Let’s Play Ableism Bingo!

By Carrie Griffin Basas

Editor’s Note: A few weeks ago my friend and colleague Carrie Basas wrote about Disability Rights So White: Disability and Racial Justice. This week she returns with Ableism BINGO. Thanks Carrie for dropping by some wisdom and fun. There is a PDF download of the BINGO card at the bottom of the blog post which Carrie ran through a screen-reader to hilarious results.

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A couple years ago, I was at an anti-racism training where the facilitators invited us to reflect on how they had made the space welcoming and how they had not. I listened as others gave feedback. I thought about not saying anything but it had bothered me that the registration page had listed information about gender-inclusive bathrooms and breastfeeding areas but had not explicitly invited attendees to flag any disability accommodations that they might need. I appreciated the access that they had offered, but saw a huge gap. I decided to share that feedback and came away feeling like it wasn’t received well.

In the spirit of my perpetual, uncompensated, and often tiring role as Informal Ambassador of All Things Disability, I also pointed out that I knew that they were good people because I had gone to another one of their trainings. It wasn’t that I questioned their intent or character. Had I not known them from another context, I would have hesitated to register because silence on access can be read as a message that you are not welcome. The next day, the facilitators tried again and did better—they had reflected on their miss and wanted to know more. We started again from a new place. I wanted to help and they wanted to do better; that’s the essence of repair.

I thought about this moment when I was doing that combination of cringing and laughing at Entitlement Bingo. Over the past few months, as I have vented about meetings, conferences, and the occasional school pickup to Erin, she encouraged me to write my own disability-focused bingo. We knew it would be therapeutic for me and maybe even helpful to others.

I have fond memories of bingo nights with my aunties and grandmother. I remember the frenzied management of multiple sheets, fast-action daubers, trash talk among ladies, and the smell of smoke in the air. I also remember the odd door prizes. I never won except once—and that night, I got a pen that vibrated and wrote in multiple colors. There is some irony in giving a vibrating pen to a physically disabled person. I had tried to master penmanship with my fixed elbows (AKA as “chicken wings” around my house) years earlier in school. Did I really need to up the complexity and awkwardness as a teen with a vibrating pen?

The bingo card that I’ve created below was made in a smoke-free environment. You won’t be lighting your auntie’s cigarette or collecting her money at the end, sadly. You can get out your pennies as placeholders, but please don’t give your dimes to a charity that objectifies kids with disabilities.

You might need some definitions as a way of introduction:

Ableism: discrimination against disabled people, along with the privileging of perceived “abled” people’s needs and desires. Ableism can range from hate crimes to denials of accessibility, institutionalization to employment discrimination.

Inspiration porn: We are about to enter that period of memes about the attractive non-disabled high school athlete asking the girl with disabilities to prom. Or perhaps you’ve seen something in your social media that looks like the images in this or even this. Inspiration porn is when we go over the top in celebrating disabled people for doing ordinary things. These representations are usually framed such that a non-disabled person is the true hero. Inspiration porn elevates non-disabled people over disabled people and reinforces the idea that a life with disability is not worth living. Ask yourself if you are inspired: Inspired to do what? If you have no clue, you just consumed some inspiration porn. Don’t tell your mother and please go and wash your hands. Then watch Stella Young’s excellent talk on inspiration porn.

Angry crip (cripple—and yes, I can use that word as a form of my own political empowerment) stereotype: Some folks believe that disabled people are bitter and angry to have the bodies and minds that they do. Therefore, disabled people can feel additional pressure to be acquiescent or even-tempered. We know this pressure is not unique to disability; it just takes different forms here.

Catching people, including yourself, in violations of this card should be an opening, not a closing or judgment. Truth be told, you could catch me in violations of this card at different moments. And I just might have spilled my single-origin hemp latte on the entitlement bingo card. Just because I have a disability does not mean that I do right by all people with disabilities all of the time, whatever my intent.

Happy playing—and know that I won’t judge if you light up while playing this or are slow on the daubers. Just don’t turn me into a meme or park in my spot, okay?

PDF Download of Ableism BINGO Card.

Parting Resources:

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10 Ways Whiteness Shows Up You May Not Even Realize

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Artwork from Amplifer by Tataya Fazlalizadeh

By Erin O.

This week I spent time thinking about where whiteness shows up in our everyday lives. I’m not talking the major stuff like in the White House, although it is currently a gruesome shade of white. White supremacy doesn’t always come with a sign saying “Make America Great Again,” a KKK hood, or a Confederate flag. I spent the week thinking about the everyday stuff where whiteness is ingrained in our lives and we forget how it shows up. Here is a list of ten ways whiteness shows up every day we may not realize. This list isn’t designed to make you feel bad or to feel racist, it is simply to point out how we operate and live in a system designed by white people and has legacies of whiteness built into it.

  1. English is the dominant language. Language controls and defines a lot about how we understand the world. Framing thoughts through a European created language favor whiteness.
  2. Washington State’s name and other places that use non-Native American/ Indigenous place names. Native Americans and Indigenous people were here first and had names for places, thanks to white supremacy these original place names have been eliminated and renamed for white people or white cultural norms.
  3. European and white American Centered Curriculum. Whose history gets taught and read? Hearing “I was never taught about the Japanese internment,” “I didn’t learn about Native American history except through cowboy and Indian text,” or “yeah the teacher had all the children line up by skin color to teach about slavery” these things happen because of white supremacy showing up in education.
  4. School names. Along with curriculum how many of the schools across the US are named after white people? I’m a proud alum of Lincoln Elementary, a white president who ended slavery, but still a white man. In Seattle eight of the eighteen high schools, 40%, are named after white presidents. Only one is named after a person of color, Chief Sealth. The rest are named after places or other words not associated with people. Hmmm…
  5. Money – who’s faces are on our money – white people. All the bills in my wallet feature white men, hmmm. Who get’s paid the most, white men. Gender and race pay gaps exist and are due to systemic racism.
  6. Where do you get your news? I get mine through a lot of mainstream media which is a very white-dominated field. I appreciate many of the news outlets working to understand and report more about race, it helps but it is still a white controlled media news stream. Working to diversify where you get your news helps. I make a point of reading the South Seattle Emerald because they do a great job of highlighting local stories, many of which are by people of color. Do some research to find your local equivalent, and then make a generous donation to them to keep them going.
  7. A friend shared in the Washington State Senate there are two women of color Sens. Rebecca Saldaña and Manka Dhingra. Two out of 49, yes there are more pocs in the Senate, but two women of color out of 49, means there are a lot of white people making policy on our behalf.
  8. Pick up a few statistical documents and I’ll bet within a few reports people of color data is either missing (e.g. not reporting on Native Americans/Indigenous, missing Asians or Pacific Islanders, etc.), grouped in ways not authentic to our communities and perspectives (i.e. grouping Asians with whites), or we’re benchmarking and aiming for parity with white people. As a colleague said: “I don’t want to benchmark off white women, I want us to aim for the best outcomes globally,” which may mean people of color can achieve more and give us all something better to aim for.
  9. Leadership So White. Mellody Hobson said this in her Color Brave TED Talk: “[I]magine if I walked you into a room and it was of a major corporation, like ExxonMobil, and every single person around the boardroom were black, you would think that were weird. But if I walked you into a Fortune 500 company, and everyone around the table is a white male, when will it be that we think that’s weird too?” Leadership standards and the way we look at leadership is centered on models of white male dominance.
  10. Not having your food labeled as “ethnic food.” Mainstream grocery stores often have an “ethnic food” aisle, thanks for labeling what I eat as “ethnic” but really isn’t white people food just as “ethnic?”

I mention these things not to make people mad or to shut down, but to illustrate how prevalent whiteness is in our daily lives. We can’t undo things until we can recognize them for what they are. Realistically we won’t be able to undo every piece of whiteness every day, but we can be more conscious of it and where possible call it out and work to shift norms.

As an example, a friend volunteers to pick up books weekly from the library for her daughter’s preschool classroom. She relishes and loves this volunteer assignment because she can influence the media the preschoolers see. She finds books by authors of color, books about children of color, request the library buy/add certain books to diversify the library’s collection. If she just walked in and picked up the first ten age-appropriate books she saw there is a good chance the books would feature white kids be by white authors or be books about animals and trains. With a little intentionality, we can be aware of whiteness and work to undo it.

If you subscribe to the blog, thank you. Please check fakequity.com for the most up to date version of the post. We often make grammatical and stylistic corrections after the first publishing which shows up in your inbox. If you would like to subscribe there is a sign-up box on the right sidebar.

Changing the way we advocate

By Erin O.

On Tuesday I had breakfast with a colleague who reads the blog. He joked that I start each blog post with a “I don’t know what to write about this week…” whine, then dribble on for a few hundred words. That assessment isn’t too far from the truth, but this week I know exactly what I’m going to delve into– advocacy.

In my day job, I spend a lot of time thinking about and actively working on advocacy, policy change, and community engagement. These three components are often thought of in isolation from each other, but they need to come together for smart poc-centered changes to happen.

Advocacy

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Student advocacy at a school board meeting

Advocacy is the act of publicly supporting, trying to influence a decisionmaker, and promoting a viewpoint. All of us are advocates and we all advocate for things hundreds of times a day. As an example, I was advocated at multiple times tonight when my kids asked to watch the Emoji movie, one kid advocated for M&Ms instead of strawberries for his snack, the other advocated for just the crumble part of the apple pie leftover from Pi-day and a scoop of chocolate (not vanilla) ice cream. As the target of their rudimentary but effective advocacy strategies, I held a lot of power in those asks. I had the power to fulfill their ask or to deny their requests; I gave in to all but the M&Ms.

 

On the flipside, I am often the one advocating for policy shifts at work. These acts of advocacy happen at work when my organization is making an ask about a position because we believe the change we’re asking for is better for children and families of color. When I’m advocating I’m often in a lesser position of power because I need someone else to do something. Race is interwoven into this in multiple ways, especially if I’m advocating to a mostly white group or a historically white-dominated organization I’m automatically viewed in a lesser position to be advocating from.

How it Goes Wrong

Before I talk about how all of this comes together, I want to explain how I’ve seen advocacy go wrong. For advocacy to work we have to recognize there are power dynamics at play – one person or a group has something the other person or group wants or needs. The person asking for the change needs to prove their point and convince the other person to shift their position to do what is asked. This can go wrong in so many ways and for so many reasons.

I still remember my first experience providing public testimony at the state capitol. It was on an early learning related topic, the specifics of which are long expunged from my brain. I had to drive over an hour to get to Olympia, find parking, then make it through the maze of buildings on the Capitol campus, and finally find the right room while not slipping on the slick marble floors due to the winter rain. When I finally found the room, my colleagues had already signed me in to testify and I took a seat. I sat and waited for what felt like over an hour. An hour waiting to give two-minutes of testimony, on top of already having driven over an hour and invested a lot of quarters into paying for street parking because this is the system we have for policymakers to hear from the public. When I finally testified I realized those listening already made up their minds and I was simply speaking to get on the record to share a viewpoint that wasn’t super popular.

More recently I’ve seen where advocacy can go horribly wrong in listening to other people testify. The act of advocating for something is a personal belief. The belief can be race-conscious or race-blind, it can be grounded in ‘fact’ or the other person’s version of ‘fact,’ it can be informed through authentic community engagement efforts, or through echo-chambers of listening to people whom you already agree with and reinforce a viewpoint. Perhaps it is because of our democratic engrained ways we give equal weight to allowing people to formally advocate. Anyone who can jump through all of the hoops to testify at a public meeting has the same amount of time and the same access to the podium. The problem is in the equality of the experience. The barriers to advocacy are greater for some than others. To testify a person often has to carve out at least an hour (often more) in order to give two-minutes or less of public testimony. There is also language and transportation considerations, as well as understanding what is often a mindboggling process to figuring out what are the protocols involved to advocating in this formal way. Whenever I give public testimony I still get nervous, I can only imagine what the experience is like for someone who is an immigrant or a non-English speaker.

I’m also struck by there is little way to really unpack and delve into what people are presenting during their statements. I once testified on a topic providing my viewpoint and was followed by another advocate who’s testimony was the complete opposite. In this setting there wasn’t a mechanism to help the policy makers understand facts and to unpack what is facts versus beliefs, especially when they come to race, bias, opportunity hoarding, and the ilk. A lawyer friend pointed out there is no swearing an oath to telling the truth when we testify; maybe we should have to swear that testimony is truthful and specify what is a belief not fact. (Did you catch that subtle advocacy? I just asked for a policy shift.)

How this All Comes Together and Changing the System

At the heart of advocacy is relationships. Advocacy needs at least two people, one person to ask and the other person to hear the message. When we are working on advocacy efforts we need to build and sustain relationships to get to a place of yes and activate change. These relationships need to be diverse and recognizing and balancing of formal and community power dynamics.

We also need to create more ways for advocacy to happen in settings outside of staged events and through formal testimony. While on a school tour a school health nurse shared how students using her health clinic will tell her things about their lives while at the school health clinic because it is on their campus- their home turf, but those same students are less likely to share if they are seen at a health clinic in a more traditional medical setting. Having home turf advantage is so important to leveling power in advocacy efforts, especially with communities of color and communities farthest from justice.

We all need to do our part to push government and other formal systems to shift and bend to better meet community needs. This starts by paying attention to wonky stuff like school board meetings, City Council, and other process-driven organizations. Watch government hearings to get a sense of what is happening and then talk to a few friends or others to see if they have the same take as you, this simple act of community engagement may lead to different thoughts or the start of a movement. Get into the game and over time we can change this game to be more poc-centered.

If you subscribe to the blog, thank you. Please check fakequity.com for the most up to date version of the post. We often make grammatical and stylistic corrections after the first publishing which shows up in your inbox. If you would like to subscribe there is a sign-up box on the right sidebar.

Disability Rights So White: Disability and Racial Justice

Fakequity Blogger Note: This week we welcome a guest post by my friend and colleague Carrie Basas. Carrie is our first white-ally to blog for us. I invited Carrie to write for us about disabilities; this is an area I need to learn about. -Erin

By Carrie Basas

Inspirational porn star . . .
Look we got enough problems
No need for you to call a cop who can’t solve one.
-Wheelchair Sports Camp “Hard Out Here for a Gimp”

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Photo from Carrie Basas

I come from a long line of cleaning ladies and people who passed as white because they were poor and did not want to be further marginalized. They set me up to not experience that racism—rather to benefit from white supremacy. They did their best, but hate and shame seep in and shape us.

Maybe it’s not surprising that when I was born with disabilities, I was told to pass as normal, as non-disabled. My family no longer had to worry about their skin color. Now, there was a new challenge—how to get a disabled girl through a world that would read her as “less than” and defective. Those fears—of racism and ableism—are not the same, but they are fueled by similar systems.

My parents were not disabled like me and had not received a mythical handbook on how to raise someone like me. They did their best and absorbed the messages of well-meaning others that encouraged them to make me better. Their fears became written on my body and mind, but also my motivation to do well in school.

I was “supercripping”—I tried to overcome every stereotype about disability by being palatable—smiling, kind, smart, overachieving, conflict-avoidant, tidy, and funny. I was not the disabled person that we fear—angry, bitter, lazy, benefits-receiving, argumentative, unkempt, and aggressive. I made non-disabled people feel more comfortable with disability, mostly because I wasn’t comfortable with it myself.

I didn’t realize that the disability rights movement existed until I met a POC professor who was becoming disabled and grappling with it. She introduced me to community, history, and positive identity that shook me to the core. I had a new way of seeing myself and also new tensions with those that only knew disability as deviance.

My physical and mental impairments do not disable me as much as how society reacts to me. I am disabled in the supermarket when a stranger touches my shoulder and tells me how inspired they are. I am disabled by men in former workplaces who made sexual comments and then denied them because I wasn’t a real woman. Didn’t I know?

What disability also gave me is people of color in my life, a place where I could just be and know what community could look like. Disability justice and racial justice are intertwined. Stigma about each experience can make us avoid exploring that connection. I might say that young Black men are more likely to have disabilities than people who look like me, that disability is caused by discrimination and resource inequities and that discrimination makes us sicker, that most people killed by police are our shared brothers and sisters. But the pain of our distinct discrimination can be too much to bear, let alone intersect. As one colleague said, “Why would I claim disability when part of my fight is to make sure that my people are not labeled more?”

I sit in spaces where disabled people bemoan the fact that POCs don’t include them on the agenda. We each have work to do, but disability rights can pause and learn first from POC activism:

Representation in leadership matters: Non-disabled leaders (siblings, parents) of disability rights organizations claim to change the conversation about disability but never cede their power. That reminds me of the NAACP’s early days of benevolent whites insisting on leading. That had to change, as does this. Being an ally is not a proxy for discrimination and experience, just as I do not know racial profiling in my bones just because my husband experiences it.

Effective organizing is about individual and collective needs: Recognize where we are, but don’t rush to ensure safety for those with power. There is no checklist, no “one-time woke training,” that will relieve the discomfort of not knowing how to be with another person’s reality. Be humble. Be open-hearted. Be uncomfortable: that’s the work. I am uncomfortable constantly in an ableist world. I need to be uncomfortable with how much racism has given me power.

Faking is obvious: Many of us in disability rights understand the rising, patronizing tone used for children when it is used on us. We see people talk to non-disabled people and ask them to speak to our experiences. Don’t do that to our POC friends. Being fake doesn’t dismantle racism or ableism; it perpetuates it.

Being an ally is not an additive process: In the foreword to “When They Call You a Terrorist,” Angela Davis writes that fruitful movements “… call for an inclusiveness that does not sacrifice particularity.” In disability communities, we are used to other organizations failing us and we start to expect it. We can rush to argue that ableism deserves as much airtime as racism. They are different. We degrade one another’s experiences when we claim anything else.

We need one another for the growth of our movements and mutual recognition. We must take off our survival masks and talk about our shared overrepresentation in prisons, discrimination by doctors that wouldn’t want to be us, schools that would rather outsource us to other buildings and teachers. We need community and collaboration. Sometimes, we just need to be one another’s witnesses—that we do not face identical oppression, but oppression corrodes us and blocks our work. Where we most need to have a conversation is about how disability leadership is too white, male, English-speaking, middle class, wheelchair-using, inspirational. In many ways, disability is too me.

Professor Mari Matsuda encourages us to “Ask the other question.” Ask what we haven’t considered, whose voices are missing from our movements. We can work on dismantling systems that keep us apart and yet both marginalized. When we do, I hope that our soundtrack will be crip hop.

As I make our playlist, meet some POCs making sure that disability is not too white:

Twitter: #disabilitytoowhite


Carrie Basas works in education advocacy and formerly in civil rights law, specializing in disabilities rights. Formerly she was a law professor impressing upon law students the importance of understanding race and its impact on people. Carrie has a MEd in Education Policy, Organizations and Leadership from the University of Washington. She earned a Juris Doctorate from Harvard Law School and an Honors B.A. in Psychology with a minor in Sociology/Anthropology from Swarthmore College. However, her biggest claim to fame is some of her fashion weekend wear while hanging with her family and dog.

If you subscribe to the blog, thank you. Please check fakequity.com for the most up to date version of the post. We often make grammatical and stylistic corrections after the first publishing which shows up in your inbox. If you would like to subscribe there is a sign-up box on the right sidebar.

Stop with White Only Equity Trainings

By Erin

White people, you don’t need to hear from more white people

White people, you’ve been coddled and you are surrounded by whiteness. Wherever we go there are signs of whiteness – English language was created by white people, almost all our cash money has pictures of white males featured, sit in a professional meeting and it is most likely a white-dominated meeting. White people, you don’t need more whiteness if you’re trying to understand race and the impact of racial inequality. Let’s stop white centered racial equity trainings.

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Artwork from Amplifer.org

If you want to learn about race stop listening to white people and start listening to people of color. People of color are the ones who experience racism and the most impacted by inequities. Listening to a white person explain racism is a way of toning down the impact of racism. In these spaces, you can intellectualize and theorize about poc experiences, explain away realities, and most importantly there isn’t a need to act and change behaviors. It also allows white people to avoid confronting their own racism and biases, white safety abounds.

Diversify who you hear from

I understand people need spaces to process and think about race. We often say to white people go off and find another white partner to make sense of the complexities of race. Pocs don’t always want to be your teachers or therapist. That message is very different from having a racial equity training for all white people. Racial equity trainings filled with all white people are creating bubbles of whiteness; sounds so lovely and lyrical — it’s not. Sure, you’ll be learning about things like white fragility, systemic racism, and bias, but you’ll be learning those things from a white perspective. It would be like me trying to learn about the disabilities movement from a nondisabled person – nuances, urgency, and personal experiences are lost. At some point, it becomes an intellectual exercise versus a way to understand at the head and the heart levels.

In a good racial equity training, white people benefit from hearing from pocs. Pocs in the room aren’t there for the entertainment of white people but to provide honest views of race and the impacts of racism, and many time solutions pocs want to see put into place. However, for this to work a few things must be in place:

  1. Safety in numbers for pocs—there needs to be at least a few pocs so it the pocs aren’t tokenized or the spokesperson for pocs. It also helps to hear from many different poc experiences. If you need to provide stipends to the pocs in recognition of their time, expertise, and the burdens they are taking up to be there.
  2. Center poc voices and experiences—racial equity trainings that focus on whiteness, such as talking about white fragility are interesting, but not impactful.
  3. Poc safety and comfort—along with centering pocs a good training will center and focus on poc safety and comfort thus allowing pocs to be more honest and open. Safety means laying ground rules or norms for how people will behave, remind people that they don’t have to answer if they choose not to, and what pocs are sharing is a gift to white people (no reciprocity needed—we don’t need white gifts). White people will be ok being uncomfortable for a few hours.

Can we achieve equity without equity?

If we will ever achieve racial equity we have to also think about power, control, and money/resources. Can we achieve equity if money is being invested in white spaces and with white trainers? Stepping back who controls the training budget is it pocs? Who do the white people want as a trainer/facilitator? The answers to these questions may point to hiring a white trainer and hosting a training for white people is the right move, but you better ask a lot of hard questions about why the group is going down this route – including is it centering white people’s needs again, is it safer, is it more comfortable, why?

Training versus Caucusing or Affinity Groups

There are times where it is appropriate to break-off into poc and white spaces. Last year CiKeithia and I were co-facilitating a discussion around race that got deep fast. Towards the end of tour two-hour meeting I ‘read’ the body language of our pocs attendees. They looked just tired and fatigued. We had done our best to center their needs and create as comfortable a space as we could for our poc partners, but cross-racial conversations around race are difficult. I looked at CiKeithia and she said, “You want to caucus – I know it.” In planning the agenda, we had agreed to not caucus, however, in that moment the pocs body language was begging for a space to unwind.

In this case, creating separate spaces for pocs and whites was the right thing to do. It was the pocs who asked for it (even if it was through non-verbal ways) and we were centering poc needs first.

Cross-racial work is hard but necessary. We reap benefits from it when done right so stick with it and be willing to embrace being uncomfortable in the name of learning something new.

If you subscribe to the blog, thank you. Please check fakequity.com for the most up to date version of the post. We often make grammatical and stylistic corrections after the first publishing which shows up in your inbox. If you would like to subscribe there is a sign-up box on the right sidebar.