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.
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.
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.