A tale of two inquiries (this is how we do it!)

As if there really were a god, the following invitation ran on my fb feed, just as i was addressing the issue of access at another event.  (see the previous post!)  I asked Yesi if I could publish our dialogue and use her name.  She agreed.  Please note, how, in comparison to the previous post’s example, i made the same inquiry,  in  much the same way, with incredibly different results. Unfortunately the previous post’s example is more often the norm.

When approached by anyone from a marginalized group, who asserts that your actions might be discriminatory,  especially if you have little experience with that area of  marginalization, Yesi demonstrates how to assertively and humbly respond to  such an accusation.

This is textbook, and in my opinion and experience, applies to race, gender issues, colonization, etc.  etc.  etc.

In exile,

Emma

Yesi King save the date!

Fundraiser and Website Launch Party!

Location:Self Help Graphics

Time:7:00PM Saturday, July 3rd

Emma Rosenthal it is my understanding that this is not a wheelchair accessible event.

Yesi King oh no emma, it definitely is! self-help graphics is wheelchair accessible! please come, i’d love to meet you in person 🙂

Yesi King i’ve actually updated the event page with that info. my apologies :/

Emma Rosenthal as i recall, the bathroom is not, and unless they installed an elevator, the entire upper floor is not, either. when i brought this up to a board member, i was addressed with hostile indifference, called necia and taken off of her fb list. so if it is physically accessible, it still isn’t dis-ability affirmative. — a very important consideration for pwds because hostility, ridicule and humiliation are more the norm in social environments than not.

Yesi King hmm, i actually haven’t checked out the place in a while, but i will ask. if it isn’t i will be very, very disappointed actually :/ …and i agree with you.

Emma Rosenthal better not say it’s accessible until you confirm. the humiliation and incredible inconvenience of attending an event that isn’t is devastating.

Yesi King good point :/

Emma Rosenthal yesi,  i very much appreciate the openness you have expressed on this issue. usually i am attacked brutally for the mere suggestion. i need a few days to sort things through, but call me and let me know how i can help you make this a fully inclusive event. 818 404 5784

Yesi King hi emma, i definitely will 🙂

Yesi King

Hi Emma.

You said to give you a couple of days to sort this through so I didn’t want to intrude by calling you too soon. So, I opted to send you a message instead. I hope I’m not bothering you.

I’ve read your blog posts (cool blog name btw 🙂 and I’ve really been thinking about the points you have made…and I feel HORRIBLE. You have every right to be upset, you make excellent points, and unfortunately, in order to create change, people have to be put on the spot and be made uncomfortable. I’m very honored to have crossed paths with you.

I’ve asked the people on the team in charge of securing the location about SHG. I haven’t been there in a long time and apparently some things have changed. So, unlike their website and other internet sites about them post, they are NOT wheelchair accessible. The place isn’t two stories; it’s only one story, the upstairs. The bottom spaces apparently don’t belong to SHG. The main part of our event will take place outside but the art gallery will be upstairs :/ According to my friend, SHG just simply has never had enough funds to take on that sort of project and they apparently don’t own the building anymore. They had to sell it a while back. It really SUCKS that the place isn’t accessible for dis-abilities.

Now, this is the context in which the event is being organized: we are not an official org (we are not a non-profit), we do not have an abundance of options for spaces for what we’re trying to pull off, and we do not have funds. We were actually lucky to get the space for free. We just want to raise funds for this website project…because we’re all broke and can’t afford it on our own.

Like I said, I feel horrible…and stupid…and ignorant. The items above are not an excuse. If it was any other situation, this would not be acceptable. What can we do? Please help…we want to make this as inclusive as possible. Forgive my ignorant question, but what exactly do we need to make this inclusive and accessible? I would like to begin making a list asap.

I can’t claim to understand where you are coming from, but I can surely empathize. I really admire you for standing up for this. I think about my son, whom I love more than anything. I wonder how I would feel if he was in a wheel chair, and let me tell you, I’d be PISSED AS HELL if places weren’t accessible to him.

I’m sorry for this. I know what I have to do. I have to ask my friends with whom I am planning this event, to either change the location or find a damn way to raise the funds to accommodate. If they refuse, then I will refuse to be a part of this event. Discrimination is discrimination period.

Thank you Emma,

Yesi

PS. Not sure which book signing event I will be able to make it to, but I will definitely make it to at least one 🙂

Emma Rosenthal

first of all, be easy on yourself. You’re addressing an issue that is new to you, in a very responsible way. (don’t muck it up with guilt- which is always destructive and rarely serves justice.) for me, your timing is perfect. your interest in very affirming. The reaction you observed in my most recent post, is more typical than we would like. (though this is the first time I’ve actually been accused of being racist and exercising privilege in the context of dis-ability access.) we need to address this, not individually, but as a community.

I tried to think of comparable situations—venues that might be inaccessible to other marginalized groups:

Homes in neighborhoods hostile to certain ethnic groups, or sexual orientations,

a strip club–i can hear the rationale now–“oh lighten up, it’s just fun and for a good cause (baby!)” ,

a venue near a police station or ins station,

certain religious venues.

But disability inclusion presents very unique (physical as well as social) obstacles. it’s why andy and i put out a call to the left to begin the dialogue to set up a protocol and find collective ways to address these issues, with short and long range planning.

Even well funded organizations can’t resolve these questions overnight. Right now we’re struggling with what to do if someone requests sign language interpretation. We haven’t found an affordable answer yet. Hopefully we will before the situation presents itself.

The last time I was at SHG they did have use of the first floor. Some possible “solutions” are to see if that space can be made available for the event. Since your event is outside, see if (this is a long shot) there is a way to make the artwork accessible, there. One (not so optimal solution, could be a video feed of the gallery. –-not okay as a long term solution, but certainly an improvement. If the bathroom is not accessible, an accessible porta potty costs a little more than $100 to rent. And our newest strategy is to see if a neighboring business has an accessible restroom that can be used. That’s what we’re doing at Imix in Eagle Rock. Their restroom is not accessible, but a coffeehouse nearby is. In establishing this, we instigated a dialogue that may change Imix’ approach to this issue in the future, and may have also fostered relationships between the two businesses.

I want to draw up a list of accessible venues, look into ways groups can collaborate, pool resources, share equipment. (We have a portable ramp, btw.) Imagine, again the community and working relationships this would foster – the benefit beyond addressing the initial issue.

if you can’t make the event accessible, and you can’t find an alternative venue, you can weigh the decision to have or not have the event, or to put it off until you can find a space that can meet your needs.

If you do decide to have the event, while it is never acceptable to discriminate, a statement that clearly delineates the access, the options for pwds, is essential in not wasting the time of pwds, who know that if it is not stated, not only is the event probably inaccessible physically, but it is probably not socially accessible either.—in other words, even if the space is structurally accessible, once it is full of people and materials, the likelihood that it will be a positive and safe space for pwds, is less likely. On the other hand, if the access is spelled out, it gives pwds a choice, and it also indicates that the issue is one of which the host is aware. (though I am starting to observe that this is being used more as a copout than a real solution. The two events this weekend that included such statements were not events where i would have felt welcomed and they involved organizations that had promised such misunderstandings and oversights would not happen in the future. Instead, what seems to be their position, is that it is okay to discriminate some of the time, as long as an advisory is stated.) it reminds me of the signs from the 1950s- “no dogs, no jews no coloreds.” –Good to know, but not exactly a revolutionary politic.

I hope this helps. It’s not a complete solution. But it’s a start.

Yesi, with your permission, I would like to publish our dialogue on the blog, with or without (preferably with) your real name. I think it is an excellent example of how to begin to address this issue and the appropriate way to address any dialogue on privilege, inclusion and bigotry.

in solidarity and struggle, for a world with no borders or barriers,

emma

Yesi King

thanks emma…but i tend to live on extremes, it’s something i’m working on 😉

also, i’m sorry but i can’t ignore something when it’s wrong. especially when it’s so blatantly wrong and unjust. i can’t ignore it…and you’re right we do need to address this as a community 🙂

my friend neil actually suggested that we rent a portal potty. so that, we can definitely do…thank you for offering the ramp. i will ask them if it is needed. also, regarding the art gallery, i’m workin on that and waiting for a response. oooh and i have a student who knows sign language so i hope she can help out 🙂

also, of course you can publish this dialogue. it IS an excellent example of how to address this issue, creating change, connections, and showing that it can be done 🙂

yesi

Emma Rosenthal

i appreciate what you are saying. i’m the same way when it comes to oppression and marginalization, though i try to temper my expectations in a less rigid praxis, understanding the contradictions and constraints we live with under capitalism, white supremacy, patriarchy. i do know, with dis-ability, the social barriers are more significant than the physical ones. neither of the two events this last week, had obstacles to my participation. i can climb a few steps. but i know better to go into such a situation when it is full of people who have no understanding, experience, and awareness of dis-ability rights and solidarity. the hostility, indifference, resentment, the use of space, the way people move around, would have been very difficult and perhaps dangerous for a pwd. the problem with accommodationism, is it just doesn’t work. it never serves the one who is accommodating the marginalization– not in race, gender, colonization nor with dis-ability. it always ends up serving the marginalizer. it always obscures the marginalization. it always demands more of the person who faces exclusion when the real onus is on the entity that is the perpetrator of the marginalization.

emma

keywords: anatomy of a blacklisting

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2 responses to “A tale of two inquiries (this is how we do it!)

  1. This interchange is a terrific example of how the problem of marginalisation can be overcome and made part of a joyful shared learning. It really gave me some hope 🙂

  2. Pingback: More Blacklisting Crap from the L.A. Liberal Left « ¡Cafe Intifada! -Uniting Art With Critical Consciousness

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