Ableism in the Human Rights Community

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Ableism in the Human Rights Community Part XII
September 01 2006 (16:03:00) US/Pacific

At La Quinta:

After the brief exchange on line on the rights of disabled people to stand up for their rights, and all of the controversy and personal attacks used to obscure the issue, on line, the group changed focus toward the Leadership Conference at La Quinta. The Human Rights Committee had reserved two tables; one for CAMS (Coalition Against Militarism in Our Schools) and one for t-shirt sales. I had hoped to work on recruiting teachers to the Committee, but not able to participate in the retreat, was a bit disenfranchised from the process, but was able, on line, through the list serve to have some say in the process. Another Committee member had taken charge of t-shirt sales, and I fashioned a sign-in sheet. I also made sure we had large table signs. We had one leaflet of upcoming events, but we really should have had a more impressive and informative table, including teacher resources.
Linda Baughn and I volunteered to help with the table and I committed to spend as much time helping out as my health allowed. By now I felt I was walking a tight rope; careful not to “complain” too much about my health, but also wanting to be “matter of fact” about my limitations so that I wasn’t held to commitments my health didn’t allow me to keep. –an interesting double standard.
When I got to La Quita, “Ethel,” “Mildred,””Clarence” and -yet to be introduced: “Camile” greeted me with huge grins that to anyone not in the know, could have been confused for deep friendship and warmth.
Choosing not to go the path of plastic smiles and air kisses, I gave a steel eyed “hello.”
There was definitely a chill in the 110 degree desert heat.
The first event was a reception of the keynote speaker, hosted by the Human Rights Committee. The event was MC’d by Committee member, “Camile,” who, though she hadn’t posted to the list on the current debate, has for two years now, been extremely uncooperative and unwilling to work with me, even to the detriment of her own programs. When “Ethel” and “Mildred” referred to observing people “reacting to Emma,” Camile was the only example I could thing of, otherwise the immense hatred and resentment toward me was totally unpredictable, not only by me but by Andy and Committee Chair: Steve Seal.
When I was Chairing the conference sub-committee, “Camile” repeatedly “neglected” to provide me with key materials needed to secure salary point and finish the program for portions of the conference that she herself proposed or was slated to lead. I had to repeatedly request basic information from her: bios, workshop descriptions. Now, lest we imagine that “Camile” is simply incompetent, it should be stated that having secured PhD, there is little doubt that she is capable of writing a simple workshop proposal. After weeks of this game, finally I would ask Andy to ask her for the necessary information and she, after grumbling and complaining, would provide the documentation requested. The second year she also neglected to provide her bio in her conference proposal so I used the one from the year before, but this last year her workshop was co-presented with “Mildred” and the workshop proposal “Camile” submitted did not include “Mildred’s” bio. When I wrote to “Mildred” requesting her bio, she wrote me that she had sent it to “Camile.” Upon “Mildred’s” request, “Camile” finally sent me “Mildred’s” bio, delaying the salary point project proposal submission to the district, by several weeks.
So it came to me as no surprise, at the Friday night reception, when, having introduced most of the Committee members, elucidating on the conferences they had participated in, “Camile” neglected to mention me, or the two conferences the Committee had held the last two years. I was not surprised, but rather prepared, and simply, introduced myself and announced that we would be having more conferences in the future as we had in the past.
<>When we looked at the Leadership Conference schedule, we noticed that each Committee had a meeting slot, which would have been an opportunity to introduce our Committee to prospective new members. We had no agenda. We were totally unprepared for this opportunity. We hadn’t even discussed the meeting as a committee. It was simply THERE, in the conference schedule. I suggested to Andy, at 11:30 pm the night before, that we develop a proposed agenda and get it to Steve. We were careful to construct an agenda that was sensitive to the conflicts ensuing in the Committee. We wanted to make sure that the agenda was consistent with the mission of the Committee and a showcase of our work. It was Andy’s idea that everyone in the room introduce themselves, with committee members explaining their Committee work. It was my suggestion that those responsible for projects within the Committee, present their programs: The upcoming HRC/CAMS Conference, UTLA House motions brought by the Committee and upcoming Conferences. Following this rubric, “Ethel” would present the upcoming conference, Andy would describe the Committee’s impact on UTLA policy and I would describe the Conferences we had done in the past, and plans for future. Andy handed Steve the agenda then next morning and it was the agenda used in that meeting. So while I am about to be accused of “taking credit for the work of others” (—tune in tomorrow, readers!) in reality, I am beginning to obscure my work, lest my intentions get lost in the vitriol hurled at me by “ladies” who hide behind silent innuendo, passive aggressive sabotage and the insistence in manners over all, while the men (“Clarence” and, tune in tomorrow; “Gilroy”) behave more openly hostile, without any insistence by my adversaries that the same rules of decorum be applied to them. –it’s all so 1950’s it’s hard to believe these people didn’t just step out of a time capsule, leave alone that they have been on the frontlines of human rights work and dialogue for the duration of that time.
White gloves anyone? Would you like two cubes of sugar or one, with your tea? Hold your pinkies up!
Our sign-up sheets circulated at the Friday night reception, and at our meeting the next day, we ran out of sheets because, having only collected two filled in sheets, I didn’t realized we needed more. I asked Steve who had the sheets and he indicated that “Camile” had them. When I asked, at the meeting, that all sign-in sheets be turned in to me so I could update the listserve, “Camile” quietly turned her back as I spoke. She never did give me the sign in sheets, and had to be told by Andy, Linda, Steve and another Committee member to turn over the sheets, before she finally gave them to Steve, at the very end of the conference.
<>Without those sheets, we would not be able to update our listserve in time to get word out of our upcoming meeting or the HRC/CAMS Conference. Any group needs to be able to perform its basic functions through its assigned functionaries without this childish, though “ladylike” conductt.
Simultaneously, contrary to his apology in Boston, “Clarence” conducted himself in ways the continued to contribute to a hostile working environment for me, making clear that he is not done with his abuse or resentments; his apology, as I predicted lacking sincerity was merely a political move. Having failed to gain my silence, he decided to go on the offensive.
Here is Linda Baughn’s post on her observations:
(she refers to Josh Peschtalt, a Vice President of UTLA) :
——– Original Message ——–_Subject: [utla-hrc-discussion] sexism and a hostile environment_Date: Wed, 23 Aug 2006 06:08:35 -0700 (PDT)_From: LINDA BAUGHN
Compañeros–_I went to La Quinta in a spirit of unity with those who struggle for social justice and hoped that we had learned some lessons about putting principles before personalities in the discussion in the committee this summer. I unfortunately arrived late to the conference–I had to meet with a lawyer concerning my husband’s arrest in a demonstration against the Minutemen which I will bring to the committee’s attention separately–and went directly to the committee meeting._I was happy to see several new faces and what appeared to be a spirit of solidarity and struggle, although I was somewhat taken aback by “Clarence’s” t-shirt with an image of a bikini-clad woman and the slogan “Eat Oysters, Get Lucky.” I shouldn’t have to explain this to anyone who defends human rights, but it is axiomatic that using a woman’s body to sell anything is sexist in that it objectifies the female body, let alone the more specific references on the t-shirt. Anyway, I commented to Andy and to “another Committee member” (name deleted by Emma for this blog) that I thought that men should take the leadership in educating other men about sexism and assumed that that would happen (and it may have)._Later at the pool, “Clarence” came up to me and told me that I shouldn’t have posted about the retreat; that he wasn’t the bad guy, and I wasn’t there. I responded that whatever the case was about the retreat that I was present at the pool-side with him, and that I was offended by his sexist t-shirt. He responded that I was the only person who had said anything to him, that several women had found it amusing (!) and that his purpose in wearing the shirt was to piss off Emma. I told him I didn’t know about Emma, but that I was pissed off. “Another union member” (name deleted for this blog ) was present and heard this exchange, which was quite shocking.
I shouldn’t be surprised when people on our committee, raised in a society in which sexism and racism are pervasive, exhibit reactionary ideas. We are all products of our environment, and it is a life-long struggle to rid ourselves of these ideas. It’s not the first or the last time that women have to struggle around sexist ideas held by men in the movement.
On the other hand, I was shocked by the pure malice that “Clarence” exhibited in saying that he was intentionally trying to offend Emma. This is harassment. I think we have to say, in the context of the previous discussions, that this is a deliberate attempt to create a hostile environment for a handicapped woman who is an important part of this committee and may give us insight into “Clarence’s” remarks at the retreat. This is a very serious matter and one which must be dealt with by this committee and the Board of Directors of the union. If an official committee of the union tolerates this kind of harassment we expose the union as a whole to serious liability and that is why I am forwarding this letter to Joshua Pechthalt as well as to the discussion list._I had hoped that we had all learned something from this discussion and we would be able to move on with the important work of fighting against imperialist war and racism that we all want to do–but I don’t think that this can be swept under the rug.
Linda Baughn
______________________
To date there have been no responses to this post. If the issue at the retreat was my explosive reaction, and the rationalization that “Clarence” was “just joking” then what is the excuse of my adversaries this time for the complicity of silence by members of the Committee to this attack against me, clearly made, by his own admission, not simply as a bad joke, but rather as a direct provocation?__Emma

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