May. 17, 2017

Honoring Bodies

Honoring Bodies (click here for ASL vlog by Rossana Reis)

[Footage Description: 9:52 vlog by Rossana Reis titled “Honoring Bodies.” Rossana is a light-skinned/white presenting Latinx person who is wearing a dark colored zipper sweater with a North Face logo on the left chest area. Rossana is wearing glasses that are tinted. Rossana is leaning against pillows and what appears to be a shelf area behind a bed. There are books on the shelf.]

Rossana: Hello. I am Rossana Reis. [Name sign is four piano key fingers tapping against upper cheek, under eye]. I am a Latinx DeafBlind Multiply disabled PanQueer Person.

I would like to have a discussion about something that has been bothering me, something that has been on my mind that I have not been able to let go of. I have noticed a pattern of persons contacting me, both Deaf and Hearing people, approaching me but not seeming to have an interest in learning more about the whole of me. Rather, they seem more interested in checking off some token on a list for panels, presentations, workshops, projects, and more. And this is a hurtful process. I often feel like people simply placate me a bit, put off my concerns, say that they will address them later or whatever. And then later things become messed up. This usually results in me backing out/resigning. That has happened quite a few times and is the reason that I have been turning down requests to get involved in things. Sometimes people are able to convince me to get involved and this usually involves projects that directly impact children, as I feel role models are important. Many of you know I love children.

So…[Deep sigh] I have often experienced oppression and harm from people. This has happened over and over and over again and I need time to recover. Sometimes people apologize. Sometimes they do not. I tend to forgive, not for them but for me. Forgiving people leaves me feeling more free, removes burdens. It allows me to brush off heaviness so that I have more energy.

When similar acts of exclusion/oppression happen to other disabled people, particularly Black and Brown Disabled people, they often do not get an apology. Whoa. This pisses me off. It is not okay. You know, the word “disability,” is often swept under a rug and rejected by the Deaf Signing community. Why? They are fighting to be recognized as a linguistic minority. When DeafDisabled folks try to remind others that we are here, we are brushed off. The Deaf Signing community is far removed from us and often members of that community do not seem compassionate/caring and do not listen to our concerns and needs. Very few do. Very very few really listen to, support us, and take steps to unpack and change. And to add another layer, I see some of my Black and Brown friends experience even more pain. For example, they may have generational trauma or anxiety related to social oppression that creates an impact on their body resulting in exhaustion and physical pain. This is a result of systems of oppression that constantly oppress/trigger people day after day without a break. The effect on the body is tremendous. That system of racism strongly influences a person. That can sometimes lead to an increase in disability. Did you know that statistics show that there are more Black and Brown people that have disabilities than other groups? So if a Black or Brown person approaches you to share that they are not feeling well, perhaps need to cancel plans? Maybe they don’t feel safe, possibly are experiencing heightened levels of anxiety or generally feeling off and tell you they cannot show up? Possibly part of the reason is that there is a riot near your event.

And your response is, “Well there’s nothing I can do, it is out of my control.” That is so insensitive. That shows me that you are clearly disconnected from multiple realities that may not match your own. You do not have a sense of the triumphs and struggles happening in other peoples lives. So, again, approaching me or approaching other folks who are Black or Brown just to check something off a list and make tokens out of us is not acceptable. It is important to change the way you do things. It is important to take a look at your own internal process. Learn how to work with and connect with people in ways that don’t trigger or hurt them. Take the time for personal growth. It doesn’t matter if you can list all the ways you are a good person. You need to take a look at ways you are privileged — such as White, Able, Upper Class, Race… I think I said that one already… Even religion, such as Christian, what else? I know there are more…there’s a whole list… Oh, heterosexual. And cisgender, which is when a person goes in and a doctor assigns them “man” or “woman” based on what they observe and that matches and how the person actually identifies themselves. So… it is important to recognize your privileges.

For example: say this is you and another person. Where are you in relation to this person in terms of power dynamics/privilege? You represent…Let me back up a bit here… As a person what do you represent? If a person tells you their needs and you brush that off, tell them don’t worry- go ahead and join anyway? Be careful. That is a way of asserting your privileges on another person and you need to check that. Like, for instance, begging me to join your project, buttering me up and eventually convincing me to join. Knowing that I will do it for the children. That’s not cool. Using children as a lure is not cool. This makes me feel guilty. It is just not cool. When you use me as a token that will not change anything for children.

I've wondered if maybe Deaf people often not well versed about Disabled people. Many disabilities have long, wordy vocabulary...I thought maybe we need to come together as a group and create signs for...thought maybe we need to work together to translate articles on the topic. Take the opportunity to educate others--no that is really not it. But you know what? I have taken the time to educate. I have given 1:1 time to many of you. Looking back, I can remember a lot of effort I put into people. Think about how many times you have had a person express to you their needs or concerns or crises. Did you honor their experiences? Did you honor their body? Did you honor them as a human? That’s the problem. Again, reflect on your behaviors. It is time to slow down. Stop the cycle. Finish. [end transcript]

Transcript/English translation by Alison L. Aubrecht 5/17/2017