Today I reached my final straw with the L.A. Left. After a bitter fb page exchange, and a nasty set of emails from a woman I never met before, I posted the following statement on my fb wall. The offending fb exchange that precipitated this, follows, but, because at this point it doesn’t matter, i’ve obscured the identity of the offenders with fictitious initials and obscured the actual event. It is important to know that the person identified as J.H (not his real initials) has been part of an ongoing dialogue on the issue of dis-ability inclusion, within the L.A. BDS movement. J.H. just this week scheduled a meeting in an inaccessible venue, and apologized only to post this event a few days later. Also affiliated with the BDS movement in L.A. was another event scheduled for this weekend, both failed to address this issue. This other event’s organizers, having had a difficult, but what I thought and what I acknowledged at the time, productive exchange, decided not only to have an inaccessible event, but to invite both other members of my household and not me. To fight against separation while maintaining the privilege to separate, is an outrage. No wonder these offended egos go on the attack.
Emma Rosenthal: I CAN’T BE PART OF A MOVEMENT IF I CAN’T GET MY WHEEL IN THE DOOR, When almost every inquiry and assertion is brutally attacked. when “security” at a (yesterday’s) demonstration knocks over pwds in “revolutionary” zeal to chase out a racist. when pithy promises of future access are broken and replaced with hollow excuses and bitter resentment, there’s no way i can be available to the struggle. i’m gonna do the next few scheduled readings, then i’m gonna disappear forever. if that’s good news, well then we know which side you’re on. if that’s bad news, please don’t patronize me with platitudes or admonitions. instead, step up on this issue and demand that there be at least a few safe spaces for activists with dis-abilities within the movement. refuse to participate in events that don’t include. work with andy, if he decides to continue with this, to develop a community protocol and to create community resources. do the same deep reading on this issue of community inclusion as a dedicated activist must do on all issues. there is no excuse. this isn’t a separate issue or a another cause, while you focus on what is “really” important. we are everyone– we are lgbti, we are women in hijab, we are people of color, we are (usually unemployed or wageless) workers, we are students, we are women, we are indigenous. there is no community you can build and still exclude us! i’ve asked other radical pwds what they’ve done. they tell me they just gave up on the left, too. it can’t just be my issue. how can we build a community of social justice based on a foundation (and up a flight of stairs) of exclusion?
the outrageous attacks, bitter stares, sabotage, character assassination, sexism, blacklisting, hate speech, ridicule, the bizarre nexus of dis-ability and gender expectations that demand passive placating, the lies, the jokes, the double standards, the false promises that the next event will address this crucial issue…
i’m done! i’m really really done!
please don’t respond to this post. i will be closing down this fb page in a few days, or paring it down to a few close friends, and pursuing a much more private life. i will continue my blogs, so people i am not so close to, you can find me there. this has been overwhelming painful. if you haven’t read it already, please check out the anatomy of a blacklist, and i also recommend the rest of the “in bed with frida kahlo” blog for greater dis-ability awareness.
i will be posting the most recent series of events to the blog, obscuring the names of the offenders. they can post their pithy justifications on my blog if they want to stand publicly by their words. special thanks to michael novick and my andy, for one more time, coming to my rescue.
With the exception of a handful of people, what Emma says above is true–we have faced attacks, rejection, blacklisting, ignoring offers to assist and work together, loss of jobs…
each time it occurs the harder it is to keep up the struggle! WE need a cadre of people to join in this dialogue, to participate in planning and cooperative work to educate and support all of us – because a space or event accessible to PWDs is better for all of the community!
The Final Straw (the event announced on fb and the ensuing thread of comments):
J.H. Hey folks,
J.H. and the ____________ are inviting you to the next fabulous party by the ______________ on June 5th. It’s a fundraiser supporting folks traveling to Detroit in June to do movement work at the Allied Media Conference, the U.S. Social Forum, and the Jewish anti-apartheid gathering. The majority …
J.H. Hey all, really hope folks can make it out to this fundraiser.
J.H. oh yeah, its this Saturday night. We’ll have a keg.
Emma Rosenthal is this event dis-ability accessible and affirmative?
i recommend the following advisory (pending the necessary actions and planning to back it up), for all events. In the invitation you mention that the event is queer affirmative. dis-ability affirmative, takes more planning because the discrimination is ubiquitous in building structures and attitudes, even among human rights activists.
“this event is wheelchair accessible and dis-ability affirmative. if you need additional accommodations please contact us 72 hours prior to the event.”
(and then be ready to provide sign language interpretation and other accommodations as needed.)
if it is not accessible, it would also be appropriate to say so, saving pwds (people with disabilities) the necessity of having to call to ask if we are welcome or wanted at an event. (can you imagine any other marginalized group having to call to say, for example,”i’m (insert your prime identity here). is it possible for me to attend your event?)
J.H. No, unfortunately. The main area for the party, the backyard, is but the bathroom is in the house which has 3 stairs up to it. And to be clear, I’m the organizer of the event, no ill will should be directed at INCITE! because of this, I’m raising money for them, its not an INCITE! organized event, I just got the go ahead to do it from them.
Don’t know what to do. There is no staff for this event as described in the link. Since its just me, I don’t think that I could be making sure everything is good with the party and play the role of accessibility coordinator legitimately. I certainly could not afford to pay a ASL interpreter to be there, having no idea how much we’re going to make.
The link seems to be talking about events supported by an organization with money and staff. Is there a suggestion for how to handle something like this that’s very small scale and done with very little money if you don’t have a hookup with an accessible space? Originally I was going to have folks over to my house which is much less accessible (60 stairs from the street). In the future, do you think that if there is no ability to have an event like this be accessible, that it would be better not to do it at all or to do it and apologize in the announcement that do to financial constraints the event is not going to be accessible?
Emma Rosenthal well, take out disability, and ask yourself, would it be okay to have an event that (especially if most events) excluded women, people of color, immigrants lgbti? what makes this exclusion or the difficulties it entails to build bridges, acceptable? in planning events, we (andy and i) have decided not to have inaccessible events, and we find ways to make them accessible. it’s just something that has to be done.
do you feel so immune to injury that you cannot see yourself part of this group someday? do you think that your contributions would have such limited value after becoming a fallen activist, that you would passively and silently accept a diminished role and the constant exclusion of the movement you spent a lifetime building? do you think we can build a movement when an entire sector of our society is treated as disposable and unessential? do you expect people of a marginalized group, when presented with the obstacles to our participation to simply say, to questions that you raise “yes i understand. i won’t participate in the struggle. i’ll stay home. i won’t make noise?”
would you ask this of any other marginalized group?
you note that the event is queer affirmative. if the only location of an event were a church that, aside from homophobia had a “good” politic, provided free space, and there was no other space, would it be acceptable to assert that the event, this event, given the shortage of funds, just this one time, not to be repeated until the next time, be not so gay friendly– “please dress accordingly and in the gender you were originally assigned by god as determined by our host.”
it is one thing to be unaware– but once there is awareness, excuses are simply that!
andy and i have put a call out to the left to find collective ways to contend with the “unique” issues presented in breaking down the (literal) barriers of exclusion, and with a few exceptions, have been met with the same (white) liberal guilt ridden excuses as any other emerging movement, followed by hostile resentment that we continue to assert the right of people with dis-abilities to be fully included in ANY AND ALL movements for social justice.
we have also offered our home, which we have gone to great effort and expense to make accessible beyond our own needs, in the interest of visitability (that my friend, comrades, fallen activists with dis-abilities could visit!) and as a means of community organizing. no one to date has, while providing excuses and excuses, taken us up on this offer either.
our repeated demands and sincere offers are greeted with rolled eyes, hollow excuses, future promises, hostile indifference, ridicule, blacklisting.(and the occasional feel good story about some hero gimp who never complains, provides freak show entertainment and either pity or inspiration for pwods-people without dis-abilities.– that seems to be our only role in society.)
i have asked other radical gimps what they have done. they tell me they just gave up. they limit their activism to writing, board meetings if they can get asked to serve. it’s just too painful, and the l.a. left just doesn’t care. (in fact we are more often targets of ridicule!)
i suppose one of these days i too will learn my place and fade into the background. though i doubt it. i’ve spent too much of my life fighting for human rights.
Emma Rosenthal we have also offered to provide consultations on access, and to be a resource to the community free of charge (which is the expectation of cripples, that we work for free!) we do accept tax deductible donations, but don’t require it. we are more interested in developing systems of mutual aid and sustainability.
with few exceptions, we have not been taken up on this offer either, but instead get the same excuses, if it is a garden party for one person, or organizations with the resources like cair or answer — our participation has no value and our inclusion costs too much!
the nazis called us useless mouths
Emma Rosenthal btw, you start the invitation “hey all” ? ALL? do you get how marginalizing that is when ALL isn’t YOU? when you know, day in day out, it isn’t you? when you have to plan every outing, pre-call every event and humbly ask, opening oneself up for more rejection “am i included in a way that is not dehumanizing and insulting?”
or as fallen comrade S Brian Willson, put it, on another thread i posted where i asked “Could the newly dis-abled 70+ wounded activists of the Freedom Flotilla, attend your next event?”
” Excellent reminder. I face this challenge all the time when I attend events or activities that advertise themselves as “open to the public” or “all welcome.” Where is the ramp, where are railings on steps for those who can walk but need extra boost, where are the accessible bathrooms? I remind event organizers that “open to the public” is not honest if there is no handicapped access unless they describe a warning that the venue is not handicapped accessible.”
J.Q. wow, no offense… since i dont know you… but don’t you think a personal email would be better suited for your criticisms? Sincerely ,J.Q. “poor queer woman of color who isnt dehumanized or insulted by this event!””
Emma Rosenthal: yes you’re right. issues of social justice should always be handled with discretion and decorum.
J.H. Do not call me or my ideas white Emma. It’s unacceptable. I’m Chicano, light-skinned, of mixed European and Western Hemisphere indigenous blood and you need to step back and recognize your own white privilege before you attack me in that way. And regardless no excuses were given. I clarified that the event was organized by myself and so whatever problems there were with the event were my responsibility, I explained the realities of the situation and asked questions about how to better operate in the future. Your vicious personal attacks do not help anyone to hear the important issues you raise.
Michael Novick I didn’t hear Emma calling you “white” (a word she used once, parenthetically talking about a general response by the LA left and liberals to the issue of accessibility), and certainly not making a “vicious personal attack.”
I grappled with issues of accessibility for many years because my mother-in-law was paralyzed and needed a wheel chair as a result of a stroke, and I can tell you that it makes you excruciatingly aware of the generalized lack of accessibility throughout this society. I work in a 10-story high rise school downtown and it took five+ years of hassling to get a chair lift installed at the front entrance; but in a blackout, people have to be carried down flights and flights.
Emma is (thankfully) relentless in calling these issues to people’s attention. In the SF Bay Area there used to be a lot more collective awareness and action about these issues, and blind, limbless, paralyzed and other disabled people were a lot more visible and provided a lot more leadership around the left as a result. We all need to be asking ourselves why signing for the deaf, childcare, disabled access, and a lot of other “new world is possible” collective self-realization type of behavior and inclusiveness is not more common at ‘movement’ activities in L.A.
I say this in a spirit of self-criticism. If my mother-in-law were still alive, we would not be living where we are (in an apartment up a flight and half of narrow stairs from front or back). We did get some sidewalk cuts and handicapped parking spots added in the vicinity recently. We all should know that in this regard, as in every other, it will take conscious struggle, demands, and also self-determined action on our own parts, to make the necessary changes.
Andy Griggs J.H.–there is no place in Emma’s reply where she calls you or your ideas “white!” To assert that is unfair.
And she did not attack you! You asked a question, and she responded. She responded to each of your questions in detail. She explained what happens whenever we assert the need for access. She gave examples of how to proceed in the future, including calling out for assistance in planning. Until it becomes part of the dialogue in event planning on the left, Pwds will continue to be excluded.
The bottom line is that it is not ok to hold an event that is inaccessible to any group or individual!
And it is not ok to ask when it is “acceptable” to discriminate by holding an inaccessible event – ask yourself how you would respond to that question, if you felt excluded.
We will continue to vehemently assert these rights and demands with the same commitment and determination that we bring to support of Palestinians, indigenous peoples, women, people of color, LGBT!
Simultaneously I received the following email and had the following exchange:
(a quick google search reveals that “P.Q.” is one of the feminists behind a publication i’ve been published in, called “LoudMouth”– a title chosen to counter the assertion that women are supposed to be tempered, well mannered and soft spoken.– something, if you read to the end, apparently does not apply to women with dis-abilities. –i have found a strange nexus between gender expectations and dis-ability. this demand that i act like a demure child and not the militant activist i have been my whole life! revised 6/9/2010)
P.Q I think you are missing the point.
Should the event be accessible? Yes! Of course/Claro…
Should he have listed that it was when it wasn’t? NO! Pero…you shaming him online for the event doesn’t sit comfortably with me either!
For example, you could have asked him if it was accessible…if he said no, why not ask if he could make it accessible or help make him make it accessible?
It certainly is a problem with grassroots/diy fundraising….no doubt.
We had fundraising for AMC in a house last year as well….
But it is totally different to compare the struggles of these two movements….for you to bring up immigrant women?!
Sorry, but I do not agree!
They are two struggles that certainly walk (sic) side by side especially when they are intertwined either by spaces/geography/bodies themselves but there is also such a thing as having respect for the differences that these two struggles engage. I may be documented but I take offense to you likening these two together.
That you should honor if you feel that you are really interested in having respectful dialogue. My struggles as poor qwoc are not the same at all. So if you wanna talk about decorum and the very privilege to speak online in the middle of the day….we can start there!
how patronizing to say i am missing the point. i have studied the point, lived the point, fought for the point. what are the struggles of the qwoc with dis-abilities? why should this issue be sidelines and not subjected to open discussion? why replace a hierarchy of exclusion with a hierarchy of exclusion?
if you had read what i wrote, instead of responding with the same outrageous excuses i have heard used for the exclusions of q. w. o, and c, for years (and as an outspoken ally, been summarily upbraided for having done so) you would see that we have offered
3. consulting and support.
all my protestation is so that more people can be included in building a movement. we have spoke to J.H. more discreetly a number of times, offering all of the above. this is hardly a new issue to those who know me and include me as their (fb) “friends.”
there is no struggle without all of us.
P.Q. but are you really wanting to say that you were not being patronizing as well?
i too, have studied the point….i too have lived the point….and i certainly do not underestimate that you also have….
i am NOT saying that one isn’t a struggle. i am saying though that they are two different struggles indeed.
again there are many complex struggles in which people find themselves in various positions. i think that mia mingus for example has written really amazing things about this. and it is not a sideline when she addresses this topic…at all…
if you want an open discussion, why not suggest it for this event? why not another event? l.a could certainly use it as im sure many places can.
my point is that if you are going to point the finger at J.H. alone…that just seems ludicrous.
and i actually did read what you wrote. which is why i found it to be offensive as well. again, likening struggles as though they are exactly the same. they are not.
be an outspoken ally all you want….its not living in our shoes….we dont live in yours either…. and yes, it requires more convo and more communication, certainly.
was your consulting free?
my apologies….but it is not that simple….
i wish for it to be….but it is not….
this struggle is clearly in the ways that ideas around issues of race/class/ableism or all considered….
as for the privilege of being on line in the middle of the day, i gained this privilege like so many people with disabilities as a result of acquiring this non-conforming body, finding that despite extensive skill and education, like most pwds, i am apparently unemployable unless i make work for myself and find meager ways to market it.
other people who have internet access during the day are 1. people on break, dedicated to social struggle, 2. the unemployed our wageless workers, like myself. 3. people who work at night, on weekends, and at inconvenient hours.
i remember when gender, race lgb (no one was even talking about t or i) was considered bourgeois distractions from the movement, the movement being the class struggle, and being told that these issues would be addressed after the revolution.
we were also told to be discreet and less selfish and self indulgent.
if you don’t experience these exclusions in the movement like i experience the daily exclusion of dis-ability access and affirmation, then thank your elders. we fought that fight with the same vigor. When you do experience these exclusions, give me a holler, if i can get my wheel in the door, you’ll have one more ally.
P.Q. well….i have the privilege of being online during the day because i have been unemployed/underemployed for what seems like ever….
despite an education that has only seemed to amount to cultural assimilation so cheers to us both for being in these bodies!
thanks for the list emma! as you see above, im no stranger to this….talk about checking your patronizing….wow.
i experience exclusion all the time….
and im not certain if you think im a lil girl….but that seems to be typical behavior from my so called “allies”
Emma Rosenthal we seem to have posted at the same time, in response to your most recent post, how outrageous, again read what i wrote to J.H. we are hardly singling him out. what a waste that would be (and an abuse!)
to repeat!!!!! we have called for dialogue, we have attempted to meet with people, we have offered free consultation, resources, meetings, venue.
you claim you read what i wrote, given this question “was your consulting free? ” indicates you did not!!!!
because i clearly addressed that.
we would be willing to meet with anyone on this issue and we have told J.H. we also raise this issue EVERYWHERE!!!!
an invitation went out “to all” and i asked if that included a sector of society that it apparently did not. (given recent convos with J.H. it would have been an unfortunate error to have easily assumed that it did). that’s an outrage, especially since we have had this discussion.
J.H. chose to answer that question on his wall, and i answered in the same venue.
we’re all grownups here!
your outrage is really out of line and misplaced.
sounds like you need to redirect your strategy then….or engage it in a different way…if you are raising this issue everywhere, where comes the time when you are not just on defense? its a common issue in every movement i understand…
but lastly you have stated again that its an outrage to you that this has happened and then state again that my outrage is out of line…huh?
misplaced? because you would prefer that someone doesn’t check you or the way you addressed this?
right….we are grownups….sigh
You state: “sounds like you need to redirect your strategy then….or engage it in a different way…if you are raising this issue everywhere, where comes the time when you are not just on defense? its a common issue in every movement i understand.”
ho hum where have we heard that before!?!?