Watered-down, uncritical, privileged, feminism (reactions to Scalzi in a dess)

Ok, let’s talk about it. I don’t know Shanley, but she does have 6000 more twitter followers than I do, which is a pretty solid following.  More importantly, she writes well about feminism (and other issues), often pointing out the ways that men seize control of issues.

First – it’s TOTALLY true. Privileged, white, liberal men discover oppression. They gasp. They write breathlessly about the oppression they’ve discovered. They own the issue. They genuinely want to help. Sometimes they forget to link back to the people who have been doing work on an issue for years. When questioned on this, they defensively say, “I just want to help,” then pout, “there’s no room for men to even TALK about gender.” And then they take their toys and go home and make themselves the victim.

Later this month, I have an essay coming out on “five rules for male feminist discourse.” Rule #1 is – it’s not about you. Rule #3 is – It is about them (them = the female feminists in the trenches), and I talk about making sure you link back to them and support writers like Shanley (or for me, Jessica Valenti, Amanda Marcotte, and the Crunk Feminist Collective – three writers/blogs I often find compelling). More on that in a few weeks.

“Shanley” was writing in response to this post from John Scalzi, a famous Sci-Fi author with a HUGE social media following. His blog gets around 45,000 visitors a day (and yes, my blog is commenting on a blog which it commenting on a blog and it’s turtles all the way down). Scalzi once posed in a dress to raise money, he was mocked by a “dudebro,” as he calls it, and he returned the favor my mocking the dudebro and owning the label feminist.  It’s not a perfect post. It works with the assumption that men wearing dresses is transgressive, and my transgender and cross-dressing friends got kind of annoyed. It embraces notions of male privilege (big yard, lots of money), that are annoying. But it’s a good way to respond to the “dudebro” clan, I guess. The internet, in its infinite wisdom, liked it.

But while I find Shanley’s comment a little harsh and possibly infused by the broader backlash to Shwyzer and his ilk, she does point to that real problem. In fact, it’s a problem that Scalzi recognized in his  “Quick Notes on his Feminism.” He wrote:

5. However, there are also a number of people,
including a fair number of women, who are frustrated that when I write
about topics relating to women that I often have a farther reach online
then women often do
. They are frustrated, I suspect, not only just
because it’s a classic example of a guy being paid attention to, but
also because, per points one through three above, the filter
through which my own thoughts and opinions go is a male,
not-entirely-on-point-to-feminism one.

I worry about this all the time. Not that I have a huge social media reach, but as a straight white man, I operate out of a position of enormous privilege in several ways.  First, to assert my status as a feminist doesn’t really threaten me. I might have to endure some pretty modest taunting and accusations of being queer, but nothing like the repeated and well-documented world of cyber-stalking and rape-threats for feminists online. These threats are intended to silence women, to drive them out of the conversation, and cannot be tolerated, but also can’t be stopped so easily. Shanley writes quite a bit about this kind of harassment (to call it trolling is too mild), as do many of the other feminists I follow, and it’s a real problem. Men get off easy.

As an aside – I once asked Scalzi if his sexuality got questioned (this was in the wake of my CNN article about my daughter, in which I got called queer a lot). He replied that he didn’t, because evidence of his heterosexuality was so clear – he talks about his wife a little and his daughter a lot in his writing. I thought that this was fair, but also a good example of his, “filter
through which [his] own thoughts and opinions go is a male,
not-entirely-on-point-to-feminism one.” This is fine with me – I like Scalzi and his writing. His demand that all conventions at which he attends has an explicit, ENFORCED, harassment policy is to me an unambiguous good. If people are annoyed that it’s a man who helped bring the harassment issue to a higher plane of visibility, well, I guess I don’t care (and I think everyone has worked hard to credit our friend Elise, who got harassed by someone who worked for a major sci-fi/fantasy press and went public, with starting this conversation. So good job Elise.). At any rate, I’m not so bothered by Scalzi not writing about feminist issues quite the way that I would want, or that Shanley would want.

So I get Shanley’s critique and I worry a lot about entering the male feminist world as I don’t want to present watered-down, uncritical, privileged, feminism. I may not have Scalzi’s readership, but since I started writing publicly about gender from a male feminist perspective, I’ve gotten interview requests, writing requests, and speaking gigs. My writing about gender receives more hits than any other topic on which I write, in general. Were I a woman, I think I’d blend into the throng.

But I can’t let my worry about this stop me from advocating for causes that matter to me. I want to assert my status as a feminist and write about patriarchy, especially the ways patriarchy hurts men. I cannot help if people respond to my writing differently, because I’m a man.

But I can remember my rules – it’s not about me. It is about them. Always, always, point back to the writers in the trenches, the sophisticated, critical, deep, threatened feminism of the best writers I can find.

Does that seem to work?

Radio – Talk 910: The Ethan Saylor Primer

In a few minutes I will be on Talk 910 with Gil Gross. I’ve been on AM 910, a San Francisco station, twice before, once to talk about gender with Gil and once to talk about Jenny McCarthy with Frosty.

If you are coming to this post from the Talk 910 listener area, here is a quick primer.

  • The petition at change.org. Please sign it. All we want is for Governor O’Malley is to have an independent investigation. And remember, West Coast, O’Malley may run for president and has a darn good chance of being the Democratic VP candidate (I think. I claim no political expertise). He’ll be a national figure, so why not start pushing him now!
  • My writing on Saylor: From CNN (we are all temporarily able bodied) and from The Nation (Ethan’s case is not an isolated event, but part of a bigger problem).

 Facts of the case:

CNN) — One day last January, Robert Ethan Saylor, a
26-year-old man with Down syndrome, went to see the movie “Zero Dark
Thirty.” When it was over, Saylor briefly left the theater, then decided
to return and see it again. The manager called security because Saylor
didn’t pay, and three off-duty deputies, moonlighting at the mall, came
in to confront him.

According to Frederick
County, Maryland, police statements, he swore at them and refused to
leave. The deputies tried to remove him, despite Saylor’s caretaker’s
warnings and pleas for them to wait and let her take care of it. What
happened next is a little unclear, but witnesses say the deputies put
Saylor on the floor, held him down and handcuffed him. Saylor, called Ethan by his family, suffered a fracture in his throat cartilage. He died of asphyxiation.
The death was ruled a homicide, but a grand jury failed to indict the deputies and they returned to work without charges.

You’ll see in my other postings on the topic links to lots of great blog posts from other bloggers, some blog posts of mine, journalism from Washington Post, WUSA-9 (a DC station), and some pieces from ABC, Yahoo!, and CBS. All of these come from August, but the story obviously stretches back to January and a lot of journalism and activism – great journalism and activism – that failed to capture the attention of the public.

Thanks for reading.

CNN: Five reactions to my Ethan Saylor essay

Yesterday, CNN published an essay of mine on the Ethan Saylor case. Following the advice of some friends, I emphasized a classic point from disability studies: We are all, at best, temporarily able bodied. This hook seems to have worked as the piece is receiving a good readership.

For new readers, twitter followers, facebook friends. I also wrote an essay about Saylor for The Nation, in which I talked about other disabled people who ran afoul of the police, and what lessons we might draw from that. I actually have a large file now of cases like this. I’ve also written about what I’m calling the “cult of compliance.” I think disability cases serve as warnings for a general erosion of our civil liberties.

Here are several points that emerged from emails, comments, and just me re-thinking the issue as I re-read the essay over the day.

First – “People-First Language” – I don’t write my titles. Editors write titles that they think will drive clicks, because it’s all about getting people to start reading. If no one reads the essay, it doesn’t matter what it says. My editor (who I love, in case she reads this!) chose – “Justice for Down syndrome man who died in movie theater,” and that didn’t please a number of commentators focused on language. I’m glad people are talking about this, as I think it does matter when we begin by emphasizing on our shared humanity, and then raise the conditions that make us more or less distinct. That said, we use qualifiers before nouns all the time, “Tall boy,” “smart girl,” “blond walrus” “sick child.” The question, for me, is whether “downs” is an appropriate adjective. I don’t think so, but I’ve been having trouble articulating why Downs is different than other adjectives – even other diagnostic adjectives. Any thoughts?

P.S.: If you want to get people to change their speech, ALL-CAPS emails is a poor way to convince people of anything. Be nice out there.

Second – Blaming the aide: In the comments, a lot of people, ignorant of the case, blamed the aide. Of course other people, ignorant of the case, blamed the parents or the theater manager or the police. There’s a lot of blaming. People argue that she should have stopped Ethan from going back in the theater, she should have handled it different, she should have just paid for the movie. Related, people suggest that Ethan should never have been allowed out into “normal” society if he was so dangerous.

Actually, one of the points that Dennis Debbault made to me, in my interview, is that the family should have had a safety plan written out, and that the aide could have given it to the officers when they arrived on the scene. In fact, all families should have safety plans developed, as an aside, though if communication skills are good maybe you don’t need it written out.  I don’t have a good safety plan and I’m thinking of how to fix that. But to argue that the aide must be able to physically stop Ethan from going anywhere, that it’s her job to restrain him, that it’s the mother’s job for thinking Ethan could handle “normal” society and should have just got Ethan a DVD …. well, that kind of talk needs to be stopped. The aide may have made mistakes, and no doubt regrets them, but she was advocating patience, she called Ethan’s mom for help, she was trying to do the right things.  When the deputies arrived, she was trying to get Ethan to cool off and then was going to try again. She was young and perhaps inexperienced (I don’t know many details about her), but she didn’t cause Ethan’s death. People with disabilities need to find ways to fit into typical society, even when it’s hard, even when it’s disruptive.

Third –  Blaming the deputies: Well, I do blame the deputies. But if you read the report, there’s no sign that this was a case of deliberate police brutality. There’s no sign that the police decided to teach Ethan a lesson, or got mad and violent, or otherwise did something glaringly wrong. Every witness says they stayed calm and professional. In some ways, it makes the case worse. If a deputy lost his or her temper and threw Ethan to the ground in anger, we could easily identify the culprit, the wrong action, and hold them accountable. But if, in the full calmness of reason, the deputies decided the best course of action was to throw Ethan to the ground, forcibly get his arms behind his back, perhaps put a knee on his back (that is contested by witnesses), and in that process asphyxiate him … it’s scarier. They thought they were doing the right thing.  .

What does seem likely is that they either weren’t trained or ignored their training, which leads me to …

Fourth – Training: If the deputies were trained (my evidence suggests that training was offered in 2012) and ignored it, that raises a serious question about the remedy that most advocates in this case are proposing. Training is good, but training has to infuse an organization’s culture in order to have an effect. Training is really just the start. I’m hoping we’ll figure out more as the story goes forward.

Fifth – Media Narrative – At 8:00 P.M CST yesterday, the essay has 1200 Facebook shares. As I write this morning, it has over 11,000. (Facebook shares start at about 10 clicks on the essay to 1 share, with that ratio getting smaller as time goes on and people are referred by like-minded readers. Today will be closer to 5:1 is my guess, but CNN doesn’t release reader numbers). Last night, WUSA-9 ran another piece on the case on local news. More Maryland politicians have signed on, asking the governor for an investigation. In this era of 24-hour news cycles, for a story that so many of us despaired of ever making matter to a wide swathe of people, it’s exciting to see this story take hold over the course of August. A group of us have been fighting for months to make this story spread, and now it’s in the public consciousness. I’m going to speak on AM radio tonight and NPR next week.

And if Martin O’Malley really wants to be president, he’ll call for an investigation I think, as the ball is in his court.

Alexander the Great – Anti-gay Icon

I am endlessly fascinated by the ways that people shape and appropriate historical memory. One common thread, as common in the 13th century as now, is to assume that historical examples support one’s own agenda, regardless of the facts.

Here’s a doozy (originally from Talking Points Memo).

A New Mexico lawmaker took to his blog to defend marriage via history. Let’s look at my favorite part of his argument.

Humanities very foundation of ‘being’ is rooted with the bond between man and woman.

Why is it so hard to get possessives and plurals right? Wait, no, that’s not my favorite part of the blog. And it’s not Pocahontas, or Confucius, it’s …

Alexander the Great as a defender of marriage (Image: Alexander and his “friend” Hephaestion, from the Getty). The lawmaker writes:

Alexander the Great (356-323 BC) married a Bactrian woman – modern day
Afghanistan.  Alexander may have engaged in homosexual activity, but he married a woman.

He directed his officers to stop “whoring” around and find a local woman to marry.



is only through blood relations that hatred and war will end”.  In
other words, Alexander the Great thought that marriage was about
creating and raising the next generation.  

Leaving aside whether Alexander is someone whose actions ought to fuel our decision-making (note to people seeking war with Iran – No!), this is crazy. First, he’s advocating for homosexually-active men to enter fake marriages. This is defending marriage? But even better, let’s take a quick look at Alexander’s marriage policies, from Arrian.

Then he also celebrated weddings at Susa,
both his own and those of his Companions. He himself married Barsine
[1], the eldest of Darius’ daughters, and, according
to Aristobulus,
another girl as well, Parysatis, the youngest of the daughters of Ochus
[2]. He had already married previously Roxane,
the daughter of Oxyartes of Bactria.

One could say much about the ways that Alexander tried to use marriage as part of his “Persian Policies.” The weddings at Susa are a particularly important moment for Alexander’s attempts at empire building, I’ve always thought.

But through the lens of this lawmaker – I wonder if he noticed that Alexander respected marriage so much that he married three women at the same time.

At any rate, congrats to Mike and Gary, my friends in New Mexico who just got married. 

The Voices of Justice for Ethan – nearly 300,000 strong.

#JusticeForEthan has a petition. If you read my blog, you have probably either signed it or chosen not to do so, so that’s not news. What’s amazing is that it is only 1200 from 300,000. Once, just getting to 1200 would have been an accomplishment, as petitions withered and died.

Some of this is because (I believe) of the Change.org algorithm – once petitions reach a critical mass, the site is likely to show it to people who sign similar petitions about disability or police violence or whatever else the tagging system shows.

But think about that – almost 300,000 individual people choosing to fill out a form. It’s a huge number, and while it pales in comparison to kitten videos (did you see the new Brookfield Zoo baby snow tiger! I want one!) for popularity, it’s exciting to see the petition hit critical mass. Martin O’Malley, the Governor of Maryland, wants to run for president. Public pressure will have an impact, and the petition is just calling for an outside investigation and better training, not demanding that the investigation determines any particular result.

Walkersvillemom, a blogger deeply invested in this case, put up a post yesterday that brought home the depth of support that is finally emerging for this case. She read through the many different comments that people put up to show their support and categorized them by geography, rationale, relationship, etc.

If you’ve already signed the petition, go read her post. If you haven’t signed the petition, read her post and see if any of those reasons for signing resonate.

The Conservative Arts

I haven’t done as much writing about the humanities as I intended during the summer, as other topics moved to the fore. It was one of the sub-themes in my piece on public writing for the Chronicle.

Yesterday, a good friend of mine, a libertarian medieval historian, linked to the “Imaginative Conservative.” There are essays here that I am pleased to see exist. Anti-intellectual forces exist on both the left and the right, but only on the right do we see such profound and public distrust of knowledge by party leaders (I cite Rick Santorum’s comments on higher ed as exhibit A). I believe that only people from within a movement can operate significant persuasive force, so I’m glad conservatives are arguing for education, and are particularly arguing for the humanities. I read this essay, from November 2011, on Classical Education and the Founders with interest, just to see how the argument was made.

The author’s bio is:

Dr. E. Christian Kopff teaches at the University of Colorado, Boulder, where he also serves as Associate Director
of the Honors Program and as Director of the Center for Western
Civilization. This essay was first presented as an address to the 35th Annual Founder’s Day Breakfast of the Free Enterprise Institute (Houston TX Nov 3 2011).

I am assuming he is conservative, but I don’t know. He talks about the way that classical educations builds good brains, good character, and has a long track record of producing great people.

A few quotes:

“Earlier generations had rejected calls to repudiate traditional classical Christian education, and America had enjoyed 200 years of prosperity, creativity, and freedom.”

I wonder which Americans, exactly, found the 200 years peaceful and free? Also note how classical becomes Christian here.

“Classical Greek texts were still studied in the Eastern Roman Empire, what we call the Byzantine Empire, and in lands conquered by militant Islam, with important results for medicine and science.”

I wonder if the Byzantines and Muslims ever wrote anything we should read here, or if we should just study classical Greek texts. The author is not, I think, advocating adding Ibn Khaldun (to pick a favorite of mine) to the canon.

“The goal of classical education and its two-fold canon of Great Books
was the cultivation of religion, morality and knowledge, words joined in
the Third Article of the Northwest Ordinance in 1787: “Religion,
morality, and knowledge, being necessary to good government and the
happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever
be encouraged.” If we were to re-write the Northwest Ordinance today, we
would begin the Third Article differently. “Science, technology and
engineering, being necessary to human happiness, public schools taught
by unionized education school graduates shall forever be mandated.”
That’s more like it!”

This is sarcastic, just to be clear, running counter to the author’s argument. Now I know unions are seen as the enemy for the right, and I don’t want to get into that, but Kopff is totally derailing here.  He’s just spent some thousand+ words arguing for other forces of causation behind the reification of science, but here he throws in unions, presumably because any piece on education has to trash unions as the problem.


“People like Shakespeare and Michelangelo, T. S. Eliot
and Ezra Pound, Jefferson and Adams, Adam Smith and Karl Marx, Galileo
and Newton, Linnaeus and Darwin.”

I notice something similar about these people. In fact, it’s the same thing that’s true of every named individual mentioned in the piece, except Dinesh D’Souza, who he argues with, and perhaps folks like St. Augustine (and Jesus, who is present but unnamed).

I actually have no doubt that a focus on classical education would work. I often make that argument about Catholic education – it works … when, I continue, placed into conversation with broader traditions. Reading a lot of dead white men in Latin and Greek is good for a mind’s development, but perhaps if one is not a white male, might feel a bit dis-empowering after awhile. Perhaps that’s the idea.

P.S. If you read, “Literature and the Foundations of the West,”  you’ll find a different retired professor writing the following:

The courses they generate do not seek to transmit Western culture at
its best, but rather to insult it, expose it, and – fancifully – destroy
it. In the 1950s, widely thought to have been boring, we young
professors competed with one another in a usually friendly contest to
know as much as possible. The professors today who were formed by the
sixties and do much to set the tone of the universities, compete in
generic suffering. That is, they talk about themselves as much as
possible, even if only as suffering witnesses to the presumed suffering
of others. If you are a woman, black, or sexually unusual, the
university is Valhalla. This really is pretty boring.

I’ve been working hard lately at articulating the usefulness of studying Western culture, and studying lots of it, as it’s what I teach. I did not find good answers at the Imaginative Conservative.

Masculinity and Monday Morning

Today is the first day of the new semester and my wife is out of town (she left at 4 AM). I rose at 6, woke up both my kids, snuggled them for a few minutes in my son’s bed, then went to the kitchen. I assembled breakfast for each, got my daughter onto the potty and had her brush her teeth. Nico went into the living room and listened to Nova Scotian folk music for a song or two, then I steered both him and his sister into the kitchen.

My daughter demanded chocolate milk and told me, “Mommy says I can have chocolate milk for breakfast if I want.” We debated this for a bit and agreed on dinner (I think she meant this kid nutrition drink). My son wanted to jump on our bouncy-house, which was in its bag in the mud room. In fact, he was sitting on the bag bouncing. I suggested breakfast instead, brought him to the table with tickling, and put a spoonful of cereal with his morning pills into his mouth. Then I made tea and ate some coffee cake.

After breakfast, I got Nico to the potty, dressed him (we had a dispute about which pair of shorts he would wear), made his lunch, my lunch, led a wild hunt for the blue polka-dot blanket my daughter wanted for school, got my daughter dressed, her hair brushed and in a pony tail, and put everyone into their shoes. At some point, I remembered to get dressed, but I honestly can’t tell you when that happened.

At 7:30, the three of us left the house and walked to the far corner to wait for the bus. Nico’s aide was there and, as the neighbor children arrived, my daughter played with one of her friends for a few minutes, before coming back to cling to me. Nico stood in line with his aide, and, mostly without help, climbed aboard the bus and walked to a seat, where he sat down next to the neighbor girl, H. Ellie and I waved, then walked back to the house.

Inside, we grabbed bags and a stuffed bunny, to snuggle, headed to the garage, and drove to pre-school. I dropped my suddenly shy daughter off (she’s in a new class today), kissed her, and headed off to work. After my day, I shall fold laundry, make dinner, clean the kitchen, bathe my children, and then try to get some writing done after they go to bed.

This quotidian litany is in no way spectacular. But somehow we still live in a society in which men cleaning, parenting, cooking, etc. is not quite masculine. It’s odd. I get a lot of praise for it, often couched in the terms of “my husband never …” or “I wish my husband would …”

This is what masculinity looks like. For me, anyway, on this Monday. Your mileage may vary.

How to fail at Pork Roast without really trying

I often cook with a little more attention to detail on Tuesday, then post about it on social media. I’ve decided to bring some of those posts over here, especially on Sundays when news is lighter.

Last Tuesday, I failed to cook pork shoulder in a roasted tomatillo sauce. Here are my directions for you to fail as well.

1. Take out pork shoulder. Open package. Think, “huh, that smells
funny.” Rinse to make sure it’s not cryovac stink. It’s not. Put pork in
fridge to return to store tomorrow.
2. Take out chicken breast. Dice. Coat with a cumin-salt-pepper-flour mix. Brown then remove.
3. Sautee onions
and garlic on low in the pan. Keep it low. No, you’re not done yet.
Keep the heat low. Wait. Wait some more. Add thyme or something else
delicious from my herb garden. Or better yet, your herb garden.
Roast tomatillos (mine were from my garden. No, you can’t have the ones
from my garden. I can give away one, well, maybe half, a tomato though)
and peppers. I used poblanos because my wife likes a tiny tang of heat,
but no more. Remove seeds from poblanos and put them in the blender with
the tomatillos. Blend.
5. Decide you need more color, so put in some sweet red and orange peppers too. There, that looks right.
6. Open a beer. You might need to deglaze the pan with it.
7. Drink beer.
8. Open another beer. You might need to deglaze the pan with it.
9. Deglaze pan with beer. Add tomatillo-pepper mix. Wait a minute thinking, “Wow, that’s going to be good.”
10. Add a little more liquid. Maybe there’s more beer in the house
somewhere, this bottle seems to be empty. Squeeze a little lime on it.
Test for heat, salt, etc.
11. Add chicken back in. Cover and wait
20-60 minutes. The chicken is done, but if you cook it on low, it won’t
dry out. Well, mine didn’t dry out. Are you saying I make dry chicken?
12. Fail to make sofrito-infused rice by cooking the rice in oil for a
minute or three, then opening the jar of sofrito – and no, that’s not
cheating, its delicious – and discovering it has mold on it. So just
make rice in stock. Don’t worry, there’s lots of sauce with the chicken.
14. Prepare/make sides: Guacamole, picked red onions, black beans, cilantro, green onions, sour cream.
15. Serve chicken on rice with sides.
16. Wonder where all the beer went.

#JusticeForEthan and the Media Narrative continued

Something is happening to the media narrative.

Since Saylor died in January, the only people to cover the story were local reporters, especially the people for Washington Post Local (this op-ed from July has a wrap-up of links). This is part of why I tried to write about the story in a way that would nationalize it, to show that this is not an aberration. I didn’t especially succeed based on my readership numbers.

But with the new petition, with the reporting by WUSA*9 in D.C., MD lawmaker and gubernatorial candidate Heather Mizeur pushing for answers (this may be the catalyst) and .. well, who really knows, the story is spreading. CBS picked up the story, and Yahoo!, and now ABC. It may be that the petition, which now has over 200,000 signatures, is driving the story. Hey, maybe you could go sign it.

It’s heartening to see. Last May, when I wrote my first blog post about Saylor, no petition had more than about 1000 signatures, because the issue had gained no traction outside of the disability community. Now things are moving.

So what are the questions we still have about the case?

1. If you read the 98-page report and all the witness statements, the chain of events from the moment the police put their hands on Ethan until he was dead on the floor remains a little unclear. Did they take him out of sight of people for a moment? Did they put their knee on his back? What is the exact chain of events that happened here. I’m still not sure we totally know and I’d feel a lot more confident if the MD Gov’s office investigated, rather than the Tea Party Sheriff of Frederick County Maryland. The more I learn about him and his supervisors (the more I learn about Blaine Young, the chair of the country board, the less I think he’s likely sensitive to disability rights), the less confidence I have in their desire to do anything but cover their liabilities. So that’s one – have an outside party establish the chain of events.

2. To what extent did this have to do with disability and lack of training (that’s the Mizeur argument, and it’s a fine argument), and to what extent is this about the cult of compliance that increasingly (I argue) shapes police response to non-compliant individuals. I keep making this case and am getting no traction. Either I’m wrong or continued evidence will bear me out. But people like me, who are angry, have to remember that it’s possible the
police followed all their procedures exactly correctly and this was a
freak accident. That’s part of why I am arguing that the mistake was
responding to swearing and non-compliance with physical contact, rather
than patience.

3. Who is to blame? The movie theater manager? The police? The aide? Ethan himself? His parents for letting him go out without more supervision? I’m very concerned that this last will be the lesson many take away from the case, that to let someone with DS into their business is to court trouble. You can see that in other writing about disability, where the person with disability becomes rendered into a permanent child, incapable of making their own decisions. I don’t want Justice for Ethan to reinforce ableism, and I can see a clear pathway to that happening.

What else? What else do we need to know?


A few weeks ago, after writing about Ethan Saylor for The Nation, I received a number of questions about why President Obama didn’t speak out about Saylor’s death the way he did for Trayvon Martin.

I argued that these questions were misguided. People get murdered every day, the president weighed in because it became a national question about race, violence, and the miscarriage of justice: Zimmerman wasn’t even charged initially before public pressure moved the prosecutor to act (with the results we all know). But people inclined to see the president as a racist, which is one of the dumb things that Fox News and other conservative media outlets say constantly, of course view Obama’s engagement with the Martin case as a sign that he only cares about black people.

The key issue with Martin is that his death became the symbol for a much wider phenomenon – the racial profiling of young black men as criminals – therefore it caught much of the national imagination and became something of a Rorschach test. Ethan Saylor is not seen as a pattern, just a local tragedy, and so it remains a story only for those who live in the area and for those, like me, who argue differently. This is why in my writing I’ve been arguing both that police often treat people with disabilities particularly badly and for the broader cult of compliance.

So now Fox News and The Daily Caller and the like (no links provided intentionally) are arguing that Obama and Sharpton and all their other favorite black people must speak out on the murder of  Christopher Lane, the Australian baseball player in Oklahoma, or prove their racism.

Well, I’m ready to speak out about Lane’s death: He was murdered. His killers were identified, apprehended, and questioned. At least two have confessed. They will go to jail for a long time. If OK has the death penalty, they may even get executed, but I hope not. In any event, this is what a justice system looks like.

I’ll leave the comparisons between the justice system’s outcomes for Martin and Saylor as opposed to Lane, to the reader.