Ableism in the Human Rights Committee VII

This Post was made by activist Linda Baughn, another Committee member.  The Leadership Conference is an event that draws much of UTLA leadership; in the past, to Palm Springs.  Because the hotel/conference center we have been meeting at for several years, closed down, this year we met at a location in La Quinta.  Many still refer to the event as “Palm Springs.”

——– Original Message ——–_Subject:     [utla-hrc-discussion] ongoing discussion about the retreat_Date:     Sun, 13 Aug 2006 10:15:29 -0700 (PDT)
Compañeros:
I have been reading the posts about the retreat, but I haven’t posted because_a) I’m teaching this summer on C track–an activity which I love but which seems to take more energy every year_b) I wasn’t at the retreat_c) much of what I wanted to say has been said more eloquently by Andy, Emma and Michael.
But I think I want to weigh in on this before the Leadership Conference in Palm Springs.
When I got the first posts, I was saddened but not surprised. I could see at last year’s retreat the potential for what happened this year. Emma was obviously uncomfortable; the physical situation was not accessible, and although I and others did our best to help make her comfortable, nobody should have to ask. Physical accommodations should be accessible and take into account everyone’s needs. That’s the bottom line. Hosting an event requires taking that into account first and foremost. I have not always been aware of this–I thought my house was accessible until my comrade shattered her knee, and then I realized that it takes four steps up to get to my door… But it is no surprise to anyone on our committee that one of our valued members requires reasonable accommodation. And hosting an event means putting the comfort of one’s guests primary. It may mean some wear and tear on the property–but I hope this committee would put people first.
I know I was not at the retreat, but I can comment on the e-mails I have read and in interactions I have witnessed in other situations with this committee in particular and with the left in general, and I think that it is a problem when women become the enforcers of the sexist dictum to be “ladylike.” Women and girls are held to a different standard of behavior: we are not supposed to complain (why is the word for complain also the pejorative term for women in general that refers to a female dog?) and if we do complain we are required to do so “nicely.” When your rights have been denied, your sisters should not chastise you if you do not defend yourself nicely–they should have your back. Well behaved women rarely make history.
One last point. We should welcome this discussion as an opportunity for growth, personally and as a committee. The rights of handicapped people as human rights could be the focus of our next conference, perhaps. I would like to see a discussion about euthanasia–I  probably disagreed with most of the committee about the Terri Shiavo case, for example, seeing it less about the right to die vs. the religious right and more about the slippery slope towards withholding of care from those whose limited prospects for recovery make them a financial burden–useless eaters, as the Nazis said. I think that political discussion of these issues is interesting–important–crucial. If the Human Rights Committee doesn’t want to relate personal situations to political ideas, something is wrong.
I look forward to seeing everyone in Palm Springs who can be there and continuing this important discussion.
In unity and in struggle,
Linda

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