Lauren Lemon Take-Home Final

Lauren Lemon

Dr. Foss

ENGL 384-02

Word Count: 1,411

The Power of Ignorance

The understanding of people within most communities for persons with autism is not something to be commended. Autistic people of color face tremendous challenges detrimental to their well-being in all aspects of their lives—presented with prejudices of both their autism and race. When looking at Morénike Giwa Onaiwu’s “Preface: Autistic of Color: We Exist… We Matter.” and E. Ashkenazy’s “Foreword: On Autism and Race” share a critical component. The alienation of autistic people of color. This alienation is an effect of the ignorance held towards people of color and autistic people. Being both a person of color and autistic creates an ignorance-fueled environment that supports discrimination towards such people. 

To fully understand the bias that autistic people of color face, one must recognize the influence of racism in society. There is a constant challenge from others, urging them to “choose” just one race. As Ashkenazy details, this creates barriers, an environment attempting to nullify both their voice and identity (Ashkenazy xxvi). This demand given to people of color is a microaggression, demanding someone to make life “simpler” for those who have no say in another’s identity. In asking a person of color to “choose,” or mislabeling and subjecting them to the convenience and opinions of another, they are actively stripping a portion of their identity away, and as Ashkenazy puts it, “cursed and left to die of exposure” (Ashkenazy xxvi). Comparatively, Onaiwu was monoracial and faced the expectation to live “black,” placing her in a singular scope that was assumed to encompass all people of color (Onaiwu xiv). The ignorance of her peers, unable to accept her as she was “too white” and “Americanized” in her speech and mannerisms for the African community, but not American enough due to her West African culture to be accepted by other communities (Onaiwu xiv). Both women were not deemed “enough” by the standards of those around them. Such negligent standards fabricated by others brings into question their belonging in society. 

The acceptance of others is an innate desire of all humans. To belong and have a community of people whom one can view as their people, a place of understanding and welcomeness. For autistic people of color, not having such an acceptance creates a sense of isolation and loneliness, and the only reason for one to not have a sense of belonging is the feeling of otherness. This sense of otherness stems from people’s lack of understanding in a community. Not understanding the need to be a part of a group filled with love and acceptance only lowers the chance of survival, left to fend for oneself (Ashkenazy xxxiii). Throughout life, people are exposed to social conditioning, implicating the exclusion of autistic people of color; however, such conditions vary depending on the community one is raised in (Ashkenazy xxxiii). The acceptance of autistic people of color is low between white people and people of color, autistic or otherwise. This attribute is due to the lack of acceptance built around biases held within various communities (Onaiwu xi). Ingrained into the minds of all people, ableism and racism introduce negative messages about neurology, ethnicity, and expected behaviors that are often internalized (Onaiwu xi). This ignorance of the needs of others is preventative in building a community that accepts autistic people of color. Accepting oneself is critical in being accepted by others; however, the fight against the ignorance of others should not have to be as large as it is. Instead, adjustments in teaching children are necessary to prevent the stigmatization of others. This ingrained ignorance only harms others, and their treatment is unacceptable. 

The power to influence the self-worth of autistic people of color that persons have is tremendous, and each flippant, derogatory and alienating action or word has an impact. Onaiwu discusses the media’s exploitation of autistic people of color to enlighten others about the burden that autistic people pose to society (xii). In this exploitation, autistic people of color are utilized by strangers, brought out of their comfort zone, depicted as defective and undesirable, and then cast aside. Such actions are inexcusable, and it is crucial to recognize the impact of actions on others; negatively depicting autistic people of color only further creates self-doubt in autistic minds. The accounts Ashkenazy shares from autistic people of color and their experiences with familial and societal ignorance are horrifying. With an aunt fearing for her niece’s safety due to her inability to “make the cut” of societal norms, a daughter whose family cannot accept her as they view disability as a taboo bringing shame to their family, and an autistic teenager whose family is unable to accept her and ridicules her behavior and for being “too white”- something she had to learn to attempt acceptance in her community (Ashkenazy xxxv-xxxvii). In these experiences, there is a critical component, the lack of understanding from others, creating a hostile and uninhabitable environment for autistic people of color. 

Recognizing a problem is crucial to enacting change and creating a safe community for autistic people of color. To do this, one must recognize their privilege in life. When pondering if race impacts autism, it is crucial to understand who is asking this. It is not the autistic person of color who is affected by the ignorant actions of others every day. It is the privileged white, non-disabled person who can go about their lives freely, never having to think about race until it is brought to their attention (Ashkenazy xxx). It is the privileged person who is non-disabled and faces no questions to challenge their actions. It is the person who does not listen to the insights of those affected by the actions of people of privilege. There is irreparable damage to autistic people of color who are lumped into groups, attempting to separate their autism from their race, and in “Preface: Autistic of Color: We Exist… We Matter.” there are two poems that are crucial to understanding such damage. One of which belongs to Jen Meunier (Gzhibaeassigaekwe), “we autistics, we villages, we humanoids.” This poem is about neurodiversity and the need to surpass the social models of disability disillusioned by white colonial privilege; the importance of their voices being heard across the movements (Onaiwu xx). The fact that there is an exclusion within movements advocating for the voices of autistic persons is baffling. For minorities to exclude people with additional minorities reinforces the prejudice present in society. The poem “My Experience” by Stephan B. is powerful in reclaiming one’s identity. The rebellion against labels thrust upon them, taking away the “boxes” others try to put them in, and refusing to be defined by a diagnosis (Onaiwu xx). This is powerful in the sense that despite the ignorance and discrimination they have faced, they refuse to alienate themselves from a community by giving the words of others power. Reclaiming power over one’s identity and refusing the labels placed on autistic people of color is one step towards changing societal standards and constructs.  

Negative implications surrounding autistic people of color are existent in all communities. The ramifications for such implications have tremendous power over the way both society and autistic individuals view autistic people of color. Racism is something that has been influencing the minds of society for generations, an unwillingness to accept that which is different from the “accepted.” There is no human being who does not need a community or safe environment, and the negligence to recognize that autistic people of color need these things is absurd. As autistic people of color face both the prejudices of ableism and racism, the need to find a community that is accepting and understanding of them is imperative. Creating an environment that removes prejudices that harm autistic people of color is necessary; not recognizing this only furthers the ignorance of humankind. 

“I hereby declare upon my word of honor that I have neither given nor received unauthorized help on this work.” – Lauren Lemon

Works Cited:

Ashkenazy, E. “Foreword: On Autism and Race.” All the Weight of Our Dreams: On Living Racialized Autism, edited by Lydia X. Z. Brown, and E. Ashkenazy, and Morénike Giwa Onaiwu, DragonBee Press, 2017, pg. xxiii-xxxix.

Onaiwu, Morénike Giwa. “Preface: Austics of Color: We Exist… We Matter.” All the Weight of Our Dreams: On Living Racialized Autism, edited by Lydia X. Z. Brown, and E. Ashkenazy, and Morénike Giwa Onaiwu, DragonBee Press, 2017, pg. x-xxii.

Disability Month Table Fair

At the Disability Month Table Fair there was a plethora of tables, however one that stood out to me was the service animal table. Here I learned about UMW’s program to be a volunteer puppy raiser and too help train canines to be service animals. From the ages two to eighteen months is a crucial developmental period to prepare puppies for a lifetime of service. Service animals can serve to assist people with various kinds of disabilities and thus the training for each puppy varies. However, all puppies do receive professional training for nine months after being with raisers for a year and a half. There is a plentitude of people dedicating themselves to training these future service animals and they make a tremendous difference for people with disabilities.

Lauren Lemon’s Class Summary for October 28th, 2021

Class started with Dr. Foss reminding us that our Major Paper/Project Proposal is due November 4th. From here, we heard about Dr. Foss and other professors’ endeavors to start a disability studies minor. Next semester there will be an Introduction to Disability Studies (IDIS 300N) course on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 0900. Interestingly enough, 8-12 different professors will donate their time to teach this course, focusing on the state of disability studies and disabilities in the states. After this exciting information was shared with the class, we discussed Good Kings Bad Kings

In small groups, while discussing Good Kings Bad Kings, we focused on the bond between Jimmie and Yessi. How Jimmie risked his career to take Yessi out and their connection since both of their mothers died from cancer. At this concert that Jimmie took her to, Yessi felt like an actual human being since Jimmie treated her well and did not view her as an object. ILLC treated the kids inhumanely, grouping them together as disabled, forcing dependence onto disabled people. Tristan also pointed out the isolation and exclusiveness that these kids face as they stand out because of their disability. These kids need help, and we need to help, but perhaps they do not need this type of assistance that ILLC is providing. We moved on to discuss privatization and the lack of consent that was taken from the kids. ILLC manufactures their consent and acts as a predator, goes after these kids, and creates an idealized view of the system. There was also a discussion of the violations of their bodies. Acting as more of a prison than a place for betterment, ILLC’s number of assaults and lack of rules to protect the kids creates a feeling of being forced, and Jimmie represents a safe space for assault in this reading. 

Further discussing Good Kings Bad Kings in large group, Dr. Foss started off by bringing up the connection of ILLC and profiting off of the lives of disabled people since they will be pushed out of the workforce. To bring out the grander scheme of ILLC, Lisa mentioned how ILLC is profiting off the kids and sharing this profit with the hospital, and this is how the cycle continues. Transitioning into a different aspect of money schemes at ILLC, Dr. Foss brought up how the facility is a money pit. There is a lack of funding, resulting in difficult living situations for the residents. However, Dr. Foss also talked about how this lack of funding gives power to the staff. For instance, Mia will never get a powered wheelchair, but this allows the staff to keep track of the residents and prevent them from being mobile. Melissa connected this control to how the staff forces a self-fulfilling prophecy on the residents of ILLC through its restrictive environment. Moving to Michelle’s role and how the audience unconsciously views her as perpetrating evil, Dr. Foss talked about Michelle’s interest in Joanne’s statistics about the hospitalizations and tests. Simply put, Michelle is profiting off of the dire conditions of the residents; Brie shared input that despite not knowing about the environment, Michelle is still sending people to ILLC. However, Tabitha posed the question that while Michelle is good at her job, is she really doing good with her job? 

Continuing in large group, the class began discussing Sylvia Plath’s “Tulips.” Kelly started us off by pondering on the symbolism of the tulips. This was a concept that the class as a whole could not come to an agreement on. However, that did not stop discussion. As the speaker is drugged, in and out of consciousness, do tulips represent other people or things existing in the same room? Rebecca followed this by explaining that the tulips are described as attacking the speaker’s senses, creating a contrast to wanting to be numb and how the tulips are causing the pain to be more vivid. The flowers represent vitality and life, and the speaker does not want to be reminded of her health. Dr. Foss then asked the class if this is an avoidance mechanism, and the speaker does not want to be reminded of all her experiences? Katie Rose then responded by detailing how the speaker idealizes death and how utterly empty and peaceful death is. The tulips symbolize the pain of staying alive, and the speaker wants the peace of death. To further illuminate this concept and end large group, Dr. Foss explained Plath’s struggles with living with depression and an abusive husband.

The last part of the class was spent going over Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper” in small groups then in large group. In small group, we discussed how the male medical lens leads to the belief that women are hypochondriacs. Tristan went over how physicians used the speaker’s gender to ignore her potential disability, and ignoring it would make it go away, based on the assumption that men know what’s best. That a disability can only be visible and mental health disabilities are not real. In large group, Brie brought on the question of if it was the paint, as they used to use lead paint in buildings, which can cause mental illness. However, the symbolism of wallpaper is that of deceit, hiding what is there. However, as our class discussion of “Tulips” was so long, we had to end this discussion promptly. Leaving Dr. Foss’s comment that the speaker wanted to be active, but she resides in a room that serves to confine people, to be the last comment on this.

“I hereby declare upon my word of honor that I have neither given nor received unauthorized help on this work”

-Lauren Lemon

Discrimination and Disability

The direction I decided to take my major project was that of mixed media and poetry. Throughout this course, we have discussed a great deal about disability and discrimination, which I have witnessed since some of my earliest memories. Because of this, I wanted to create poetry about these different experiences. As someone who has not ever been drawn to writing poetry, I found myself enjoying expressing my experiences in such a manner. This project aims to show that no matter what kind of disability a person has or how someone came to be disabled, discrimination does not pass over anyone. Further, no matter how old you are, there is no age limit to partaking or witnessing discrimination. I was inspired by Simi Linton’s “Reassigning Meaning” work. Focusing on the “Nasty Words” portion and having these words, as well as others we’ve heard throughout this course, surround the poems. 

The Process

Going in chronological order to the discrimination towards disabled peoples that I witnessed, I wrote: “Full Grown.” As a child, I was at a local market, and we passed by a couple who both had dwarfism. My little sister, not understanding what was wrong in the situation, shouted a name at them, and the mortification I witnessed from my parents and the couple’s reaction resonated with me. This is the earliest recollection I have of experiencing discrimination towards disabled peoples. The discussion my parents had with my sister and me later about never calling people names that you would not want to be called impacted me. However, as I got older, I became aware that not all people were raised similarly.  

            In the first grade, there was a teacher that everyone would talk about, and as the school was designed in resemblance to an outlet mall, everyone saw all the teachers. In “Childish Fears,” I wrote about such a teacher whose arm did not reach past her elbow. When interacting with other children while this teacher was in view, there would always be stories about how she lost her arm and the horrible things she would do to children. This instance reminded me of this course’s discussion on viewing people with disabled bodies as monsters. Children have very imaginative minds, and when one tells a story, it often gets passed on to others. However, in this case, it turns a woman into a monster. This carried on for two years of my childhood, always confused when seeing this teacher talk to my teacher and having other students tell more rumors. However, by the end of second grade, my parents encouraged me to ask the teacher what happened, knowing these were nonsensical fears. Looking back with the knowledge I have now, once I was informed of the reality of the situation, all these fears seemed meaningless. This was simply a woman with a history, and children filled an empty story with a monster tale. 

The poem “Taken Senses” is about my third-grade teacher who had melanoma on her nose, this caused her to lose her nose, and the process was a very long one. My class was the last one she taught throughout the majority of the year for the next three years, and in turn, I got to witness one of my favorite teachers be talked about in a bad light. These students did not know her when she was healthy and always present, and due to her always being in the hospital, I heard students and parents alike complain. However, what astounded me was during parent-teacher nights, she never had any parents present to say good things, and the only students who would visit were prior students of hers. In passing, you could hear students talk about her prosthetic nose, and there would be the occasional few that asked to see underneath. At first, she would show students, but this allowance was quickly gone after seeing their reactions. This experience is something that I never genuinely analyzed until this course. The impact that having a disability can have on someone who has lived their whole life healthily. 

Growing up, I knew many people who were color blind; however, I only knew one person who was partially blind. Except in this student’s case, he did not advertise that he was, and most students thought him odd, but he could see little to nothing. “Spilled Water” is a poem about this student and the fact that he was bullied since people could not see his disability. Most of the time, Collin did not participate in group activities, but this day he did; everyone was excited, and we all were assigned our own tasks, and we all rushed to complete them. However, as the poem depicts, not all tasks were assembled perfectly. The teacher we had for this course was not the most understanding of when mistakes occurred, and when water was spilled, she lashed out at Collin. Even though Collin did not advertise that he was visually impaired, it was something that the teacher was privy to. I related this poem to that aspect of this course’s curriculum. When someone is not viewed as disabled because of their appearance, they face discrimination of a different kind as there is no accommodation. 

            The poem “Senseless Noise” is about an experience that would make anyone-knowledgeable about disabilities or not- livid. In high school, the few who lived near me rode the bus with the disabled student’s home as no other bus came to the area. One afternoon, another student brought a friend with her on the bus, and they both began to mock and antagonize the nonverbal student in a wheelchair. This went on for a minute, and then they moved their attention towards another nonverbal student, and that was the end of it after a few harsh words were said to them. This relates more to autism than it does to the disabilities that we have discussed thus far in class. However, this instance was one of the most vocal I have heard in terms of “nasty words” being said to disabled people. The mockery and scorn that these girls had towards these two students demonstrated just how much they were impacted by being around other people they viewed as abnormal.

I hereby declare on my word of honor that I have neither given nor received unauthorized help on this work. 

Lauren Lemon

Word Count of write up: 1,062

Linton, Simi. “Reassigning Meaning.” Claiming Disability: Knowledge and Identity. NYU Press, 1998, pp. 8 – 33. PDF, Accessed 11 November, 2021. 

Thinking Through CripStudies 2.0: Art and Disability

In the webinar presented by Karen Nakamura and Sunaura Taylor, the section that stood out the most was the portion about art and disability. Various pieces were shown; however, the one that I found most intriguing was the one with the water and the trees. This piece represented an aquifer and a tree in the literal sense. In the disability aspect, it represented disabled people with crippled arms. It was described as the arms and the aquifer representing the same thing that they both have a purpose and are necessary, and I viewed the tree as a symbol of growth with its vast roots. In this, people with crippled arms have an absence of their arms fully serving their purpose, almost as if grasping for progress, but it is out of reach. This portrayal was very personal and intimate, as the darkness of the colors and the way the water and hands were drawn leave a residual sadness in anyone looking at the piece.