Literacies Circle: Critical Disability Theory

In last week’s literacies circle, I brought up critical race theory. And that many of us want to learn about and counter racism with anti-racism on both personal and systemic levels. More inquiry came along my way to continue the conversation:

How do we distinguish between critical race theory and culturally responsive teaching?

And since it seems hard to isolate race, could we fit intersectionality into the discussion?

Since I mentioned critical disability theory—what about dismantling other forms of oppressive isms? 

Absolutely that race and disability are not the same. Being a person of color does not mean there is inferiority of mind or malformation of body. Critical disability theory challenges the medicalization of disabilities against the social, cultural, linguistic and political norms of our societies; it challenges both overt and covert marginalization of people with disabilities. Too often, disabilities are seen as unfortunate circumstances, deserving of pity and patronization. And that disabilities are conditions that must be cured or at least somehow conquered. However, it is actually unfortunate that the larger society continue to maintain a status quo of dualism between “normal” and “abnormal” in all aspects, including characteristics of race, abilities, languages, gender, sexuality, economic class, and so forth. For example, my deafness is a physical abnormality—most people have ears that work well enough—but say, if captioning (and/or American Sign Language) and visual signals were everywhere I went, I might not feel or be seen as “abnormal.” I am only “disabled” when confronting a world that is first and mostly designed for people who hear.

In literacies circles and when responding to books and articles, we can ask:

How is critical theory personal to you?

How is critical theory frightening for some people?

How do we dig deeper into our social fabric to see how individuals can live full and well lives?

Is ableism and anti-ableism work parallel, or not parallel, to racism and anti-racism work?

What are ways of countering push-back or backlash? And how do we practice self-care when confronted?

If we write about our thoughts and experiences, are we playing with fire? Should we remain silent? How do we build up our strengths and voices?

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