Racialicious

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Posts tagged "ableism"

**TRIGGER WARNING: Rape/sexual violence, physical violence**

We should recognize that, at least to some extent, the over-reportage of transit oriented violence plays on the fears of those who are not transit dependent– a commuter class that might have various options for getting from place to place, not a gendered working class that must inhabit and pass through urban interstices daily. That being said, we should continue to invite a multitude of voices in our critical dialogues and look at platforms like HarassMap (for example) as blueprints for how transit riders might participate in the mapping of public violence rather than simply running scared that they may be attacked at any given moment.

Public transit is not just backdrop to these events- it is often rehabbed as a viable ‘green’ option for the new urban cool or it is tragically pathologized. There is a logic at work, which influences how different bodies are understood in relation to these particular types of spaces. It is precisely because certain types of bodies are seen as disposable in the first place that these violent acts continue to occur. Therefore any critical reflection must employ an intersectional approach that takes up the politics of mobility, in relation to race, class and gender and space.

Globally, disabled people, most of whom are bodies of color, experience structural violence, monstrous neglect and economic disenfranchisement in ways that render such conditions normal. So, because our lives and bodies have been, and continue to be, systematically relegated to the margins of societal consciousness, we as disabled segments of society personify the bottom rung of otherness. Therefore, we are operating at “negative ten” as it were. And because we are operating at “negative ten,” “zero” is celebrated as the benchmark of our well-being, human dignity, and self-determination.

On no account do I (as a “wheelie”) marvel in gratitude when I access a ramp, an elevator, or wheelchair accessible restrooms because on no account do my able bodied counterparts (“non wheelies”) marvel in gratitude when they access a flight of stairs, an escalator, or “regular” restrooms. Eliminating infrastructural barriers that prevent people with visible disabilities from negotiating space within the built environment is not something we should celebrate as a crucial milestone in our effort to deconstruct able normative supremacy (to do so is to invoke the zero mentality) because it is tremendously reductionist and prevents us from having nuanced conversations about disabled embodiment, exploring Crip subjectivities and deconstructing deeply entrenched manifestations of ableism (read: moving from zero to ten).

Non-disabled people receive support all of the time, but because such “help” is built into social institutions and normalized it looks like independence. If the entire world is constructed with your body and bodily experience in mind, allowing you to move, albeit within the constraints of race, gender, and class, then that is support, institutional support. To demand institutional support, as disabled people, is to move beyond “the zero mentality,” bordering on the burdensome. Well, guess what? Because my Crip subjectivity and disabled embodiment reconfigure the spaces through which I move, my body and the complex, painful, magnificent experiences attached to it deserves more than zero. Indeed, it deserves a perfect ten.

Eddie Ndopu, “Able Normative Supremacy And The Zero Mentality,” The Feminist Wire 2/5/13