Brian Cruz-Lovo’s Take Home Final

Brian Cruz-Lovo
Dr. Chris Foss
ENGL 384
December 9, 2021

Finding Their Identity

Seeking one’s own identity is a goal everyone wants to reach to find enlightenment and fulfillment within themselves. Throughout our lives, we do find parts of our identity and find communities that help us build up who we want to be. What if a part of your identity is being pushed away because the communities you are a part of don’t understand or support it? From All the Weight of Our Dreams, both E. Ashkenazy’s “Foreword: On Autism and Race” and Morénike Giwa Onaiwu’s “Preface: Autistics of Color: We Exist… We Matter” share how important the topic of autism and race is when people of color with disabilities speak out about their experiences. Since the lack of support and resources for people of color with autism in their communities is falling short, they start to lose a part of their identity that does truly matters to them.
To begin, Ashkenazy breaks down the types of identities many people of color find and how their experiences. Ashkenazy reflects on how all the different cultures around her life open the door to her multiracial identity. She says, “Our homes were filled with art that reflected our cultural backgrounds and identities. My parents proudly discussed our heritage, as well as who were as a family.” Embracing this part of her identity that she grew up with. With that being said, she raised the question of how does everything she talked about ties into autism? She explains how it is human nature to want to be accepted into communities that accept us and feel like we are a part of similar individuals. The problem that arises with people of color that have disabilities is how that clash between not understanding and/or supporting the person with a disability. There are communities that don’t have the resources to understand what autism is and takes a toll on both the parent and child. Many people of color with autism suffer from this lack of resources of helping communities understand what autism which leads to a difficult path for these children. She also mentions how some communities see disabilities as a weakness and embarrassment. These examples are important to keep in mind because this is an issue that many people of color with autism are facing in communities that they call home and family. Ashkenazy provided a list of ideas on how to address these issues and I want to preface the idea of listening and welcoming the stories and insights of autistic people of color. As someone who is a person of color and sees how communities need to change their view on autism, we first have to welcome and listen to them. I understand that many people of color want to make that change in how we approach autism, but we have to do it in a safe and controlled environment where the message is clear and sincere. We cannot speak for all and allow those who want to speak to be heard and follow them to work on change in our communities. Similarly, Onaiwu shares her experience as a person of color with autism. She notes that from a young age she didn’t fit in and used the word “different” and never “normal”. From her physical appearance, she didn’t fit in with communities because of factors of appearance, cultural differences, and even down to her name. She continues with, “According to popular opinion, autistic people didn’t/don’t look like me. People didn’t/don’t sound like me.” And explains how this stigma creates a false stereotype of what people who have autism are supposed to act, look, and think. She ends with quotes of people of color who have autism to express how they are human beings too and vital race and autism play a part in their lives.
It is important to note that people of color who have disabilities are affected by other communities. People of color suffer from discrimination through society and communities that are based on racism. With that, when these communities see that people of color have disabilities, it ignites even more discrimination of tying racism with ableism. As mentioned before, since the lack of support and resources for people of color with autism in their communities is falling short, they start to lose a part of their identity that does truly matter to them. But how do we inform communities about autism? How do we inform communities of color that autism isn’t a sign of weakness or embarrassment? How do we help people of color with autism not lose this part of their identity? It is easier said than done however, there are many things we can do to build more resources and attention about autism and race. Many children of color are missed diagnosed or not diagnosed at all due to this lack of resources and understanding it. Large, multi-site studies have found and showed that children who were Black, Hispanic, or of other race/ethnicity were less likely than were White children to have a documented diagnosis of autism. We are all humans and in order for every person to find their identity, we must not use ignorance as an excuse for the harmful environment many people of color with autism are suffering from communities. In order to rebuild these environments, we have to grow and accept autistic people of color and listen to their experiences to learn and understand how we can destroy biases that have been harming them for way too long.

Word Count 1,002

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

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.

Alternate Ending for Cathedral

As I opened my eyes, I looked at the sheet we were drawing on and saw how close we were to making a cathedral. “What do you think?” said the blind man, “Did it come out the way you thought it would?” For a moment I couldn’t answer him. I was surprised at how well the cathedral was drawn out but became confused about how close we were. “It’s not quite a cathedral but it’s close enough,” I said, not giving him the satisfaction that he helped me draw it. All I could do is look at the drawing. While my wife and he sat on the couch examining the drawing, I went upstairs and sat on the edge of the bed. I closed my eyes again and tried to envision myself in his shoes. All I saw was darkness and emptiness surrounding me. I tried to paint a picture in my mind with little things a house or a bus to see how my brain would picture those things. I then open eyes, grabbed my pen and notebook and started drawing. Again, I drew a house and a bus as my references to start with. Now, I went ahead and closed my eyes and attempted to draw a house and a bus. I opened my eyes and saw crooked lines that looked nothing like a house or a bus. I tried to enter his world but wasn’t able to understand it. I went downstairs and firmly asked him “How did you help me draw that when you’re blind?” They both looked at me and my wife said, “You can’t come downstairs and be demanding like that.” The blind man didn’t say until a few moments later, “what do you mean bud?” I sat next to him and said, “How did you guide me through that drawing? I don’t understand since you’re blind you can’t see what is being drawn.” I kept looking at him waiting for him to answer him. I needed this answer to come from him. Finally, he said, “I’m still not sure what you mean” In frustration, I grabbed a pen and paper and told him to draw something on it. By his face, he seemed off-put by this idea and simply said no. I grew even more frustrated with him and slowly grew envious of him. I know he’s blind, but how does his world look? What makes his world so different? Suddenly I heard him say, “Why are you so interested in how I see the world around me?” I firmly said, “Because I want to know how you live your life as a blind person” after I said that he let out a soft chuckle and said, “Did you try and draw with your eyes closed?” I hesitated to answer but he continued, “Drawing with your eyes closed or walking around the house blindfolded isn’t the same, it doesn’t work like that” I was confused and told him, “I was trying to walk in your shoes, trying to understand what it must be like to be blind” he let out as quiet sigh and said, “Sometimes walking a mile in someone else’s shoes just puts you a mile further away from understanding someone else’s experience,” I asked, “what do mean?” and I sat next to him to listen to what he had to say, “When you walk around blindfolded around your house trying to do tasks, you bump into things since you are not used to that and when you draw with your eyes closed, and look at it, they’re just scribbles” I continued to listen, “This creates this idea that people who are blind are incapable of doing everyday tasks” “In what way?” I asked, “Essentially when people try to imitate what it’s like to be blind, they will create this idea that those who are blind are clumsy, uncoordinated, and unable to live alone” As I sat there, I thought about how he helped me draw a cathedral when I couldn’t even describe it with words. “Yeah, okay, I think I get it now,” I said to him, “Yeah I see what you mean Robert” “I’m glad that you’re starting to understand it now, bud,” he said to me. As we sat on the couch for a little while longer, it was three in the morning, and it was time to go to bed. As we headed upstairs, I asked him if he needed some help and he replied with, “I would appreciate it if you could lead me to where I would sleep at”, as I lead him to where he would sleep, I told him if he needed anything to just let me know and gave me a nod of conformation. Once he was in bed, I told him goodnight and walked towards the bed where my wife was already deep in her sleep. I quietly got into the bed and felt my eyes close after a long day.

Writeup

For my major project, I decided to create an alternate ending to the short story Cathedral we read by Raymond Carver. What I wanted to accomplish through this project was to emphasize the idea that people who are able-bodied cannot simulate physical disabilities because it creates a harmful image towards those who have those physical disabilities. To begin, I used Carver’s Cathedral since it had an ending that was up to the reader to determine, I found that to be useful to expand upon it. In addition, Cathedral has 2 characters that clash since one has a physical disability (Robert) and the other doesn’t (The Narrator). The narrator gives a very closed-minded approach to those who have a disability and I wanted that to be shown in this alternate ending. This is crucial because, throughout our class readings and discussions, there is a lot of discrimination and lack of awareness towards those who are physically disabled and how they are treated. In addition, some people do try and simulate a disability by walking around the house blindfolded, only using one hand for a day, etc. So, in my alternate ending, I had the narrator do one of these simulations to give him the impression that he knows how Robert thinks, feels, and acts like someone who is blind when in fact it is more harmful than progressive. In addition, I wanted to have Robert educate the narrator in a way that isn’t aggressive since he is pretty calm in the original short story, but also bring attention to the fact that what he did was wrong and that he shouldn’t do it again. As someone who has a relative who is blind, I start to see how it’s not about trying to walk in their shoes but it’s about helping and assisting that person to be comfortable in their own shoes and have them slowly build into this different lifestyle. Even though in my project I had the narrator slowly understand what Robert is trying to say when he says, “Essentially when people try to imitate what it’s like to be blind, they will create this idea that those who are blind are clumsy, uncoordinated, and unable to live alone”, it is not always that easy to understand the lives of those with physical disabilities but one thing we can do is listen to what they have to say and not ignore it. Finally, I wanted to bring out the topic of how people with disabilities can independently do everyday things and push away from the dehumanization of those with physical disabilities. Towards the start of my alternate ending, I had the narrator call Robert “the blind man” since the narrator sees Robert as below him. Towards the end, I have the narrator call Robert by his name to show some growth towards seeing Robert as another person and break away from the dehumanization he uses by calling him “the blind man.” Even though this is an alternate ending to a short story with no concrete ending, I wanted to shed light on how people who are able-bodied should not create a false image of what a physical disability might seem like through a simulation that is harmful.

Word count: Alternate ending- 830 / Writeup- 538

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

Brian Cruz-Lovo’s Class Summary for 10/19/2021

On October 19th, 2021, we started class with Dr. Foss’ short five questions quiz about the readings that day. The questions were about “The Secret Garden”, “Comrade Luxemberg and Comrade Gramsci Pass Each Other in the Congress of the Second International on the 10th of March 1912”, and finally Kenny Fries “Beauty and Variations”. After the quiz, Dr. Foss announced an extra opportunity that involves an author we have been reading about for some time now. Kenny Fries was going to speak at Mary Washington and Dr. Foss encouraged us to attend and was going to make sure if a recording of the zoom call was going to be posted or not. After clearing through that, we began class where the main topic was how society and the environment can impact people with disabilities. We began this topic with small groups talking about the first 10 chapters of “The Secret Garden”.

In my small group, we discussed a lot about Mary, Colin, and the Garden itself. With Mary, there was lots of talk about how she was described when she was born. She was described as ill, sickly, yellow, and even malnutrition. With her attitude in India, we agreed that Mary traveling to India can be seen as a place to “cleanse” her and problematic that is. We also discussed how Mary’s attitude towards the servants. In India, she was rude and seemed unbearable to the servants but once she arrives in England, it shifts, and we watch her develop a friendship with Martha. Overall, Mary was having a better life in England since she was being “cleansed”. We moved into Colin and noticed that was a parallel between him and Mary when she was in India. We also mentioned their disabilities and how they are both physical ones. Finally, we noticed that The Garden can be depicted as this heal-all magical place and as a comfort zone for those whose mental health needs help. First, the heal-all aspect, we saw this as very problematic since having a place to heal everything isn’t progressive and one just can’t cure everything with magic.

After small group discussions, we came back as a class and Dr. Foss started by asking what we thought about Mary. As a class we talked about how Mary is physically ill, spoiled, self-absorbed in addition, she can be described as ugly both on the inside and outside, but it is problematic, to say the least. Dr. Foss then raised the question about how class can play into Mary or even Colin. A fellow peer mentioned Mary’s attitude but also how she isn’t independent enough which ties with the class she’s since can’t fully be independent with servants at her aide. We moved on to Colin and how The society around them has made them believe they are less than what they are, claiming that Colin needs “fresh air”. In Colin’s case, we talked about how he may have a psychological disability that makes him believe that he is physically disabled and how Society makes him worried making him disabled by his environment. We then mentioned Chapter 15 about the gawking and staring at Colin and how the people pitied him. The people from the outside respond to him as if he was physically disabled which another student made the comparison of Colin to Boo Radley both have this “ghostly” figure in their communities. We ended the conversation of “The Secret Garden” talking about the garden itself. As mentioned, the garden is seen as a place of comfort especially for those whose mental health isn’t at its best, it is a place of warmth and freeing.

As we wrapped up that discussion, we continued over to Kenny Fries’ “Beauty and Variations”. Since the poem is in 5 parts, Dr. Foss decided to break each part down and ask what we thought. In the first part, we see how the speaker is questioning himself where the partner is beautiful and abled in contrast to him in their relationship. We dug more into the line “Can only one of us be beautiful?” (Fries 107) and how this creates a complexity of love. There was a mention about how inner and outer beauty is always together but when disability comes in, it creates a complexity of beauty. We were able to start tying back to society and how the speaker may feel that society has raised him to think of himself to be not beautiful in contrast to his partner. As we continue, we saw that in Part 2 they seem to feel different, part 3 speaks on smooth skin and secrets, Part 4 talks about self-love and/or the partner understands that he’s beautiful while ending on Part 5 where he starts to see himself as beautiful.

To wrap up class, we decided to end in small groups talking about Anne Finger’s Comrade Luxemberg and Comrade Gramsci Pass Each Other in the Congress of the Second International on the 10th of March 1912”. With the little time we had, we were able to mention how society is always quick to judge on appearances and make assumptions without interaction with those with a disability. We all agreed that it is such an issue that in our society we have plenty of people who judge those just by appearance and how that can negatively affect those with a disability.

Word count: 896

“I pledge”- Brian Cruz-Lovo

Embracing their Reality

On September 23, 2021, I listened to former Mary Washington alumni, Rachael Wonderlin’s lecture titled, Everything You Need to Know About Dementia Caregiving Communication. The main concern she brought up was that when people have dementia, they have caregivers and families that wanted to choose what was true for their reality, when in fact, it is the opposite. She mentioned the methods they first teach you when you interact with people with dementia. It’s usually, reorientation, redirection, distraction, and validation. At first glance, these may seem like the only method, since we’re not “lying”, but they’re really not the most effective way to go about it. This is when she opened my eyes to the idea of “embracing their reality” and how it changes the way we interact with them. Honestly, I was not too familiar with dementia and the other diseases that fall under that term. After listening to her explain it, I realized that a majority of the time it’s more of a reality shift for them and when they forget a loved one. It is more so that they don’t know where to place them on a timeline that makes sense.

I thought it was fascinating when the idea of having them lead their reality and you follow. Brutally telling them that they have dementia and constantly reminding them of it is not only demoralizing but ineffective in many ways. The example she mentions was about an older gentleman wanting to go to college and take classes, but the caregivers ignored him and brushed it off as nothing. When she explained what she did by making a fake college sheet with classes, it not only helped the morale of the man but also solved an emotional problem that can’t be physically solved. I thought it great when she pushed the idea of how we understand what is real for them and respond in a way that makes sense to their reality. Of course, caregivers and family members want them to get better and hope that they can regain some memory back, but they are the ones who need our help and the best way we can do that is by embracing their reality.