This post serves to provide context, clarity and grounding for my February 19, 2019 Longmore Lecture at San Francisco State University, Stolen Bodies, Criminalized Minds & Diagnosed Dissent: The Racist, Classist, Ableist Trappings Of The Prison Industrial Complex.
Content warning: genocide, enslavement, eugenics, racist/ableist slurs, and various other forms of violence. Please exercise discretion.
By design, most people living on the stolen land known to many as the “United States” have not learned much at all about this nation’s violent and sordid history. Specifically, there is very little, if any, study of or engagement with past or current U.S. genocides, enslavement, wars, institutionalization, incarceration, or other atrocities. True depictions of the horrors that perpetually oppressed and terrorized peoples on this land experience are, for the most part, intentionally discredited, hidden away and undercut. Narratives that surface in their place are much more genteel renditions of the grotesque and irredeemable truth of the history of this nation. This “violence void” makes it difficult for U.S. inhabitants to process information related to U.S. history. In this way, violent U.S. history is invited to continue to form and inform violent U.S. present and future.
My Longmore Lecture was an attempt to fill this void--to bring U.S. past and present into conversation with one of the oldest, most pervasive, and least understood systemic oppressions the world has ever known, ableism.
Captioned video of my lecture is available here; and the transcript here. Due to the short length of the lecture, there was a great deal that could not be shared or that may be easily taken out of context. This brief article lays out key points and clarification; and provides important context and takeaways that may have been missed by lecturer, receiver, or both. This is not meant to be a comprehensive list and is not listed in any particular order:
Image of a black square with white writing in it that says: 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 and excellence. These constructed ideas of normalcy, intelligence and excellence are deeply rooted in anti-Blackness, eugenics and capitalism. This form of systemic oppression leads to people and society determining who is valuable or worthy based on people's appearance and/or their ability to satisfactorily produce, excel & “behave.” Importantly, you do not have to be disabled to experience ableism. a working definition by Talila "TL" Lewis
-Fugitive Slave Acts
*Black people were forbade from moving/migrating, reading, writing, assembling, voting, marrying, possessing anything (including their own children), and much more, by law.
-work stoppages by enslaved Black people - “dysatheia atheopica” or “rascality”
-Protecting self or another from police brutality - “resisting”/“obstructing"/"interfering"
-Resisting restraint and seclusion - “excited delirium”
-Protesting murder of our children - “rioting”
-Ships (see quote from Longmore Lecture for context)
-Prisons & asylums
-Shackles & restraint chairs
(Each of these violences affect some people in ways that they do not affect others.)