“Race does not exist outside of ability and ability does not exist outside of race” (Annamma et al., 2013, p. 6). This insight is powerfully confirmed by the experiences of the Black middle-class parents and their children in our research. LD categories, such as autism and dyslexia, are mostly treated in contemporary England as a property right for the benefit of White middle-class students—a property right to which our Black interviewees’ social class profile does not grant access. Even armed with the supposedly “scientific” warrant of a formal assessment (a certification meant to credentialize and medicalize the “condition”), Black middle-class parents’ claims were rejected. Within an educational competition where particular LD dis/ability labels can become a valuable asset, therefore, this asset is denied to the Black parents and their children. Their greater social class capital is rejected, their claims denied, and their motives questioned. In contrast, however, schools seem content to mobilize certain dis/ability labels, especially negative behavioral categories, in all too familiar ways against the parents and their children—a finding that relates to a further DisCrit tenet:
- DisCrit emphasizes the social constructions of race and ability and yet recognizes the material and psychological impacts of being labeled as raced or dis/abled, which sets one outside of the western cultural norms. (p. 11)
At the particular nexus of identities and locations (England in the early 21st century, wherein Black racial identity, middle-class social status, and a range of dis/ability labels collide) the outcomes follow a pattern that privileges White supremacy and the racial status quo. Although a dis/ability label might be a useful resource (providing additional resources or supports), it is generally denied by White power holders. Yet, dis/ability labels that serve to exclude, stigmatize, and control (emotional or behavioral disabilities) are applied without regard to national guidelines or formal procedures.
For millions of white people, “being racist” is somehow completely unrelated to articulating racist views and supporting racist policies.
The specific dissonance of Trumpism—advocacy for discriminatory, even cruel, policies combined with vehement denials that such policies are racially motivated—provides the emotional core of its appeal. It is the most recent manifestation of a contradiction as old as the United States, a society founded by slaveholders on the principle that all men are created equal.
I collect mentions of the meritocracy myth. This one comes from Kimberlé Crenshaw’s Harvard Law Review paper “Race, Reform, and Retrenchment: Transformation and Legitimation in Antidiscrimination Law” back in 1988.
Race consciousness also reinforces whites’ sense that American society is really meritocratic and thus helps prevent them from questioning the basic legitimacy of the free market. Believing both that Blacks are inferior and that the economy impartially rewards the superior over the inferior, whites see that most Blacks are indeed worse off than whites are, which reinforces their sense that the market is operating “fairly and impartially”; those who should logically be on the bottom are on the bottom. This strengthening of whites’ belief in the system in turn reinforces their beliefs that Blacks are indeed inferior. After all, equal opportunity is the rule, and the market is an impartial judge; if Blacks are on the bottom, it must reflect their relative inferiority. Racist ideology thus operates in conjunction with the class components of legal ideology to reinforce the status quo, both in terms of class and race.
The eradication of barriers has created a new dilemma for those victims of racial oppression who are not in a position to benefit from the move to formal equality. The race neutrality of the legal system creates the illusion that racism is no longer the primary factor responsible for the condition of the Black underclass; instead, as we have seen, class disparities appear to be the consequence of individual and group merit within a supposed system of equal opportunity. Moreover, the fact that there are Blacks who are economically successful gives credence both to the assertion that opportunities exist, and to the backlash attitude that Blacks have “gotten too far.” Psychologically, for Blacks who have not made it, the lack of an explanation for their underclass status may result in self-blame and other self-destructive attitudes.
The meritocracy myth and the “lowering the bar” narrative are big barriers to inclusion. This study frames the struggle as “merit vs. the diversity imperative” and identifies it as one of four primary organizational challenges to D&I.
The “Fix Injustice, Not Kids” Principle: Educational outcome disparities are not the result of deficiencies in marginalized communities’ cultures, mindsets, or grittiness, but rather of inequities. Equity initiatives focus, not on “fixing” students and families who are marginalized, but on transforming the conditions that marginalize students and families.
This series is framed for “fellow White Christians” but is a good survey of Critical Race Theory for everyone. It’s full of great quotes and links.
- The Christian and Critical Race Theory, Part 1: A Survey of the “Traditional Civil Rights Discourse” : The Front Porch “Traditional Civil Rights discourse predates and dispels allegations of cultural Marxism.”
- The Christian and Critical Race Theory, Part 2: The Segregationist Discourse and Civil Rights Retrenchment : The Front Porch “To tell the story of the rise of critical race theory historically, we have to consider the segregationist and anti-Civil Rights context that spawned it.”
- The Christian and Critical Race Theory, Part 3: A Bridge: Dr. Derrick Bell : The Front Porch “Bell’s work signaled a return to the more “radical” elements of W.E.B. Du Bois, Oliver C. Cox, Stokely Carmichael, and even Dr. King.”
- The Christian and Critical Race Theory, Part 4: Alan Freeman and the Contribution of CLS : The Front Porch “Laws reflect dominant social morality and power distribution. That’s why our laws are more likely to legitimize racism and racist systems than remedy them.”
It seems to be a fact of life that human beings cannot continue to do wrong without eventually reaching out for some rationalization to clothe their acts in the garments of righteousness. And so, with the growth of slavery, men had to convince themselves that a system which was so economically profitable was morally justifiable. The attempt to give moral sanction to a profitable system gave birth to the doctrine of white supremacy. (Where Do We Go From Here?, p. 76-77)
Racism is a doctrine of the congenital inferiority and worthlessness of a people. (Where Do We Go From Here?, p. 49)
If we had to put our finger upon the year which marked the beginning of modern race relations we should select 1493-94. This is the time when total disregard for the human rights and physical power of the non-Christian peoples of the world, the colored peoples, was officially assumed by the first two great colonizing European nations. Pope Alexander bull of demarcation issued under Spanish pressure on May 3, 1493, and its revision by the Treaty of Tordesillas (June 7, 1494), arrived at through diplomatic negotiations between Spain and Portugal, put all the heathen peoples and their resources-that is to say, especially the colored peoples of the world-at the disposal of Spain and Portugal.
This, then, is the beginning of modern race relations. It was not an abstract, natural, immemorial feeling of mutual antipathy between groups, but rather a practical exploitative relationship with its socio-attitudinal facilitation-at that time only nascent race prejudice. (Loc. 8548)
[S]ocial intolerance, which attitude may be defined as an unwillingness on the part of a dominant group to tolerate the beliefs or practices of a subordinate group because it considers these beliefs and practices to be either inimical to group solidarity or a threat to the continuity of the status quo. Race prejudice, on the other hand, is a social attitude propagated among the public by an exploiting class for the purpose of stigmatizing some group as inferior so that the exploitation of either the group itself or its resources or both may be justified. (Loc. 10083)
Source: Caste, Class, and Race
[W]hile color blindness may be a sound goal ultimately, we must realize that race is an overwhelming fact of life in this historical period. There is no black man in this country who can live “simply as a man.” His blackness is an ever-present fact of this racist society, whether he recognizes it or not. It is unlikely that this or the next generation will witness the time when race will no longer be relevant in the conduct of public affairs and in public policy decision-making. To realize this and to attempt to deal with it does not make one a racist or overly preoccupied with race; it puts one in the forefront of a significant struggle. (Black Power, p. 54).
Disability solidarity means that we are all advancing intersectional justice - that Disabled folks are working hard to achieve racial justice, economic justice, gender justice; and Black folks are holding ourselves accountable for disability justice, immigrant justice, indigenous justice, etc. Disability solidarity means the folks fighting for racial justice and disability justice are one and the same. In this way, no one is left behind.
Disability solidarity encapsulates the lived experience of Emmett Till and millions of Disabled youth of color living at the intersection he once occupied. These are the youth who continue to be profiled, criminalized, and killed for existing. They deserve to have their whole humanity affirmed. Disability solidarity saves lives and makes room for laughter, love and freedom at an intersection that does not have to continue to be the most dangerous intersection that we’ve ever held.
So intertwined are these oppressions that any attempt to rid the nation of racism without doing away with ableism yields practically nothing. The same is true in reverse. Disabled communities attempting to rid the nation of ableism find themselves having made very little headway because they are still practicing racism.
When we know from all the data available that our lives are of no value to you, that our votes do not count, that the education of our children is of no importance, then perhaps the right question is why it took so long for the fires to start? This is why we say Black Lives Matter. Is in an affirmation of our existence in the face of your insistence that we just lay down and die.
If you understand the gilets jaunes in Paris, then you don’t need to ask me why Atlanta or Minneapolis is burning. If you understand the Hong Kong protests, then you have the capacity to understand and be in solidarity with Black people in Atlanta.
This is an uprising. This is democracy breaking through.