Disability Bingo

Disability Bingo

We hear so many annoying and unpleasant things as physically disabled people. Wouldn’t to be nice if we could leap to our feet (or fall out of our chairs) and yell: ‘BINGO!’ This body of literature is so vast and rich, we decided to divide it into categories for easy reference:

Source: haddayr.livejournal.com/604179.html

These discourses of overcoming disability obscure the nature of disability itself. Disability isn’t a condition external to a person that can be discarded with a cure and left behind. People with disabilities must navigate structures of privilege, definitions of normalcy, and the




internalized superiority of the able-bodied every day. Their development is profoundly shaped by this navigation. Thus disability is a central (although certainly not the only) part of the experience and identity of a person with a disability. Many people with disabilities embrace them because it gives them an outsider’s vantage point and generates innovative perspectives, insights, and opportunities.

In addition to how the inspiration story positions the person with disabilities, notice what the story of inspiration does for the storyteller, for example, when we glorify people who are “willing” to work with special needs kids. For able-bodied people, the telling and retelling of the inspiration story affirms our goodness, benevolence, and superiority. Unfortunately, this sense of superiority results in an arrogance and ignorance that limits our understanding of ourselves and others.

The lack of humility that results from your limited view of others.

The dominant group, while the least likely to understand oppression and the most likely to be invested in holding it in place, is the group in the position to write the rules. Thus the rules will continue to benefit them. In addition, the minoritized group is rarely at the table in any numbers significant enough to challenge the dominant group or provide another perspective, even when the intentions of the rules are to prevent oppression. One of the outcomes of unearned privilege—arrogance— causes the dominant group to feel capable of representing the interests of the minoritized group (if they consider them at all), regardless of whether they have consulted with them. In fact, the dominant group members may be seen as more legitimate to represent minoritized group interests since they will see themselves as “objective” and not furthering a “special interest agenda.”

In Chapter 3’s discussion of socialization, we introduced the concept of code switching, explaining how our relationships to others are so deeply internalized that we shift effortlessly back and forth between them. For example, we know that when we are talking to our supervisor we need a level of deference that is not necessary when we are talking to our friends. We may also reveal secrets to a significant other that we would never share with coworkers. Adding the dimension of social power, we can think about internalized dominance as the default mode for engaging with the minoritized group. Because we have internalized our position in relation to theirs, we automatically interact with them from a position of unconscious superiority. We are seldom aware of this, because the messages of superiority have been planted and reinforced since birth. Further, because we have been taught that it is wrong to treat others differently, we would




likely deny our sense of superiority. Yet research shows that dominant-group interactions with minoritized

groups are based in a sense of internalized superiority and are different from interactions with other dominant group members (Bonilla-Silva, 2006; Myers, 2003; Picca & Feagin, 2007). Again and again, studies have shown that actual behavior toward minoritized groups does not line up with dominant group beliefs about these interactions—recall the resume study described in Chapter 3 (Dovidio, Glick, & Rudman, 2005; Greenwald & Krieger, 2006). Our lack of awareness or denial of our behavior does not lessen the reality of its impact. In fact, our unawareness and denial makes it more likely that we will continue.

The invisibility of privilege for the dominant group member. While

many of the dynamics discussed above make privilege invisible to the dominant group, there is also a phenomenon that scholars describe as “sanctioned not-knowing” or “willful ignorance” (Dei, Karumanchery, & Karumanchery-Luik, 2004). These terms attempt to describe dynamics that allow dominant group members to remain ignorant of the overwhelming evidence of injustice in society. While many dominant group members claim that they simply don’t know about the minoritized group, invoking a sense of innocence, the information is easily available. Thus we use the phrase “willful ignorance” because minoritized groups have always tried to get dominant groups to see and understand their experiences, but dominant group members often aggressively resist this information. These forms of denial and resistance include:

Demanding more data to prove the injustice (“When were these statistics published? I think things have changed in the last 10 years.”) Feeling qualified, without any study of the issue, to argue with people who experience the oppression and with experts in the field (“I disagree that disability is socially constructed.”) Giving counter examples or exceptions to the rule (“But Roosevelt had a disability and he was president!”) Channel switching (“The true oppression is class. If you eliminate classism all other oppressions will disappear.”) Intimidation (“You might advance more if you were a team player.”) Defensiveness (“Are you calling me ableist? I have an aunt with a disability!”) Negating research and explaining away injustice by giving personal and anecdotal stories (“There was a kid in a wheelchair in our class.




Everybody loved him and no one even noticed his wheelchair.”) Emotional fragility (“It hurts my feelings that you think I would say something ableist.”)

All the dominant ideologies in society support willful ignorance. The ideologies of meritocracy, equal opportunity, individualism, and human nature we described above play a powerful role in denying the current of privilege and insisting that society is just.

Perhaps the most subtle yet powerful way we resist knowing is by simply being uninterested. Internalized superiority makes us indifferent to learning about the minoritized group because we don’t see them as valuable. If we did see them as valuable, we would seek them out. For example, we might not know much about what it means to be rich and famous, but many of us spend a lot of time reading about their lives because they are important to us.

Common Dominant Group Misconceptions About Privilege

As you read through these common misconceptions, it might be helpful to identify a group that you are dominant in and through which you experience privilege. Apply the dynamics discussed here to your experience as a member of that group.

“If we haven’t personally discriminated, we are not benefitting.”

Some dominant group members can admit that the minoritized group is oppressed, but still have a limited view of oppression. We don’t realize that we are looking at the minoritized group from a specific position—one that is elevated. Instead, we see ourselves as neutral, perhaps recognizing that they are below us, but seeing ourselves as on level ground. It follows that if we could just pull them up to where we are, their lot would improve. What we don’t recognize is that their oppression lifts us up; because the minoritized group has less, we necessarily have more. The concept of privilege challenges this perceived-neutral reference point by revealing that the dominant group is actually elevated by virtue of the oppression of the minoritized group. Language helps illustrate this point: While we refer to the minoritized group as underprivileged or disadvantaged, we rarely talk about the dominant group as overprivileged or overadvantaged.

“If we can’t feel our social and institutional power, we don’t have

it.” Dominant group members do not have to feel powerful in order to have privilege. The social and institutional power and privilege of




dominant groups is so normalized that it is outside of conscious awareness. Yet we often expect that power is something that one can feel, rather than something one takes for granted. For example, in the case of race privilege, a struggle in one aspect of a White person’s life often becomes confused with a lack of racial privilege. In discussions on race we often hear White working-class men protest that they don’t have any social power. They work long and grueling hours, often in jobs in which they have no long-term security, and come home feeling beaten and quite disempowered. These men often cannot relate to the concept of holding social power. The key to recognizing group-level power is recognizing normalcy—what can be taken for granted. These men are indeed struggling against classism, but they are not struggling against racism. A man of Color in the same job would be dealing with both classism and racism. Indeed, men (and women) of Color have traditionally been kept out of these jobs. Thus, our own sense of power is not necessarily aligned with how others perceive or respond to us, nor our relationship to social and institutional networks.

“If a minoritized person is in charge, there is no oppression.” In our

work we are often asked questions such as, “But our dean is a woman so how can there be sexism in our department?” In thinking about numbers, there is an important distinction between rank and status (Nieto et al., 2010). Rank refers to social membership (such as race, class, gender, sexual orientation, ability, age), and thus rank is not temporary and impacts all aspects of one’s life. Status refers to a temporary position/job and is contextual (e.g., the infamous story of Oprah Winfrey, one of the richest women in the world, unable to hail a cab once outside her workplace). Your dean may be a woman but she will have to enact male norms and values to keep her position and will still deal with unaware sexism from the men she supervises.

A Latino manager, while holding status over a White person he supervises, will still have to deal with the racism of his employees. Research shows that women and peoples of Color in positions of leadership are scrutinized more closely and judged more harshly than White men (Elsass & Graves, 1997). Peoples of Color are often assumed to be the recipients of special programs rather than to have earned their positions, and are often perceived as being biased, having special interests, and being “troublemakers” (Bonilla-Silva, 2006; Calliste, 1996; Duncan, 2014). Conversely, one of the privileges of being in the dominant group is that you are perceived to be “just human” and thus neutral and unbiased in your viewpoint.




“If we are oppressed in one social group membership, we can’t be

privileged in another.” Remember that we occupy multiple social groups. One may be oppressed as a female but elevated as White; oppressed as a person with a disability but elevated as male; and so on. Consider the oppression of sexism. While all women experience sexism, they experience it differently based on its interaction with their other social group identities.

The experiences of a woman will vary greatly if she is heterosexual or a lesbian. Further, imagine this woman is heterosexual and has a disability. Perhaps she is living with a disability and is Muslim; or living with a disability and is Asian, Muslim, and a nonnative English speaker. In these ways, her experiences are determined not simply by her gender, but also by her ability status and racial, religious, and sexual identity. Thus we can be oppressed in one axis of life and still experience privilege in another. Intersectional analysis requires that we consider how these various social group identities interact with one another.

Forms of oppression can overlap and compound the experience of minoritized groups. Notice how in the examples below, adapted from the work of Zeus Leonardo (2004, 2009), racism intersects with ableism to produce the following manifestations of oppression:

Women of Color, Indigenous women, and women with disabilities have been forcibly sterilized, denying them agency over their own bodies. Intelligence testing and eugenics (selective breeding of humans) construct the idea of the genetic inferiority of Blacks, Latinos, and Indigenous peoples. Beliefs that Asian-heritage people are smarter than other groups of Color sets up a competitive hierarchy and reinforces racist concepts of intelligence as genetic.

The life and work of Leroy Moore (Figure 6.3) illustrate these intersections of oppression.

Place Your Order Here!

Disability Bingo
Disability Bingo

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *