You know how the NRA and other gundamentalists love to trot out their reality challenged assertion “only a good guy with a gun can stop a bad guy with a gun”? NRA president Wayne LaPierre or NRA spokesperson Dana Loesch are almost guaranteed to be right out there in front of cameras on those blue moon occasions when a gunman stops another gunman. They even love to get out there when an incident of gun violence happens so that– like vultures–they can take advantage of a tragedy to push people to buy more guns. I have an extraordinarily difficult time believing that LaPierre and Loesch are ignorant of the fact that more guns equals more (not less) crime. That evidence has been out there for some time, but of course, to make that knowledge widespread would likely impact the sales of firearms. And the NRA doesn’t want that. Another thing the NRA doesn’t want is for the little bubble they live in to burst when reality strikes. Like it did today, when a gunman shot and killed multiple people at a Waffle House in Nashville, TN, only to be disarmed by an UNarmed man. They were likely just as unhappy to hear that as they were to hear that the good guy–James Shaw, Jr–is Black (among the many boogeymen the NRA use as part of their fear mongering tactics are African-Americans).
This post discusses ableism and ableist terms. For the purposes of this post, the ableist terms are spelled out.
Ableism is NOT allowed on my wall.
It saddens me that over the years, I’ve had to repeat this several times. Worse still, I’ve lost friends (both in and out of the social justice community) bc it is more important for some folks to be able to use ableist language than it is for them to simply edit their comment (to be fair, that list of people is very small–less than 5; when asked, everyone else who has used such language has been willing to edit their comment). This, despite my friends list being comprised largely (though not exclusively) of many progressive minded individuals who are advocates of social justice. But then I remember that those of us who are social justice advocates and/or progressives were raised in the same bigoted, ableist society everyone else was. That makes us (yes, “us”, bc while I am a SJ advocate and progressive, I grew up in the same bigoted society as pretty much everyone else in the United States) prone to the same in-group thinking, the same human foibles, the same cognitive shortcuts, and the same resistance to modifying our language in recognition of splash damage as any other group. And certainly, many people long ago began the task of ridding themselves of bigoted language. I know a great many people who don’t used racial slurs (including anti-Black, anti-Hispanic, and anti-Asian ones, as well as others). I also know many people who don’t use gendered slurs. I think that’s commendable, bc it takes work to overcome years upon years of cultural indoctrination.
Our society is rife with far more than race or gender based bigoted thinking. Such bigotry neither begins nor ends with racist or gendered thinking. We live in a classist society that regularly discriminates against and oppresses poor people. We live in a body-shaming society that looooooooooves to hold fat people up as objects of contempt. And we love to shame others based on our perception of their intelligence.
Yes, we love our ableism.
And that’s something we need to work on.
Marvel Comics’ 2017 event, Secret Empire, is not a series I like. It’s not even a series I dislike. It’s a series I loathe. I’ll freely admit that when I first heard of the plot: “Captain America, having been revealed as a Hydra sleeper agent, takes control of the Nazi-stand in organization and overthrows the United States, installing himself as the supreme leader, must now face down the heroes of the Marvel Universe who face the daunting task of defeating their iconic leader who knows everything about them”, I thought, there’s an idea that could work there. Absolute power corrupting. Cap being swayed to the darkside. What if our icons turned on us? Should we have heroes? Should anyone be granted so much implicit trust and power? There are some interesting questions in the premise that could have been asked. Nick Spencer’s mini series failed to deliver on any of the aforementioned potential themes.
Normally when I write one of these entries, I highlight multiples cases of reckless, haphazard, and outright dangerous examples of people wielding firearms. From playing with guns while intoxicated to people being irresponsible in their handling of guns in a public setting to instances of recklessness such as leaving a loaded gun in reach of a child, there are innumerable cases that demonstrate the lack of responsibility on the part of many people in this country. People who probably think of themselves as “responsible gun owners”.
Untrained or poorly trained civilians are not the only ones who demonstrate insufficient care in the handling of firearms though. There are times when law enforcement officials themselves–people who go through ongoing, rigorous training in the handling of firearms–demonstrate their lack of care. One particularly egregious example of this happened yesterday: a reserve police officer who is also a teacher at Seaside High School in California, recklessly handled a gun, resulting in a student being injured…
In everyday conversation, I’ve almost completely stopped using intelligence referencing ableist slurs. I think I’ve slipped up once or twice here or there, but overall it’s one of those things where I catch myself before I (as an example) refer to someone as stu*id. It’s important to me to not use such language for two reasons:
- To characterize someone as stu*id, idiot*c, or r*tarded based on their behavior or something they’ve said is to attribute the words or deeds to a lack of intelligence. Pretty much no one is capable of making snap assessments of the intelligence of others, so right there is reason enough to stop using these slurs as they impugn the intellect of their target. Moreover, using such language is inaccurate. For example, there’s a YouTube vlogger who records himself eating some of the hottest peppers out there. During a super slow period one day last week, I had a guest show me one of the videos. Some people look at the dude and think “He’s fucking stu*id for eating those peppers”. I posit that it has little, if anything to do with his intelligence. In fact, it looks to me like he’s a dude who knows that there is an audience for outlandish, outrageous, and even potentially dangerous behavior. I suspect he’s doing it for the hits and/or the attention (no idea if he makes money off his videos, but if he does, that fits with my theory). What he’s not doing is eating these ridiculously hot peppers bc he lacks intelligence. “Foolish”, “Outlandish”, “Bizarre”, “Potentially Hazardous”…these are all words that better (and more precisely) describe the actions of hot pepper eating YouTube guy.
- Splash damage is a real thing and its worth avoiding the use of language that causes it. In the context of ableist language, splash damage is caused to unintended parties through the use of ableist slurs. As mentioned in #1, to call POTUS45 an idi*t bc he wants to build a border wall is imprecise (ignorant, laughable, or absurd are terms that more accurately describe him), and of course we can’t assess his intelligence based on his support for that inane wall. But using an ableist slur to describe him is metaphorically throwing a wide net. To call him an idi*t is draws an implicit connection between his idea (the wall) and the speakers’ assessment of his intelligence. Basically, it’s saying “you came up with this horribly racist idea bc you’re not smart”. Chitler is not the only one affected by the slur bc there are people who have lower than average intelligence as a result of cognitive impairments or deficiencies. These are people who are already treated horribly by society and face stigma and discrimination bc of their cognitive disabilities. We shouldn’t compound that by implicitly claiming that harmful or bigoted ideas are the result of cognitive impairment.
Like I said, for the most part, I’ve eliminated such words from my everyday use. There are times, however, when I read something that is just so mind-boggling that
out of sheer reflex, certain terms spring to mind (although that’s where they stay). Maine gubernatorial hopeful Shawn Moody recently uttered some words that had me reflexively grasping for some of those old, abandoned slurs. He thinks teachers should use fire extinguishers to stop school shooters (yes, you read that right):
From Neil Armstrong and Christopher Columbus, to Benjamin Franklin and Theodore Roosevelt, the history taught in U.S. public (and I suspect in private) schools focuses overwhelmingly on the white people who have shaped our nations history. That history has been spun in such a way as to overlook the many horrific acts committed by white people since the founding of this country. In thinking back to what I learned in public school, the most barbaric event caused by white folks that I learned about was the Civil War. And that was a watered down, “the Civil War wasn’t fought completely over slavery” version (no amount of historical revisionism will change the fact that YES, it was fought over slavery). I recall learning about Christopher Columbus “discovering” this land, but not the rape and murder of Indigenous citizens at the hands of Columbus and his fellow colonists. I remember learning about various United States Presidents, but curiously, the fact that many of the early ones were slave owners was left out of teachings. I certainly never learned about the racialized history of policing in this country. In fact, in addition to the history of the United States being presented from an almost exclusively white perspective, it was also told in an overwhelmingly positive one.
When you look back at USAmerican history without the tinted glasses, however, you begin to realize that that history you were taught? It’s not so rosy after all. White people have indeed contributed to the shaping of this nation. They have performed many great deeds and been responsible for many important discoveries and inventions. They’ve also been responsible for some of the most heinous, vicious acts of brutality one can imagine (and some you don’t want to). Given that most people aren’t taught these unsavory aspects of USAmerican history AND given that so many people whine about a lack of a White History Month (bc public schools around the nation teaching a version of history that is biased in favor of white people and the positive contributions they’ve made isn’t enough), I figured what the heck. Let’s give ’em what they asked for. For a third (and probably not final) time:
Never was a fan of them. Not as a child. Nor as an adult. Can’t say I even like the word, which brings to mind unpleasant tasks that no one wants to do. Sadly, they need to be done by someone, and when you’re a kid staring at those $1.25 comics you want to buy or the cool new Transformers you want, suddenly, you become a bit more willing to mow the lawn. Or wash dishes. Or clean the car. Or vacuum the living room. Willing, yes. Thrilled? Not so much.
Throughout my life, I’ve done a fair amount of chores, both as a child living with my parents and sister, as well as an adult living with roommates or extended family (as I am now). I still really don’t *like* doing chores, but as I’ve aged, I recognize that they need doing, and as someone who contributes to messes in the home, or who benefits from living in the residence, it is my job to contribute to maintenance. I’m fine with that (though I miss the days of being paid for doing them). It is what it is. There is one chore that I typically avoid, bc it is one that taxes me the most.
It’s not washing the dishes, cleaning my room, or folding clothes. It’s not even mowing the lawn (though this one comes close, as my aunt’s home sits on a huge plot of land, which I thankfully don’t have to mow any longer).
No, for me, this chore is wholly mental. It’s taxing bc of the amount of time it takes to complete. Depending on the length of time it takes to complete, it can take a week or even months. Hell, sometimes I’ve just given up and tossed the book to the side and never gone back to it.
You read that right: reading is a chore.
On Monday, the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery added two new, history making pieces. Against the backdrop of Black History Month, the Gallery unveiled the official portraits of the forty-fourth President of the United States, Barack Obama, and his wife, Michelle Obama. Commissioned by the Portrait Gallery, New York-based artist Kehinde Wiley and Baltimore-based portrait artist Amy Sherald were chosen by the former POTUS and FLOTUS to portray them. Wiley , well known for his large-scale portraits of African-Americans, was selected by President Obama, while Sherald, an artist who takes a conceptual approach to her work (rather than a photorealistic one), was selected by Michelle Obama.
When I first saw the headline at the Root “Black Twitter tells some white dude named Michael Rapaport to keep Janet Jackson’s name out of his mouth“, my first reaction was “Who?”. His name sounded rather familiar, in that “didn’t I see this XXX film recently with a guy who had that last name” kinda way. Thankfully this is the Age of Google, and it only takes a few strokes–keyboard strokes–to find out all there is to know about the dude who swerved out of his lane and into incoming traffic. It turns out Michael Rapaport is an actor. Dun dun duuuuuuun. And a director. A podcast host. A writer. A media personality. Oh, and a comedian. Dude wears a lot of masks. Maybe he’s having a crisis of self, and is trying his hand at a bunch of different things to see what works. I can’t tell if his offending Tweet was meant to Rapaport the comedian or Rapaport the media personality, but either way, this ass ran headlong into oncoming traffic when he decided to cry Janet and let slip his smug ignorance: