people weren’t as empathic or as understanding as I thought they would be. I was shocked. Because while I was irked at my Twitter buddy, I never responded to them or anyone that I had a right to use that language. Some of these people sounded like racists asking why they can’t say N*gg*r.  We have to do better.

But for all of you who can’t grasp that ableist language can be harmful, let me put it into a way you can understand.

Above is the actual title of a recent article in the New York Times.  Now, granted this is an op-ed column.  But let’s change the ableist language to let’s say…. Misogynistic language:

Clinton vs Press: Cunty, bitchy love.

Racist language:

Obama vs Press: Nigger, monkey love

Homophobic language:

Anderson Cooper vs Press: Faggoty, no homo love

Not ok, right?  Now I can write a racist paragraph or homophobic paragraph or misogynistic paragraph to prove my point, but I don’t think that’s necessary. #EndAbleism 

Why Can’t We Have Our Own Shit?: Alt-Black Perspectives

Last night, I went to sleep after reading a few tweets about the Black Perspectives blog.  They were disturbing.  To sum it up, white writers were contributing to the Black Perspectives blog.  How?  Why?  Like WTF?

I woke up this morning and I reached out to my gf to see if she was following.  After a long discussion, I said this is not the space for inclusion and she responded “Why can’t we have our own shit?” EXACTLY THIS!!!

I was very annoyed.  But moreso, I was hurt.  I really championed Black Perspectives because that’s what I thought it was.  I thought “This is great.  It’s thought pieces for us and by us.” And to see it infiltrated by white people— No that’s not accurate—to see US invite white writers/scholars into our space of black thought and perspective was and is overwhelming.  Like WTF do we have to do to have a Black space?  Free of white thought?  The editor, Keisha N. Blain, had this to say of the engagement that occurred on Twitter on this subject:

“Many used the opportunity to publicly denounce AAIHS for having white bloggers in general. They accused us of creating a space to amplify white voices over black ones. I’ll leave it up to readers to decide if that’s the case. What I will say is that as an organization and as a blog, we value diversity and inclusion and ensure that pieces are accurate in their portrayal of black thought, history, and culture.”

I’m all for diversity and inclusion. But someone please tell me how TF white people can have Black thought or black perspective.  PLEASE.  I think the African American Intellectual Historical Society (AAIHS), via Black Perspectives, is doing a disservice to Black writers and scholars, as well as their reading audience when they rob us of actual black voices. Keisha painstakingly explains what went on behind the scenes and the Twitter fallout.  But you don’t need to know the back story of why this white writer is here in order to know that they shouldn’t be here.

AAIHS publishes great pieces.  I fell in love with it immediately.  I cannot take that away from them.  But I cannot love this.  I cannot love a diversity that isn’t true to the intent of the project.  When I read Black Perspectives, I expect to actually read a piece written by, and from the perspective of a Black person.  Wherever he or she may be.  You don’t have to be an intellectual to understand that.  

I started using Twitter in 2016.  I followed Huffington Post Black Voices and I began to notice a startling trend.

It just didn’t make any sense to me. I kept seeing white writers from this entity that claimed to be Black voices.  This is why I was so excited to see Black Perspectives.  We need something exclusive and I thought that’s what this was.

Including white writers gives the appearance that you don’t believe you can get enough content from Black people and that is simply untrue. But whatever the case, a blog, called Black Perspectives implies just that and to do anything else is disingenuous.

Justice For Kalief Will Come When We Shut Down Rikers

There was a New Yorker magazine article in 2015 that was circulating on Facebook about Kalief Browder.  I read it several times.  An uncontrollable flow of tears streamed down my face as I read it.  People sent me the article via private chat.  It was awful. Kalief had committed suicide after spending 3 years in jail.  2 of which he spent in solitary confinement.  He was never convicted of a crime. Everyone was saddened and enraged.  Kalief was too young to die this senseless death and his time at Rikers was nothing short of torture.  

Although I still protested occasionally, I had not been active in any organizations for years.  One of my former comrades contacted me and asked me to join her in trying to Shut Down Rikers.  I said absolutely. I met his brother, Akeem, and many others that shared a passion for stopping these injustices. 

(From Left to Right – Adrian Marie Jones, Lan-Anh Nguyen, Akeem Browder, Jacinta Robles, Mr. Five, Kenneth Shelton)

Organizing was long and hard. Different projects began because of our interactions with inmates. Humans of Rikers and Women of Rikers to name a couple.  Kalief’s law was passed by the State Assembly but has sense been blocked by the Republican controlled Senate.

Kalief and Akeem’s mother, Venida Browder, passed away before she could see the fruits of her labor. I believe she died of a broken heart as was espoused by a NY Daily News article. We are still awaiting justice.

Today, Shawn “Jay-z” Carter brings  Kalief’s story to the forefront in his 6 part television series “TIME: THE KALIEF BROWDER STORY” We urge you to watch and share your thoughts.  Get your families and friends to watch. Use #KaliefBrowder when posting on social media so we can capture your thoughts.

It is important to understand that the Campaign to Shut Down Rikers does not want to open new jails.  We want services in its stead. The building isn’t the only problem, it is the system. So we are committed to demanding that the lawmakers invest in the communities not jails.

On any given day, Kalief’s brother Akeem is working tirelessly to ensure that his brother’s death was not on vain. Each and every day, we all think about Kalief and his heartbroken mother and hope we can give them both justice after death.

Please get involved.

You can contact the Campaign to Shut Down Rikers via Website shutdownrikers.net Twitter @shutdownrikers, Facebook @campaigntoshutdownrikers and Instagram @shutdownRikers

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