Make Vinland Great Again

The Portland killer posted “Hail Vinland!!!” a few days before his rampage. For the Washington Post, I argue that this fetishization of an imagined Viking pure white past presents a huge challenge to historians and other humanists.

“History has never just been “the past.” As a historian, I study the way that groups have always tried to assert control over their story, seeking to mold legend, myth and reality into a useful narrative about identity and destiny. Stories like this have power, and we’d be foolish to ignore the threat.

As we mourn the martyrs in Portland, care for the wounded and support the women who were initially targeted, we shouldn’t ignore the danger that racist appropriation of the medieval past presents. American white supremacists want to make Vinland great again, laying out an imagined past in which Vikings are the rightful conquerors of North America, locked in eternal battle with the Skraelings, the Viking slur for indigenous people. We must inoculate ourselves against this hate by telling a better story, one that recognizes the many errors of our past, but also lays out a vision for a more inclusive future.”

Flying Coach

I used an extended airline metaphor to talk about limitations of “choice” in today’s piece at Pacific Standard, then tweeted with an @Delta in the promo tweet. Oops.

But I liked my metaphor.

Students Are Not Customers

NEW at Pacific Standard. Please click over and share!

Betsy DeVos and the GOP more generally say that we need to treat students like customers. Three responses.

1) What’s so great about being a customer if you’re not a billionaire?

2) The student’s relationship to their educational institutions and the people who work there cannot be characterized as simply transactional.

3) When students are treated as customers, as Tressie McMillan Cottom show in Lower Ed, the extractive nature of the industry doesn’t serve them well.

Also I wrote the first draft in an airport lobby:

“Education can be an engine of social change, a vehicle toward equality. McMillan Cottom makes it clear, though, that the wrong framing, policies, and financial models can turn education into an engine for inequality. To me, DeVos’ false insistence on “choice” and on students as “customers” drives us toward the latter outcome. As a billionaire, she’s going to fly in a private plane or at least in first class. As a white, cis-male, middle class professor and writer, I get a cramped middle seat in the back. More vulnerable Americans, meanwhile, will be left behind entirely on the ground.”

Neil Gaiman on Syria – “They’d Like to Go Back.”

For some reason Sara Benincasa has convinced Neil Gaiman to do a live reading of the Cheesecake Factory’s menu if they can raise $500,000 for refugees, sending the money to the UNHCR. I love Neil’s voice. I love the way he reads. I can think of many things I’d like him to read other than that menu, but hey, RAISE THE MONEY!

A few days ago 68 children, and over 110 people total, were killed in a bombing in Syria. It happened after the Manchester bombing and, of course, received relatively little coverage. Each horror is a horror, but I thought of those dead children in two very different parts of the world, and I wept a little that morning.

When I interviewed Gaiman for my American Gods essay, I spent awhile asking him about Syria and refugees, but couldn’t fit it into the piece. But it moved me, so I offer it to you here (edited slightly to make sense as paragraphs):

The last time I saw figures, which was before the latest round of madness, there were over 6 million people had fled Syria, and more were internally displaced. We’re 6, 7, years into a nightmarish civil war. 

People should know that each of the refugees, each of the people who have made it out of Syria, has gone through a nightmare in order to get out. Making their lives worse helps nobody, making their lives worse is inhuman.

The UNHCR [UN Refugee Agency] was never built to handle a world in right now there are more displaced person than there were even at the end of World War 2. It was set up to be there for refugees, for local crises, in the assumption that it normally takes about 1 to 2 years in order for people to go home.

The other thing that people should know is that they want to go home! They like Syria. They love Syria. If there were a civil war in America … and there was no food and people were shooting at you for sport and you decided to get out. What you’d like to do is come back again, because it’s a nice place and your home.

They really just want to stay there [in Syria] and eat and educate their children which no one has been able to do for 6 years in Syria. They’d like to go back.

DONATION LINK IS HERE. Support the UNHCR if you can.

Disability Stereotypes Aren’t Cute Marketing Tools

This is not a big deal requiring massive internet outrage spirals, but I do want to make this point very clearly: Disability stigma and stereotypes aren’t funny memes you get to use in marketing. OCD, for example, is a serious condition that can play a major role in the structure of the lives with people who have it. Stigma about OCD is not trivial. Your “detail oriented” nature is not OCD.
Which brings me to this:

Image Description: Two male Tufts students walk by a big elephant. The headline reads: Do you have Jumbo-sized OCD? Do you sweat the small stuff? Then there’s an ad for production managers for Communications at Tufts, reading in part, “University Communications and Marketing is looking for production managers. If you are totally Type A and care about getting the details 100 percent right, this could be just the opportunity for you.”

Source: Linked In post from a Tufts Communication manager, now removed.

I emailed the author. He wrote:

Thank you for your message. I sincerely apologize for this and the offense to folks who suffer with this or any other disability. The last thing I would want to do is to hurt anyone who already suffers from or knows someone with a disabling condition. In my hope to garner attention and excitement to this job posting, I didn’t think about how it sounded.  Upon internal and external feedback, I now understand how I sounded and regret offending or hurting anyone.  I have removed the post and will revise the description for the position. This lack of sensitivity is entirely a reflection on me and not a reflection on Tufts University, which has a well-earned reputation for respect toward people from all backgrounds.  Here is the Tufts non-discrimination and separate ADA policies, which includes the university’s support for recruiting and hiring people with disabilities:
http://oeo.tufts.edu/wp-content/uploads/Non-Discrimination-Policy-040115.pdfhttp://oeo.tufts.edu/wp-content/uploads/ADA-Policy-July-2014.pdf

Inspiration Porn Watch: Mom Gets Degree, Disabled Son Erased

A classic piece of inspiration porn. A disabled young man wants to go to school. The school has no way to help him, so his mom takes him to every class. School rewards her with her own degree, and that story overshadows the following.

  • 1) Mom was required to help the son instead of him having appropriate accommodations provided for him.
  • 2) The son finished school and it was HIS BIG DAY.
But now everyone is just talking about the great mom.
Inspiration porn buries analysis of ableist societal structures under a mountain of awwwwwwww.

Lead Poisoning: Environmental Justice, Economic Justice, Disability Justice

Before Flint’s water crisis hit national news, I often wrote sentences that read something like this: lead poisoning is the most critical disability story that not enough people are talking about. Then Flint’s crisis became visible, and suddenly people talked about this issue a lot more often, but mostly just about Flint. 

Lead poisoning is a national crisis. It is a factor of environmental racism and classism. It’s not a coincidence that poor black neighborhoods are so subject to this problem. In the disability rights movement, we need to adopt the mantra that environmental justice and economic justice are necessary for disability justice. And, of course, vice versa.

Vann R. Newkirk III, at The Atlantic, has written an outstanding long read on “The Poisoned Generation,” on lead and other toxic exposure for poor black families in New Orleans and the lawsuits seeking recompense. Newkirk writes:

For people living in precarious financial, environmental, and social conditions, black skin often carries with it a life of additional traumas. Strata of segregation and exclusion manifest in the most fundamental factors of life—from the air people breathe to the water they drink—and even when they don’t kill outright, they often exacerbate existing issues. For those in the poisoned generation and beyond, blackness is a tightrope, and lead poisoning is just one of the ways to fall.

I strongly recommend reading the entire piece and getting up to speed on these issues.

#CultOfCompliance: Tasing and Handcuffing Fails to Stop Meltdown

Yosio Lopez is a 7 year old boy with ADHD and other emotional disabilities in a Dallas school. Sometimes he has behavioral meltdowns when overstimulated and an aide helps him through the process. 

As reported on CNN:

Yosio Lopez was handcuffed, Tased and bruised by Dallas Independent School District (DISD) Police after the boy started banging his head against a wall in class, the Lopez family lawyer, David Ramirez, told CNN.

He has experienced similar outbursts in the past but has always had a trained school aide nearby to help calm him down.

Last Tuesday, the aide wasn’t there and Yosio didn’t have his “safe place,” Ramirez said.

The boy told his mother, April Odis, that he was put on a desk with his arms cuffed behind his back while the school principal put her elbow on his neck and choked him to restrain him, the family lawyer said.

He was taken to a mental health facility and forcibly institutionalized. He and his mother were kept separated for two days under the claim that he was a danger to himself and others.

So here we have a child who becomes distressed and bangs his head against a wall. That is, indeed, a moment for intervention and then post-incident assessment of the triggering behavior – so as to fix the context, not the child. Instead, the school (allegedly) creates a traumatizing situation, then intensifies the trauma through temporary medical incarceration.

Terence Crutcher’s Killer Acquitted: The Disability Context to the Killing

Betty Shelby, a police officer, shot and killed an unarmed black man who was complying with orders. There’s video. Yesterday, a jury acquitted her of all charges.

There’s lots to say here and others are writing importantly about the case, but I just want to focus on the disability issues. Terence Crutcher had a prosthetic eye and hearing loss.

  • Video of his sister talking about his disability.
  • Transcript of the relevant section
    • Tiffany Crutcher (5:31): That’s their side of it, and I just don’t believe that. And one thing that people don’t know about my brother, my brother has a very severe hearing issue in his right ear and a prosthetic eye. And I know my brother was scared, and people don’t know that. All they know is that he’s a bad dude, but my brother was disabled, and he was just trying to get his life together. So I can’t say that’s true, I was not there at the scene. But you know these things tend to be scripted, case after case after case, he didn’t comply. They didn’t comply. But the video tells it all. His hands were up. And that’s what we are fighting right there. The fact that everybody saw his hands up and at that moment there was no need to execute him at all.
A third to a half of all people killed by police are disabled. Most of them are multiply marginalized, generally by race or class. If you fight for disability rights, you fight against police violence.

Arnaldo Rios – His trauma matters

Arnaldo Rios is the autistic Latinx individual who was shot at by a cop when he was sitting still in the street holding a toy truck. The bullet struck Charles Kinsey, his therapist, who was lying on the ground next to Rios raising his hands in the air. Kinsey has recovered physically. Rios is now institutionalized as a result of the trauma.

The cop who shot Kinsey and shot at Rios was charged with attempted manslaughter, but initially just for shooting Kinsey. Rios’ experience was erased from the charging documents.

That’s been fixed.

After months of investigation, prosecutors concluded that Aledda was not justified in shooting from more than 150 feet away. Among the reasons: Other officers had already radioed out that Rios did not have a weapon, and two cops within 20 feet did not fear for their lives.

In arresting Aledda, prosecutors initially charged him with one felony count of attempted manslaughter and one misdemeanor count of culpable negligence. During the Friday hearing, they officially filed two felony counts of attempted manslaughter, one for Kinsey and added one for Rios. The autistic man was not hit, but the shot fired at him “could have resulted in death,” according to the formal charges.

Emphasis mine. See more coverage of the case in the site tags.