Recommended Reading for April 12, 2010
Description: A ramp at the foot of a set of concrete stairs. It ends on the second step from the bottom, leaving the rest of the stairs to climb
The history of the black body is a long and twisted one. When I say black bodies, I mean the social construction of blackness, our bodies and what they mean. The phenotype of my people has been has so many characteristics ascribed to it, becuase society loves to other bodies that don’t fit it’s standard of what a good body is.
Our bodies were and still are seen as proof that we are less intelligent, inhuman, sexually uncontrollable and a gross deviation from normality. Our hair has been seen as proof of our savage nature, especially hair that dares to defy gravity. Our bodies were put on display in sideshows and in the halls of medicine and even in death we had no safety. For years, medical schools in the north and south used mostly black bodies for research and we had no recourse. Even schools in the north were guilty of this, having bodies shipped to them.
The astute reader will have spotted that these present a double bind. If I ask for an adjustment or support of some kind, then I’m playing right into the Tragedy discourse — I need very special help, given out of charity, for my pitiful tragic state. If I manage anything interesting or worth commenting on (whether that’s in my own or someone else’s estimation, but note that the two are not necessarily the same), the I am a Hero who overcame adversity actually managed something.
I’ll tell you another secret: I think that’s all really patronizing. Off-the-scale patronizing.
When I read up on “pediatric bipolar”, most critics use the same logic that went before around every childhood mental illness: “But we didn’t see any of those back in the day.” Now it is quite true that more children these days get a diagnosis of serious mental illness, more children are on psychiatric drugs – 1 in 154 takes an antipsychotic in the U.S. -, and more children receive other services, like special education. I do not believe in the validity of the “pediatric bipolar” concept, because it is nothing like adult bipolar, but that is not the point here. Do these children have a genuine problem, or are we just creating problems so that we can get more children on drugs and in special education?
I believe it’s a little of both, in the sense that, in today’s society, many children who end up on psychiatric drugs and in special education, have genuine problems. However, that does not mean that our society was not structured in a way that reinforces these problems. If our schools cannot take a temperamental child, that child is going to have a genuine problem at school, but that does not mean the child has a mental illness. It might as well mean that the school system has failed the child.
Unless you live with chronic pain, you have no idea what it is like. You don’t just get used to it or learn to tolerate it. You spend your days looking for any kind of relief that you can find. There are times when the pain is so overwhelming it invades your sleep and you cannot process anything but the hurt. It changes who you are and how you relate with people. I sometimes find myself snapping for no other reason than the pain. I have to consciously remind myself that no one did this to me and not to lash out at those I love.
And when you throw general disablist bullshit around, what you’re really saying is that you don’t give a fuck about how your behaviour contributes to this. And that your own unexamined privilege is more important than this.
And then you expect me to be polite, suck it up, go deal with it, ’splain to me that your behaviour does in fact *not* contribute to this, when in fact the only reason this is happening, is because in our society disabled people are seen as less worthy, but apparently I’m too stoopid to understand the mechanisms behind my own oppression and someone who never experienced this kind of abuse knows better, which just shows that you do see disabled people as less worthy… aaand – the icing on the cake of FAIL – is to tell me what I should get angry about.