Disclaimer: The aim of this blog is to discuss how able-bodied privilege, laws/policies that are designed in favor of those with non-disabilities, functions as a form of oppression. By oppression, I mean systematic exercises of power against an individual or group in unjust ways that results in marginalization, disadvantage, and dis-empowerment. I intend to present opinions that frame disabled people as ‘deviant’ figures, but these do not reflect my views on disability. Rather, I hope to shape my blog in a way that emphasizes the problematic nature of the cultural attitudes that frame how a society can view disability. I am not an expert on this subject, but I have an interest in discussing the interconnection between disability and race. Feel free to point out any concerns about the language I use to discuss this topic, whether this is in the shape of a formal letter or a simple “Go to hell,” which is probably the more fun option.
Homicide: “the deliberate and unlawful killing of one person by another” (OED), more specifically, the term coroners used to describe Tanisha Anderson’s death. On November 12th, 2014 (the same day Tanisha died), in Cleveland Ohio, Tanisha began to act in an agitated manner. According to Tanisha’s sister Jennifer, Tanisha desired to leave her home and made several attempts to do so. Tanisha was an adult and an individual with autonomy, making the decision to leave her house shouldn’t have been a problem, but her family members feared Tanisha was experiencing an ‘episode.’ Apparently, the stigmas attached to people with disabilities, in Tanisha’s case Bipolar disorder, paired with familial love, are not just a fallacy of the prejudiced but also loved ones as well. So, Tanisha’s family called Cleveland’s emergency medical unit and a pair of cops arrived at the home. As Tanisha’s family observed, the cops Scott Aldridge and Brian Meyers began to interact with Tanisha in a hostile manner. Aldridge and Meyers slammed Tanisha to the ground and forced her into a prostrate position, which cut off her air supply and resulted in her death. Although family members made efforts to interfere after witnessing the rough methods the cops used, Tanisha died.
If you hadn’t already guessed, there is definitely something wrong about the way this incident went down. The sole purpose of involving Aldridge and Meyers was to provide the safe transport of Tanisha to the hospital, but their actions heavily undermine any intention of doing so. The officers slammed her into the pavement, which speaks for itself, treating Tanisha as object instead of a person. I don’t know about anyone else, but crushing someone into the ground does sound like an effective ‘situation-diffusing’ tactic. Besides portraying the officer’s incompetency, the officer’s actions can stress how dominant cultural attitudes possibly view disability. These views label disability as a neutral topic, a non-political issue, and as an individual issues that can be managed on a case-by-case basis. A Family Member’s Stance
In an attempt to overturn this blasphemy, I shall examine the factors that could have influenced how her case was handled. Tanisha Anderson, an African American woman, was diagnosed with Bipolar disorder. Now you’re probably thinking, “What the hell does race have to do with her disability?” Here’s my answer: racial injustice is a prevalent problem that is not geographically limited, it occurs everywhere. Often, the black female and male gendered body are subject to prejudice, which instigates a persistent image of the ‘deviant figure.’ Thus, I argue that one main reason why Tanisha’s case was handled in such a problematic way is because of negative structure of cultural attitudes that determine how people view disability and race. For instance, the filter in which discussions about disability often come through range from perspectives meant to inspire, promote pity, or cause feelings of fear within an able-bodied person. In Tanisha Anderson’s case, some individuals may argue that her mental disability can transform Tanisha from a normal person to a threat.
From my perspective, this assumption that difference means danger is ridiculous. It’s unfair to use disability as evidence of deviancy within an individual, because crimes are committed by a range of people. My mother is disabled, but let’s forget the fact that I love her, efforts should be made to send her away right–never know when she might turn into a psychopath. Forgive my rant, I meant to point out that this type of rigid thinking, in terms of how society views disability, is problematic. For instance, the way “we” build schools, businesses, police stations emphasizes how dominant culture understands and values disability. Unfortunately, this world’s design does not have accessibility as its forefront priority. One way to fix this issue is to recognize the social and cultural ideas that shape how disability is viewed, and change those ideas to recognize disability as a culture that encompasses shared values and identity. What is Privilege?