The recently aired HBO documentary, Valentine Road, examined the murder of 15 year old Leticia King by a classmate. She was transitioning from male and had asked out a classmate, who then shot her dead. The clips (available here on Gawker.com) from the documentary show how structures are maintained that define ‘normal’ behavior vs. ‘deviant’ behavior. In one clip, one of her teachers is appalled that she should come out as transgender and she says that she relates with his murderer, saying “I don’t know if I would have taken a gun…” I don’t know??!!
In the second clip, the jurors discuss how much they felt sorry for the murderer, and how his actions were quite reasonable. They even argue that the white supremacist drawings in his notebook were merely the result of random doodling.
The behaviors of these women are exactly what generates the social understanding of what “counts” as normal and what “should be” stigmatized. Their behavior sanctioned the murder (and in the teacher’s case, explicitly sanctioned beating him) of Leticia. Those of us who remain silent, while knowing these norms exists, and believing that we are innocent, are in fact complicit in creating the environment in which such actions can appear justified.
In this piece on NPR’s Code Switch, Kat Chow discusses the forthcoming book by Hastings College of Law professor Osagie Obasogie, Blinded by Sight: Seeing Race in the Eyes of the Blind. Inspired by Ray Charles’s experience of race, as depicted in the biopic Ray, Professor Obasogiebegan interviewing blind people to get a clearer understanding of how the blind experience race.
The results, I think, are not terribly surprising. Professor Obasogie notes that since the blind are socialized into the same racially structured social milieu that the sighted are, they internalize race in much the same way. Only, for the blind, this means drawing on proxies for skin color and needing to make inferences about race from other clues. (Which the sighted also must do in situations where skin color is ambiguous.)
Nonetheless, this looks like a fascinating study and one that will add a new dimension to the discourse on race and the operations of racial oppression.
The Center for American Progress has published a nuanced analysis of the equity status of women in the U.S. They found that:
The role of women in the United States has changed dramatically over the past few decades. For one, more and more women have taken on new responsibilities outside the home by joining the paid workforce. While women made up only about one-third of the workforce in 1969, women today make up almost half of all workers in the United States. Women are also stepping up to lead the country; a record number of women ran for public office in 2012, and a record-high percentage of women are serving in Congress. In addition to making progress on issues of economics and leadership, women have made progress on health issues, which impact women’s personal well-being, as well as their economic security. Over the past few years, women have been able to end gender discrimination by big insurance companies and gain free contraception coverage because of the Affordable Care Act.
Despite women’s advancements, however, substantial inequalities remain. Although an increasing number of women are either the sole breadwinner for their family or share the role with their partners, women in the United States are paid only 77 cents for every dollar a man makes. The pay gap is even larger for women of color. On average, African American women make 64 cents for every dollar that white men make. While 2012 was a watershed year for women in terms of getting elected to public office, women still comprise only 18.1 percent of Congress, despite making up more than half of the U.S. population. They also face challenges on health issues, as 2012 saw continued conservative efforts to erode women’s ability to make their own decisions about their health and well-being.
A deeper examination shows that disparities for women also exist among states. Women in Vermont, for example, make on average close to 85 cents for every dollar a man makes, while women in Wyoming make only 64 cents—more than 25 percent less than women in Vermont. On leadership, 15 states have no female elected leaders in the House of Representatives or the Senate. Lastly, while less than 10 percent of women in Vermont, Wisconsin, Hawaii, and Massachusetts are uninsured, nearly 25 percent of women in Texas do not have health insurance.
Read the rest of the report here.
When it comes to diversity, language is important, and language is political. How we name differences and normative standards plays a central role in how power works to marginalize some while benefiting others. Lisa Egan writes in xojane from her own experiences about how she should be described:
I am not a “person with a disability.” I do not “have a disability.” Given that I look like this:
Image Credit: ewheeling.
You probably think I’m either delusional or in denial. I’m not, I just have a real problem with the phrase “person with a disability” and the notion of “having a disability.”
I am disabled. More specifically, I am disabled by a society that places social, attitudinal and architectural barriers in my way. This world we live in disables me by treating me like a second-class citizen because I have a few impairments — most obviously a mobility impairment.
Read the rest of her wonderful essay here.