Thursday, August 17, 2017

Responsibilities of a Self Appointed Ally

ally - a person, group, or nation that is associated with another or others for some common cause or purpose
In social justice circles, an ally is better explained as an advocate who agrees to stand up against discrimination at the discretion of those in which they intend to defend. But I believe it is more. Allies are also responsible for bridging learning gaps. Not everyone is granted higher education on  race, gender, sexuality, disability, and religious studies. In fact, a lot of people are (innocently) ignorant on the subjects including our Nation’s history. I believe it is also the duty of allies to teach the willing about such matters in hopes of making them future allies. I believe that it is more an ally’s responsibility to teach than the person experiencing the discrimination. Allies are in a much better (more privileged) position to do so.

Taking on the unenlightened is not without risk, however. There are those who I like to call willfully-ignorant. These people do not want enlightened and will fight back in hurtful ways. Allies have to be cautious when engaging for our own safety. But we must also be brave because not everyone is willfully-ignorant. And those who are not will be new allies some day. Perhaps sooner than we think.

I recently experienced a situation where allies turned against each other because of an innocent ignorant person. In this case, the person had said something insensitive on social media that reflected ignorance toward a particular discrimination issue. Instead of attempting to teach, however, the allies used shaming tactics and eventually drove the person away. Later, they pulled in another ally who had not seen any of the activity (the social media post had since been deleted) and questioned them about the person. When the ally expressed shock about the person’s behavior the allies berated them for not using language that immediately denounced the person. They went as far to say the ally must be a “sympathizer” with known hate groups. I was reminded of the phrase “if you are not with us, you are against us.” It was a very sad state of affairs. Not only had they alienated an ally, they missed a chance to convert someone over to the good side.

Where do we think potential allies will go when they are berated by the supposed “side of reason?” Of course, they will turn to the other side who is always ready and waiting for angry, hateful cast-outs. 

It seems like some allies may be forgetting our purpose – to support and fight for the people who have less power than ourselves. It may very well be that some have taken on a victim role and become indignant about fighting for the cause. We, allies, need to remember our place.

Monday, June 26, 2017

$ It's All About the Money $

On the first day Donald Trump sat in the oval office as POTUS, was scrubbed of all things related to disability. Though this wasn't the only civil rights issue removed from the site, it sent a very powerful message to the disability community; you do not matter to this administration.

Few were terribly surprised after having seen this man ridicule a  disabled reporter on national television. But many had hoped his rhetoric on the campaign trail would be restrained once he was done rallying his legion of supporters. Sadly, this was not to be the case. 

It seems crystal clear now that this administration and the GOP in general, do not look kindly upon those with disabilities. Take a look for a moment, at the current push to eliminate Medicaid, a life sustaining safeguard for those with disabilities. And then take a closer look at how this administration treats those with disabilities when they attempt to peacefully protest against taking away their chance for independence and health.

For more information on these outstanding advocates,
visit ADAPT's website or Facebook.

Eliminating health care safeguards for those with disabilities ensures they will not be able to remain in their homes and communities thus forcing them into nursing homes and other similar institutions. Not only does this decrease quality of life, it is extremely expensive and significantly more costly than providing care and supports to keep people in their homes and communities. It also takes people with disabilities out of contributing to the workforce and society, in general. This seems like a no-win situation for everyone - increased costs, reduced productivity, and poor life conditions.

So why then would POTUS and his GOP lackeys want to pursue something that seems to benefit no one? One potential answer is terrifying and it includes eugenics and euthanasia. The likely answer is less sensational, though no less diabolical, and it looks a lot like the failed "War on Drugs" also being revived. This administration exploits those with extensive needs for profit. Privatized institutions stand to profit significantly from those who fill their rooms and cells. It seems the new American motto is:
"Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses, yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore, send these, the homeless, tempest tost to me" so that I can profit greatly from thee.
Follow the money trail with this administration. Always.

Sunday, April 2, 2017


noun: acceptance; plural noun: acceptances

the action or process of being received as adequate or suitable, typically to be admitted into a group.

“you must wait for acceptance into the club”

For a long time, disabled people have been waiting for this club acceptance. Some have been granted honorary membership in the club over the years. Those who can pass as “nearly normal” and seemingly have fewer needs can gain entry some of the time. Most of the time though, they are only accepted as temporary members and really have to work hard pretending not to be disabled. The minute their wheelchair or service animal causes an inconvenience to the club, they are cast out.

Autistic people are no exception to this club instability. Those who learn to keep their disability hidden sometimes can sneak in unnoticed. Soon, however, autistic behaviors arise and they too are cast out of the club. Does it matter that the autistic person’s behavior is often more mature or empathetic than that of their peers? No. The only thing that seems to matter is assimilation - not appearing disabled in any way.

Organizations have sprung up over the years to enforce this club membership. Oh they don’t tell you that is their goal; instead they tell you they are there to spread “awareness” and help fund “research for cures.” Both of these activities directly enforce strict regulation on club membership criteria, however. Awareness campaigns do so by pointing out and emphasizing people’s differences. By emphasizing an Autistic person’s behavior as different or unusual the idea that autistic people are “not like the other club members” is reinforced. That is, they do not belong in the club.

Then there is the “cure.” When an autistic person speaks out against curing themselves, organizations - especially those who want you to “Light it up Blue” or “Talk about Curing Autism,” tell club members that this is a testimony to how very ill the autistic person is. They use the autistic person’s disability against them by discounting their words and desires as irrelevant due to being disabled. These organizations talk about how very difficult autism is on club members as reason enough to eradicate autistic people. They do not want autistic people to exist because they believe autistic people are a burden to the club. They believe that autistic people are too different. Accepting diversity into a rigid group like this can be challenging. So all of this is for the convenience of the current club members; none of this is for autistic people. And none of this truly benefits the club in the long run.

The club sounds like a really awful group but it is one from which most cannot escape. It is society. And it is time that we remove the exclusivity from its membership criteria. It is time we stop determining who is worthy. And it is high time we stop holding “awareness” campaigns that stigmatize people based on their differences.

In honor of my son, my Prince, I celebrate Autism Acceptance. I do so not just this April, but everyday and will so for the rest of my life.

More on Autism Acceptance:

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Progressive People Revise Beliefs

Progressive people are willing to revise beliefs. What does this mean? Revising beliefs means being able to critically analyze and challenge ones own assumptions as new information becomes available. When this happens, progressive people make adjustments to their belief system to incorporate new information. It works something like this:

Jane believes all donuts taste alike because so far this has been her experience. But one day, Jane is approached by The Best Donuts in the World salesman who offers her a free sample.
Jane is certain it will be no better than every other donut but politely agrees to try the sample. She puts it in her mouth. What happens next is crucial. Jane could reject the delectable morsel that is tantalizing her taste buds by finding things that are wrong with it (not her favorite flavor, not her favorite type of donut, it’s an exception – it’s good but could never be reproduced, etc.). This by far is the easiest route to take. It requires no critical thinking on Jane’s part. Jane is able to thank the nice salesman for the free sample and tell herself she has had better. In this case, she walks away fooling herself and missing out on really awesome donuts. Worse, she has helped stifle The Best Donuts in the World from becoming a huge success all because she didn’t want to change her view. Alternatively, Jane could critically analyze her own schema (what she knows about donuts so far) and incorporate this new information – not all donuts are alike. Critical analysis takes a lot more courage because she must challenge her own assumptions and admit to herself that she has been wrong all along. If Jane is a true progressive thinker, she will take the second option and challenge her assumptions, walking away with a dozen or so of scrumptious confectioneries and a new adjusted belief system. The change may be modest: “most donuts are alike but The Best Donuts in the World are significantly better.” Or it may be extreme: “you cannot judge a donut by its sprinkles.” Either way, Jane will have shown critical thinking; she is able to take in new information that contradicts her prior belief system. This is how progress actually happens.

Imagine a world where no one took on any new information that contradicted their prior belief system. Copernicus would refuse to believe the planets rotated around our sun and therefore not bother to investigate. Edward Jenner would have watched his family and many more die of smallpox. Marie Curie would have never discovered radiation and x-rays or cancer treatments might be mythology today. These are just but a few major discoveries that have positively affected our lives on planet Earth. Progress means we must challenge assumptions including our own.

Refusing to accept new information about issues sounds an awful lot like what progressives are fighting against in political circles. Global climate change, gender inequality, racial inequality, disability rights and inequality – to name a few, are things that the more conservative politicians seemingly refuse to believe are problems at all. It seems easy to find examples of the conservative side not taking in new information. But what about when it is the self-proclaimed progressive side?

There is much to be learned from groups not like ourselves. Today, it is easier to hear from these groups thanks to social media. Sadly, however, I do not see critical thinking happening from the progressive side in many cases. Instead, old ideals are firmly rooted and seemingly not modifiable. New ideas that contradict old thinking are dismissed as anomalies or flat out ignored. Take if you will, the recent controversy over the Social Security Administration’s Representative Payee Gun Database Rule. This rule was put in place during the Obama administration and was vehemently opposed by disability rights activists. It was opposed not because these groups are pro-NRA or even pro-gun rights. It was opposed because “the proposed rule is the product of a tendency in our society to link disability and violence despite a wealth of scientific evidence showing that there is no link between the two” (ASAN, 2016). Opposing this rule, however, seemingly went against the status quo - that progressives are for strict gun control. But when one critically analyzes the situation it is recognized that the problem is not about gun control. Rather it is about labeling an already disenfranchised group as potentially dangerous adding more stigma to that of which is already an enormous problem. It is really about using people as a scapegoat instead of addressing the real problem. Data does not support that this group as dangerous though you will hear tons of anecdotes from the progressives to support this weak argument. Just because something seems like it should be true, doesn’t mean it actually is, however. People with serious mental health disabilities are no more likely to commit violent acts than the next person (Fazel et al, 2009; Fazel et al, 2010). And though it takes some courage to change this schema, doing so is critical thinking.

Today the world is much smaller than it ever has been. The Internet has brought us close and has given a voice to many disenfranchised groups. Progressive organizations and the people within need to recognize this and critically analyze their prior schemas. Until they do, I have little hope that our society will actually progress past the mess in which we are currently living. Changing beliefs to incorporate new information will not be painless; but I promise it will be progressive.


ASAN (2016). ASAN Statement on SSA Representative Payee Gun Database Rule. At
Fazel S, Gulati G, Linsell L, Geddes JR, & Grann M (2009). Schizophrenia and violence: Systematic review and meta-analysis. PLoS Medicine, 6, e1000120.
Fazel, S., Lichtenstein, P., Grann, M., Goodwin, G. M., & Langstrom, N. (2010). Bipolar disorder and violent crime: new evidence from population-based longitudinal studies and systematic review. Archives of General Psychiatry,67, 931-938.