Class, of course, began on Thursday with a quiz. Once the morbid quiz was complete, Dr. Foss reviewed the schedule our class would be following and named the readings we would be analyzing. The authors included Jasbir Puar, Chris Bell, and Toni Morrison. The class focused mainly on the two theory readings, and discussion involving these authors and their correlating articles proceeded in the same order as formerly stated. Through group discussion involving the two articles, our class concluded that white individuals remain the focus of disability studies due to a long history of marginalization towards minority groups in the field.
Class proceeded by Dr. Foss giving students adequate time to review Jasbir Puar’s article, “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot!” from The Right to Maim. My groupmates and I discussed whether both disabled and debilitated aligned individuals fall under the same category of “disability.” Although we did not come up with a definitive answer, the group concluded that individuals with disabilities in debilitating circumstances battle unique hardships due to lack of resources. In addition, the group discussed how individuals in power remain in authority by targeting minority groups and disabling them through the act of maiming. We specifically focused on Puar’s claim, “This is what I call ‘the right to maim’: a right expressive of sovereign power that is linked to, but not the same as ‘the right to kill.’ Maiming is a source of value extraction from populations that would otherwise be disposable” (18). The group concluded that Puar point stands true, when someone becomes disabled by being maimed, they are less likely to be a threat to the group in power.
Dr. Foss then brought the class together to discuss the article as a large group. He started by stating that over 50% of police shootings are towards black bodies, supporting this claim by giving specific examples of local tragedies where black individuals have been targeted by local police. Foss then went on to discuss one of Puar’s points that the Israeli/Palestinian conflict also revolves around the intentional debilitation of a population and how individuals with disabilities in the Middle East face challenges such as transportation due to issues associated with the area’s infrastructure. The class moved on to discuss the topic from a historical stance, stating that throughout history, minority bodies were expected to attain physical disabilities, such as the bodies of enslaved people. This conversation concentrated on the topic of white fragility and how similarly to the topic of race, white fragility can relate to disability studies as well because the topic of disability can cause anxiety amongst white populations, especially when related to minority groups.
Dr. Foss then gave the class small group time to review Chris Bell’s article, “Introducing White Disability Studies: A Modest Proposal.” My group discussed Bell’s obvious sarcasm towards the topic of disability, and how disability studies solely focus on white disability. The group specifically considered Bell’s ten-step list that sarcastically informs the reader of easy strategies in how to keep disability studies fixated on white disability instead of becoming more inclusive. The group quickly noticed that Bell’s article, like the central points in Puar’s article, focuses on the topic of white fragility. This conversation turned to large group discussion that revolved around Bell’s ten-step list. Classmates highlighted Bell’s use of reverse psychology, claiming that by stating, “Make no effort to be more inclusive in your scholarship. Do not start today, do not start tomorrow. Wait for someone else to do inclusive work” (281), Bell is calling society to action.
Lastly, the few remaining minutes of class were used to briefly discuss Toni Morrison’s, Sula. Dr. Foss emphasized different characters and their correlating disabilities such as Eva who has one leg, the triplets who are hinted to have an intellectual disability, and Plum who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. The class discussed Toni Morrison’s intentions of wanting the reader to be exposed to differing perspectives, but whose intentions instead were at times inappropriate and insensitive towards cultures that she was not educated enough to speak for. The discussion was then concluded with a duck joke and class was dismissed.
“I pledge” – Megan Hofmann