As my and our collective understanding of ableism is ever-evolving, I hope to offer periodic edits to the working definition of ableism I released in 2019. You can review the 2021 updated definition here.
The updated version is edited for length and clarity. It also names colonialism as central to the construction, conception and application of ableism, and also more explicitly acknowledges reproductive in/justice and productivity. Finally, the image explicitly names Dustin Gibson and Black and other negatively racialized Disabled people as having been central to my understanding of ableism and development of this working definition.
Study and discussion of imperialism and its relationship to ableism is ongoing. . .
Image Description: Brown square with the following words in white and yellow: ABLEISM a·ble·ism \ ˈābə-ˌli-zəm \ noun A system that places value on people’s bodies and minds based on societally constructed ideas of normalcy, intelligence, excellence and productivity. These constructed ideas are deeply rooted in anti-Blackness, eugenics, colonialism and capitalism. This form of systemic oppression leads to people and society determining who is valuable and worthy based on a person’s appearance and/or their ability to satisfactorily [re]produce, excel and "behave." You do not have to be disabled to experience ableism. a working definition by Talila "TL" Lewis in conversation with Disabled Black and other negatively racialized folk, especially Dustin Gibson; updated January 2020
8/4/2020 09:54:18 am
I love your definition of ableism. It is fantastic!
3/31/2022 10:06:22 am
8/10/2020 08:03:09 am
thanks for sharing this!
12/5/2020 02:57:07 pm
Thank you for offering the resources of HEARD to people in involuntary civil commitment who experience the harms of ableism everyday trapped in a new "asylum system" that monitizes human beings.
9/18/2021 11:19:34 am
Thank you for this excellent definition. I would very much like to ask for the image with the definition to share with others. I leave it to your wishes if you do or do not want me to have it. Thank you for your time and great advocacy.
12/28/2022 07:38:55 am
Ableism predates the concepts or existence of "blackness," capitalism and colonialism . . . by millennia. Indeed, the origins of the neurophysiological structures and processes that underlie ableism predate . . . dinosaurs. Eugenics began in Africa. TODAY, people still murder disabled infants at birth in East Africa, rural China, North Korea, and Central Asia. These people mostly know nothing of capitalism, nor have any conception of "race." Attempting, then, to shoehorn ableism into an "anti-black" racial construct ignores mountains of biological, evolutionary, historical and contemporary evidence to the contrary. Further, branding it as an anti-black phenomenon would seem to absolve at least one race of ableist behavior, where ableism, indisputably, is universal.
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