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welcome to this episode of the award-winning best of the left podcast
in which we shall learn about some of the adversities facing disabled people
from labor rights to healthcare accessibility to incarceration clips
today come from talk poverty radio big Fink
Papa ganda the Laura Flanders show and off kilter but first we’re going to hear
the trailer for the film bottom dollars people with disabilities are not capable
of working that’s the biggest lie ever heard the minimum wage is offered to everybody
except for people with disabilities people with disabilities are being paid
less than minimum wage on average under $2 an hour across the country how would
you like to work for two weeks and come out with a six dollar check it’s all
based on the assumption that they’re less capable than other individuals no
it’s not fair it could be perfectly legal the
management is making very very significant six-figure salaries
companies I’ve told us that if they had to pay half of minimum wage that they
would probably go bankrupt they’re just building this own business for
themselves do you think I’m the person with the disability and ice maybe they
find jobs that pay me what I deserve I may have a disability but I can still
work I oversee the Bob Boyd Honda Facebook page it’s great I interact with
customers I talk to the workers and get paid I love it I work at powers
bookstore I use assistive technology to help me do what I cannot do physically I
am super proud of my job I’m in the shipping and receiving but the Boston
Children’s Hospital Here I am today a business owner I own Papa Joe’s kettle
corn you know the greatest disability there is it is low expectation people
with disabilities can be paid sub-minimum which we don’t feel that’s
right there’s no reason to pay us less than the minimum wage when I’m working I
felt I should be paid as an equal person rooted in rights presents an original
documentary bottom dollars for the full film go to bottom dollars
movie calm so Cheryl Bates Harris you are an expert on this issue on
disability law and Disability Rights help us understand how is it legal that
people with disabilities can be paid less than the federal minimum wage that
applies to everyone else well it goes back to a post-war piece of legislation
where men were primarily the wage earners and we had primarily a
manufacturing economy so as veterans returned from war with injuries that
would limit their ability to work in a manufacturing society the 14c provision
was put into place to allow men the dignity to continue working even if they
were not quote-unquote as productive as others so that’s how it started
unfortunately it was not until we D institutionalize children and they
needed a place to go during the day that people really realized that this was a
loophole that would allow them to pay people less than minimum wage if they
brought work in for those individuals to do and one of the pieces of history that
the film explores is really the the rise of what are often called sheltered
workshops Jordan what are sheltered workshops and and tell us a little bit
of how they came into into place well that’s a question I asked a lot over the
last year and I got a lot of different answers about who how you define a
sheltered workshop there’s no dictionary definition of it and the sheltered
workshops are not even the whole story there are there are places that are not
workshops where people go that can be paid sub-minimum ways there are other
types of work that make use of this but a sheltered workshop is the the most
famous example and essentially what that is is picture a factory down a road that
you don’t normally drive down that people with disabilities go for
you know as Charles does for a period of time during the day the idea is that
they will go there they’ll be able to work on contracts that get brought in
from the outside it’s usually manufacturing shredding papers sorting
parts and things like that and then the idea is that people will go there and
this will give them an opportunity to earn a little bit of money get some jobs
trading training skills that’s from social skills and then over a period of
time then be able to transition out to some kind of community employment that
does happen occasionally and sometimes it happens just sometimes
it happens over a very very long period of time there’s a gentleman in the film
from Mississippi who had been in a workshop for 15 years this gentleman
named Tillman Mitchell from Vicksburg and at the end of those 15 years he was
finally placed in a community job they only started looking for him in that
last year of that 15 years and the job they found for him was he’s a Houseman
at ala Quinta Inn and I met Tillman there’s no question in my mind it would
not take 15 years for him to learn how to wipe down a vending area or a vacuum
floor I just don’t believe that and that seems to be the pattern that we found in
Cheryl can talk more about this because she did the the investigations over time
at ndrn that looked at a lot of these examples of people being in workshops
for 10 20 30 years that doesn’t sound like a training program to me Cheryl you
argue in the film that sheltered workshops started for the right reason
but that they have since become an outdated model of segregation what did
you mean by that and tell us a little bit more about these workshops and the
investigations that ndrn has done well the workshops originally started I’m
going to say the late 50s 60s and certainly they flourished in the 70s and
the thought then was we were just starting to educate children in public
schools and so these were kids that parents had kept out of institutions
that needed a place to go during the day so when somebody thought about well
let’s try to teach them some job skills and think about employment that’s when
the the 14c was discovered and what’s happened unfortunately is businesses
contract work to the sheltered workshops and the businesses make good money
off of these contracts so they have an incentive to keep people there in order
to get the production work done and so instead of being a train and place model
individuals are it’s it’s a road to know where people end up in the sheltered
workshops most people will either die or retired
from sheltered workshops and what I mean Jordan mentioned work that might involve
wiping down countertops but what types of work are people frequently doing in
these workshops I know it can range it’s very tedious repetitive and low-skilled
work assembly I’m counting out nuts and bolts for like the furniture that you
put together that you buy from Ikea I’m shredding newspapers is very common
stringing linoleum tiles together putting product samples together and the
the most unfortunate part is that the work that comes in everybody has to do
it people don’t get to choose the kinds of jobs they do nor do they get to nor
they matched with their skills and abilities and that’s consequently the
reason of the sub minimum wage people don’t have dexterity skills for a lot of
these people don’t have any interest in it they get bored it’s just you know not
a good job match and they’re they’re stuck and that’s that is definitely a
theme that recurs throughout the film let’s play a little bit of tape from one
worker describing how the work he was assigned to dude didn’t match at all
with with his skills or abilities sometimes I think that match the people
with the wrong test because they don’t really didn’t wanna take the time to
match due to what they can do I when I was in the shelter workshop they had me
bending over putting clothes in the barrel uh a CP so I couldn’t bend over
and then get myself back up he took me I wanted to get myself back up
I had a somebody to give me up so I can reposition myself and then pick up some
clothing and then been back now to put it in the bear after I get got that
chick of $2.50 for working in the hot workshop with hot big things I said I
quit I can go find me some else to do so in addition to the mismatch of work that
people can be assigned to do people offer also are paid very little and
obviously that’s the thrust of this film that the title of the film is bottom
dollars which couldn’t sum up better what’s going on here but how much do
people actually get paid for this work shorten well the none of this is really
a secret if you go to the Department of Labor’s website they have a spreadsheet
where it actually shows where every single 14c holder is in the entire
country and so what we did is we took that and we did a Freedom of Information
request and we looked at a several sheltered workshops some of them which
appear in the film and others which were just the biggest ones by a number of
people employed and we saw some wages that were above minimum wage in the $9
area we saw some that were more around the federal minimum wage but then there
were thousands and thousands and thousands of people being paid five
dollars an hour three dollars an hour two dollars an hour fifty cents an hour
down to two cents an hour three cents an hour two cents an hour two cents an hour
and there are people in the film who actually described after a day of
incredibly tedious as you mentioned Cheryl and also in some cases somewhat
grueling work because of the mismatch with their abilities or skills receiving
their paycheck and and it ends up being like two dollars and fifty cents or five
dollars for an entire pay period yeah and there’s a gentleman we ran into
named Lauren Jackson cliff we just played and he worked in a sheltered
workshop and he was missing mismatched they had him gathering up clothes and
putting it in a barrel and he would they basically weigh the barrel at the end of
the day and then based on that and he has cerebral palsy
he doesn’t have great dexterity he described it pretty well in the film how
kind of ridiculous it was that he was assigned this job and what I think about
when I think about LaRon is that he is now working at Disability Rights
Mississippi he is now an advocate who goes into sheltered workshops to help
people get out he’s has his undergrad degree and he’s
planning to go to law school so we we had a guy who will probably go to law
school get an advanced screen become a lawyer in one day and we thought it
would be a good idea to put him in the sheltered workshop and assign him to
soar clothing and that doesn’t strike me as starting with high expectations for
someone or starting with what someone’s dreams are what they want to do being a comedian
and having disability I didn’t find many challenges with work being someone who
dreams on TV being someone who is a writer being someone who is an actress
I feel like entertainment and broadcast news ignore the fact that a DA also
applies to them this was signed 25 years ago and most workplaces still ignore its
existence they still think that accommodating is an option because of
the word reasonable accommodations and I work with people with disabilities who
are in their 20s and 30s or they’re just graduating college and they’re terrified
for the person interviewing them to know they have a disability they’re trying so
hard to get through the process and pass as able that’s not the world that we
should live in at all and that is the reality for so many people if you turn
on the TV we’re invisible we’re not present on daytime talk shows
panel shows soap operas morning news shows we’re not the anchors were not the
hosts we’re not even guest co-hosts and I was
watching a very famous cable news woman who’s known for her intersectionality
she said live on television we cannot invite wheelchair users into
the studio because our studio is not accessible I had been in that studio it
was built two years ago why are they still building studios that are not
accessible in this day and age why because we’re not thought of
we’re not thought of when people talk about diversity they’re not talking
about people with disabilities they’re not we’ve been completely run
over in the intersection of intersectionality you would think since
we’re the largest minority that everyone bumps into at least one disabled people
and they know disabled people guess what that’s not the reality I don’t know how
I don’t know why but I’ve had people tell me you know he never saw anyone
like you before and I think it comes back to storybooks to television to
really actively making sure that it’s not one character for one episode in a
wheelchair that disappears the next day look at Sesame Street when I was growing
up Sesame Street had a deaf woman that changed my perception she was part of
this normal world that has Muppets but like this world that I was so accustomed
to just like old people like mr. Hooper who died and taught me what death was
and those images are gone so there’s a couple of characters that do have
disabilities sprinkled throughout children’s television but it’s not
something that you’re seeing often enough if you wear contacts then you’re
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show notes of this episode or you can use the offer code best during checkout
again you can use the link in the show notes simple contacts dot-com slash best
or use the offer code best at checkout for $30 off today we’re talking about how prisons
are designed to be invisible this next story shines a light on one
part of that system how 1/3 of people in prison have at least one disability and
how that’s not part of the story most people hear about prisons our media and
lawmakers don’t often link these two issues incarceration and disabilities
Sheryl Green shares this next story Sheryl understands the power of pop
culture in shaping public perception of marginalized people she’s a filmmaker
she just shot a documentary about artists who have traumatic brain
injuries just a warning this story has discussion of some pretty harsh
realities Sheryl will be talking about racist and ableist trauma profiling and
a history of abuse if you don’t think you want to hear about that right now
just come back to this another time before the Declaration of Independence
was even signed the fledgling United States of America already had mental
institutions taking people considered insane out of their homes and tucking
them into specialized hospitals sometimes they got treatment sometimes
they were shackled starved and abused people with psychiatric disabilities
were jailed more often than placed in hospitals in the early days in the 1830s
a Boston school teacher named Dorothea Dix took a job teaching people in prison
in Massachusetts while she didn’t go into the job as an activist what she saw
in the prison appalled her she started to report on how living conditions were
brutal and the people in prison many with psychiatric disabilities were
abused and starved by their jailers she started a movement that expanded the
reach of our psychiatric hospitals but it was no miracle fix while a lot has
changed in the last hundred and eighty years patterns of abuse in long-term
care facilities and jails repeat endlessly to this day right now in the
United States there are more people with psychiatric disabilities in jail or
prison than there are in Psych hospitals and incarcerated populations represent
people with a huge array of physical and sensory impairments and deaf people
if she were around today Dorothea Dix would be outraged and how its once again
easier to wind up behind bars than in a specialized hospital our current
incarceration rates has something to do with our response to the abuse of
institutions in 1955 President John F Kennedy signed the Community Mental
Health Act a law intended to end the isolation and segregation of disabled
people in archaic institutions by pushing funding out of institutions and
into home and community-based care almost every American family at some
stage will experience or has experienced a case of mental affliction and we have
to offer something more than crowded custodial care in our state institutions
our task is to prevent these conditions our next is to treat them more
effectively and sympathetically in the patient’s own community I hope that
Congress relax in this bill but even as the nation shut down institutions
funding for Community Care has still not reached levels needed to keep most
people with complex care needs in their homes
we shuttered the warehouses and gave people nowhere to go and as a culture we
never address the ablest biases that led us to want to lock up disabled people in
the first place the politics of who gets assigned a
label of disability ties into racism homophobia and sexism
until the 1970s homosexuality was considered a mental illness and for many
years a crime and during lunch ralf showed him some pornographic pictures
jimmy knows shouldn’t be interested but well he was curious what Jimmy didn’t
know was that ralph was sick a sickness that was not visible like smallpox but
no less dangerous and contagious a sickness of the mind you see ralf was a
homosexual a person who demands an intimate relationship with members of
their own sex many people who were LGBT were incarcerated in prisons and psych
wards likewise 19th century doctors had great
confidence that the only reason an enslaved African or African American
might run away was because they must be suffering an alleged mental illness that
they called rapido mania and we all know the fabulous diagnosis of hysteria
something that can only happen to someone with a uterus in early 20th
century thinking summons uterus supposedly detached hermit spot in the
abdomen navigated itself to the brain and destroyed the person’s ability to
think rationally today these biases still all work tragically in tandem
estimates now find that between 1/2 and 1/3 of people killed by police have a
disability for me these aren’t just distant statistics they’re a constant
danger in my own community of people with disabilities from traumatic brain
injury I’ve seen friends with traumatic brain injuries be incarcerated
instead of getting rehab when they’ve spiraled into house lessness driving
under the influence attempting suicide and abusing drugs all common for a lot
of people with TBI disability and deafness are often
criminalized when people don’t walk talk or respond to police in the way the
officers expect them to when I think specifically about why people who
acquire their disability as adults like I did are more likely to wind up in jail
than non-disabled people I think back to the time I got kicked off an airplane in
2013 this was back when I used to get completely devastated when anyone
changed my plans something the brain injury really brought out in me
I had requested pre-boarding and then to have someone who stood my bag into the
overhead bin for me both of which are my rights under the law they refused and I
imploded I didn’t want to cause a fuss so I withdrew into a little ball as my
rage and frustration built I crushed my glasses in my fist obliterating them and
I refused to speak for fear that I’d only be able to scream I was trying to
make myself silent and invisible but that was too much for the flight crew
they demanded I leave the plane saying I was quote a safety hazard and that the
pilot refused to fly with someone who refused to communicate when I made it
back to the waiting area I was in a sobbing rage I threw my bags down and
started cussing at the top of my lungs luckily in cases of disability related
incidents airlines are required by law to call in a specially trained
complaints resolution official the glass as I’d crushed
had prism lenses to point my eyes in the same direction without them the people
carts and rolling bags work visually disorienting and I kept getting lost
trying to walk in a straight line so the official held my hand as we walked to
keep me from running into anyone he got me a new ticket on the next flight then
he led me to the employee lounge and let me wait there when I got on my flight
five hours later I was too exhausted to care about my own frustrations that made
it easier to stay calm and follow orders and sit still
thinking back to this incident I know even though it wasn’t a good situation
it could have turned out so much worse airports aren’t exempt from police and
TSA brutality what kept it from escalating to that I honestly believe it
had a lot to do with the fact that I’m a small cisgender white woman it’s my
privilege they kept me from being incarcerated a lot of disabled people
don’t wind up as lucky as I was that day the incarcerated population is three to
four times more likely to report having a disability than non incarcerated
people storytellers from the avid prison project report barriers they face that
are pretty universal such as having their wheelchairs taken away being
refused medical attention or prescriptions and being punished and
isolated instead of given accommodations many of which are inexpensive and
straightforward last year I listened to activists and artists on a panel about
race disability art and incarceration held in Seattle Dorie and Taylor talked
about their experiences being abused as a child and how their responses to abuse
was seen as just acting out well first of all I just um I want to start out by
saying that um I feel really honored to be here because statistically I should
not be here right now that is something that I think is
important to start off this conversation with is that statistically these systems
are designed to keep people like myself away from these environments is to keep
me institutionalized one thing that is different when people mention the school
to Prison Pipeline and when they they mention different forms of incarceration
is that when you grow up like I did you were never told that you could do
anything besides end up in an institution my car serration started
with mental institutions at nine years old as a black Native American child
labeled mentally ill instead of the victim of abuse they got no counseling
in care instead they got incarceration in a mental institution and chemical
incarceration through psychiatric drugs leading to a cycle of isolation and
further abuse I used to go to a brain injury support group not long after my
airport incident a police chief came to our meeting to talk about police
encounters she told us about how we should wear medical alert bracelets
listing our disabilities so officers can ideally view us as disabled not
non-compliant I ordered one online that same day I was scared I might lash out
in public again I was afraid of a cop touching me I was afraid of a cop
punishing me for imploding and not responding even though for me it would
be self-preservation the bracelet said to speak slowly quietly and calmly it
said to write things down I can’t remember what else has said because I
lost it as many disability rights injustice activists state this is not a
matter of individual people’s personal shortcomings flaws or failures
disability and deafness are not quote what’s wrong with you being disabled or
deaf means existing in and creatively adapting to an inaccessible world while
honoring and celebrating all aspects of your identity nowadays I have much more
self control and I can communicate better under stress with these added
privileges I don’t have fear around my own situation anymore because I pass is
non-disabled thanks are due to disability justice activists like those
using the hashtag dangerously disabled on Twitter to share first-hand
experiences around policing and incarcerated disabled and deaf people
usually in our media and pop culture disability is considered a downer of a
subject disability stories are considered niche but they’re not leash
disabled people exist in every culture and community in the u.s. the imperative
that we be hidden away in locked buildings is based on a cultures values
not a universal inevitability it’s up to us to keep up the fight for basic rights
such as living in the community and we can’t stop there because disability
rights are only part of one step in a call for disability justice hey everyone just a quick non-commercial
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time and help clean up our captions it’d be very much appreciated thanks in
advance for your help safety every law enforcement officer and
every politician will tell you that that for it and yet for many police aren’t
the answer there a problem in the community and today’s policymakers are
only making things worse if what we’re doing isn’t making many of us safer what
might our next guest has gone on a search leah lakshmi pieps ‘no samara
sinha describes herself as a queer disabled writer performer poet healer
and teacher inspired by poets june jordan sue her hamid and what she calls
the whole women of color pantheon she’s the author of several books of poetry
including consensual genocide and the lambda award-winning love cake she’s a
new book of poetry body map and a memoir dirty river out this year she also
performs with the group mangoes with chili she’s an editor two of the book
the revolution starts at home confronting intimate violence in
activist communities a book that grapples with the difficult ideas of
addressing violence without police we also discovered that we shared a meal
together a few years ago in toronto many years ago i’m happy to see you again lea
thanks for coming up thank you so much for having me let’s talk a little bit
about this notion of safety and we’ll come back to other things what does it
mean to you I think that there are a million survivors of violence out there
I think that most people have survived some form of abuse or violence I think
that as feminists we’ve been talking about that at least since the 70s and
Beyond and I think that in the criminal legal system which I don’t call the
criminal justice system because it doesn’t bring it no one ever asks
survivors of violence what they need to have safety justice and healing in their
lives we’re told as survivors of violence that yay second wave white
liberal feminism worked so we get to call the cops and send our abusers to
prison I don’t know a single survivor who’s ever called the police to get
justice and of the ones that I’ve read about I
don’t know a single one who said yeah my experience in the criminal legal system
was great and I got what I needed we’re we’re basically being used to
create more prisons and to build mass incarceration I mean by that um I think
that a lot of like a lot of feminists of color I understand why a lot of
feminists in the 70s and 80s pushed for things like the criminalization of
domestic violence and childhood sexual abuse but what black and brown feminists
know is that bringing more police into our communities never keeps us safe my
good friend of jairus Dixon who worked for many years at Audrey Lord Project
talks about how what we’re calling transport of justice is nothing new
she’s like my father is a black man from Louisiana growing up the police for the
Klan and still are and he’s like that’s not who we called when there was
intimate partner abuse in our communities that hasn’t changed is that
where the artist and poet imagination imagination comes in what else might we
do what else have other communities done one thing that I’m really grateful for
so I’m about to be 40 which means I came up as an activist and an organizer in
the 90s and I still back then I would run into you know in whatever movement
stasis we were part of a little bit of the Oh cultural works this very
feminized an important thing I still remember trying to organize a free Mumia
rally in 1996 and there was some old white Bolshevik guy who was like we
wanted to have we were young people of color and we were like we want to have
MCS and hip-hop artists and poets and it was like that’s not how you do a proper
rally you sell the paper and we were like you’re racist in a relevant I think
that cultural work still is minimized but I think that it goes beyond just
being the entertainment at the rally I think it is just what you said about um
I mean yeah Dan Dupree once said that the only war that matters is the war of
the imagination and I think that it’s very easy when we are surviving and not
surviving multiple forms of violence all the time to focus on the power that we
don’t have one thing that the that the Allied media conference which is a
grassroots media conference I work with stresses in how we organize is that we
focus on where we’re powerful not where we’re powerless I think the imagination
is one place that we’re powerful and I think that we don’t have the state we
don’t have the prisons we don’t have the cops thing
God what we do have is the wild queer feminist of color de colonial
imagination and what difference does your disability make and the disability
rights movement I heard you begin to talk about it but I
think it’s important right we actually use the term disability justice because
the disability rights movement while it’s incredibly important and I’m
grateful for the work those organizers did has been predominantly a white
dominated single issue movement disability justice as a term was coined
by people who’ve covered with disabilities for revolutionaries
especially Patricia Byrne and Leroy Moore of sins invalid who got really
sick of being marginalized as disabled revolutionary people of color within
both white disability rights and non-disabled people of color movements
and I would just say everything I carriage who is a beloved beloved person
who’s the II D of Audrey Lord projects right now she was part of a group called
kindred which still exists which is black and brown queer southern healers
and they came together because she was like where organizers are literally
dying in the South because of chronic illness and ableism and the relentless
pace of our movements that is ablest so I would say the first thing that’s true
for our movements is that sustainability is a huge issue for us there’s so much
that non-disabled activists can learn from disabled people and that’s kind of
why in the beginning places I think a lot of non-disabled activists or people
don’t identify as disabled yet are used to thinking of disability only in terms
of all we need to get a ramp and that’s really important but they it’s it’s a
really huge cognitive leap for non-disabled folks to become aware that
disabled folks have our histories and cultures of resistance we have crip
science we have incredible organizing skills that non-disabled people need to
learn from I can organize from bed I can organize on the Internet I can organize
on crip time I can do a lot of miraculous things that are not in a 16
meeting a week for limitless schedule I can do that unknown no money and I am
NOT alone I am one of millions of disabled folks who are resisting and I
would say a whole lot of other things about eugenics and the value of our
bodies and how it’s immensely the struggle around those issues are
immensely connected with anti prison organizing just add one other thing has
to do with fun oh yeah right I had disability justice activists took the
other day about a and said to her not disabled they didn’t
think colleagues you want to learn how to work your body as it ages as if
you’re lucky it will acquire disabilities learn from us oh I need to
say this my friend I am allo said recently she’s like you know the thing
that non-disabled folks have to learn from us is that we’ve already survived
some of the worst things that can happen and I don’t just mean like what ableism
so it sees as the individual tragedies of our bodies I mean surviving ableism
capitalism and we know how to do it and we are thriving and we are surviving and
we’re not always surviving but we are so yeah exactly when that you know
breakneck speed– burnout able-bodied activist gets cancer or diabetes or you
know gets an amputation and it’s like oh my god my life’s over we’re there to be
like it actually really is something you need to change the way your life is and
the way movements are so we can actually be part of that radical imagination and
we can have fun and we can have fun talk about fun what do you want to know why
you’re into it I’m watching you and I’m thinking you’re talking about some of
the most intense hardcore stuff and yet you’re clearly relishing it I’m not dead
I was like many survivors who make it to 40 I was not supposed to I’m gonna quote
somebody who’s gonna make you cry I mean June Jordan right there revolutionary
queer black poet um cancer survivor and you know cancer not survivor um said
right after 9/11 some of us did not die I guess it was our plates live so what
are we gonna do about it I was talking with my one of my chosen family members
who is also a hardcore survivors 42 who painted this Kane and they were like we
made it you know we were and now what do we do with it we survived and we have
all that knowledge I’m thankful every day and not in some weird boozy
Christian way I’m just like I get to be alive I get to have made it through some
of the roughest stuff and that’s not to say that there’s not going to be
disasters that keep coming I have a poem in the book called the worst thing in
the world which is the truth is it will keep happening you know we’re about to
run out of water in California in a year Octavia Butler was right
what’s one thing that we also have power over is our capacity for joy and
pleasure and that’s something that queer and
trans folks have always held onto is you know we don’t have to be homo normative
we actually don’t have to we have so much that’s about sex and joy and
pleasure and the powers of decadence uh no money you’ve reached the activism
portion of today’s show now that you’re informed and angry here’s what you can
do about it today’s activism call Congress to support the disability
integration Act last month 200 activists from the disability rights organization
adapt put their bodies and lives on the line yet again to fight for justice
demanding support for a critical civil rights bill called the V disability
integration act or dia activists demonstrated outside the offices of
policy influencer organizations in DC including AARP they blocked ARP
employees from leaving in their cars risking injury and arrest to be heard
the standoff lasted six hours with temperatures in the 90s before a police
intervened no one was arrested but police carried away a man in a
wheelchair and took the key from another powered
wheelchair effectively paralyzing them it’s important to remember that it was
disability rights activists that made the news last summer as the Affordable
Care Act and Medicare were under attack the images of people in wheelchairs
being physically dragged from the capital and from Mitch McConnell’s
office had the desired effect those valiant efforts were critical in a
down-to-the-wire victory where millions of Americans both able-bodied and
disabled would have been affected now the disabled community which makes up
nearly 19% of the population is demanding their former health care
allies like AARP return the favor in a Think Progress article adapt organizer
Bruce darling said quote people for the first time on national television saw
disabled Americans being dragged away and disappeared but that for us happens
every day they are taken from their home and forced into institutions we are just
dramatizing the conflict unquote darlene is referring to an unfortunate gap in
the Americans with Disabilities Act the need to make it easier for people who
require long term care or long term services and supports to stay in their
homes and communities instead of being institutionalized against their will the
disability integration Act dia is civil rights legislation that would address
that gap building on the 25 years of work that adapt has done to end the
institutional bias and provides seniors and people with disabilities home and
community-based services as an alternative to institutionalization
despite a favorable Supreme Court ruling in 1999 and increased Medicaid funding
through the ACA to address this problem unwanted institutionalization is still
rampant in the vast majority of states the DIA would not amend the ADEA but
would strengthen the Supreme Court integration mandate and create federal
civil rights laws for those in institutions unfortunately as with
everything the political struggle to pass the DIA comes down to money in
politics Republicans receive donations from the owners of these institutions
and Democrats receive donations from the unions within the institutions both have
received major donations from the nursing home industry even though
providing home care services is dramatically cheaper for a state than
institutionalization campaign contributions continue to trump good
economics and civil liberties so what can you do call your members of Congress
today to let them know you support the DIA spread the word about the DIA and
the injustice of forced institutionalization on social media
using the hashtag dia today and get involved with adapt by visiting adapt
org to learn more about the disability integration act visit disability
integration act org and finally the national organization project a
collaboration between adapt and national council on independent living is
collecting personal stories that they can use on Capitol Hill when talking
with legislators to share yours go to advocacy monitor comm the segment notes
include all of the links to this information as well as additional
resources and as always this every activism segment we produce is
archived and organized under the activism tab at Bestival f comm so if
defending the civil rights of all Americans is important to you be sure to
hit the share buttons to spread the word about telling Congress to support the
disability integration Activia social media so that others in your network can
spread the word – can you stand up and be counted
there’s a body in a crowd put your name on a petition with your signatures so
proud can you raise your voice so loud did you stand with head on bow whether
beating on your brow demanding answers ever now because that’s how make a difference in
this pickle world is chain civil disobedience by people with
disabilities is hardly a new phenomenon to help tell the amazing history of
adapt formerly Americans disabled for accessible public transit I spoke this
week with David Perry a disability rights journalist who has covered adapt
and disability activism around the healthcare fight as well as Anita
Cameron a longtime adapter who’s been on the front lines of the ongoing
healthcare fight David thanks so much for joining the show thank you for
having me on so I just to get right down to it a lot of folks have seen weather
tweets or images or news stories even even lots on kind of mainstream cable
news in the last several weeks of people literally being dragged from wheelchairs
putting their bodies on the line to say no this is not what I need and what I’m
asking of you as my leaders in this country when it comes to health care a
lot of that has really opened eyes but this is not anywhere close to the first
time that we’ve seen this kind of civil disobedience by disabled protesters I
would love if you would help us know a little bit of the story of adapt who is
adapt yeah so and I know you’re gonna have some adapters on later to talk in
us they’ll be able to tell you their own experience but let me talk a little as a
journalist and as a historian and I want to even go back before that so adapt to
some extent you could say it started in 1983 was formally taking that name and
protesting inaccessible buses in Denver so it has a very specific origin in
Colorado and it actually starts ten years before that when nineteen disabled
people moved out of nursing homes institutions into apartments again in
Colorado a big big part of the history of the Independent Living movement but
what I think people really don’t know beyond those specifics is that there is
a decades-long an almost century long maybe not quite because they’re going
back to the 50s and 60s there is a history of a disability related civil
rights movement driven by self-advocates with support from family members
politicians professional staff church figures just that that goes right along
and intertwines and intersects with other civil rights movements
in our country whether about the fighting segregation or fighting for
LGBTQ rights or any number of these other really important struggles and the
disability rights narrative I think has been a little bit lost so that when
people see disabled bodies being pulled out of wheelchairs that react with
horror but they often react with horror saying oh these poor people not
realizing these adaptors are some of the most veterans skilled civil disobedience
in the country they are putting themselves in that position
forcing politicians to make a choice to arrest them and get the bad publicity to
allow them to sit in and get that kind of publicity or to change their votes
these are these are very deliberate powerful important classically American
acts of civil disobedience with a long history and you mentioned that it
originated around transportation and trying to ensure accessibility of
transportation that’s a big part of the origin story here of adapt actually
going back to school buses that’s right that’s right so if you are a person in a
wheelchair I mean we could talk about school buses for sure – but I want to
think about just public city buses and trains and and and now we’re talking a
lot about taxis and uber you may or may not be able to drive and if but if you
can’t drive your reliance on public transportation to get you around or
you’re literally trapped in your location and in the 80s and really the
late 70s and then very formally organizing in 1983 the the members of
this atlantis community in denver decided that they were going to focus on
buses they’re gonna focus on public buses they were gonna get wheelchair
ramps on public buses and they sparked this this group adapt which is a
decentralized national movement now there are there all over the country
every chapter runs itself there are coordinators but there is no national
leader of adapts there is no there is no kind of single voice there is no you
know grand financial structure with you know multi-million dollar endowments or
anything right these are the classic American decentralized grassroots civil
disobedience talking to each other and organizing together and show
at DC so in in Denver they wanted to have accessible buses and they decided
the way to do that ultimately was to perform acts of civil disobedience to
literally roll their wheelchairs in front of and behind buses and say we’re
not moving until we get a guarantee that you will build ramps on your buses this
is very powerful right it’s powerful politically it’s powerful symbolically
it’s powerful in terms of media narratives I think when you when you
talk to the adaptors they’re very well aware of their origins and their
successes not just in terms of getting people to pay attention but literally
putting ramps on buses one of my favorite adapt stories told by Michael
Bailey who is a lawyer and the father of a woman’s Down syndrome he’s based in
Oregon but he was in Kansas a few years ago and he was watching people being
arrested and being brought in to school buses and the cop was saying you know
why you guys making all this fuss and Michael said well you see those ramps on
those school buses you’re pulling us you’re arresting us and taking us on we
put those ramps there and there was this wonderful picture of dawn Russell that
was on Rachel Maddow she’s a woman in a wheelchair she’s got her fist raised in
the air she was being raised up and being arrested from Senator McConnell’s
office just the other day and she was being raised up on a ramp into an
accessible as adapt said to me an accessible paddy wagon that is part of
their legacy that is really part of their legacy that said that government
services even when used to arrest you must be accessible to people with with
disabilities we tremendous irony there right that the vans the police vehicles
that are taking away the protesters who have been arrested are accessible
because of those very protesters has a good sense of humor about that I’ve
talked we’ve talked about that a lot and apart because they they are going there
they’re performing civil disobedience which which again we we talk about civil
disobedience a lot but I think we don’t we don’t necessarily see it in its
historical context right you you have a situation that you feel is unjust either
a laws unjust or or something will be unjust and you deliberately go in and
you break the law and you break the law anticipating the consequences of
breaking the law and then you you generate publicity and
you generate moral ow Rajon you try to generate policy changes
right these adapters in DC when you talk to them and again I know you’re going to
you’re going to talk to Anita Cameron who I believe has more arrests than any
other adapter in history so I’m excited to hear what she has to say
they are deliberately going into a situation where they force politicians
to make a choice will you do the right thing or will you
generate the bad publicity by by hauling wheelchairs often – into buses and
police vehicles you write for these veteran protesters federal disability
policy is literally a matter of freedom versus incarceration life versus death
and that is not despite what some of the health care bills proponents might say
it’s not history onic it’s not just you know trying to throw scary words out
there to make people think horrible things about this legislation it is very
real for the folks who need Medicaid services and particularly attendant care
services as you described so that they can truly live independently I want to
emphasize that those aren’t my words those are the words or the people that
I’ve been talking to and if you listen to them chanting and if you read their
writing I think one of the great things that’s happened last week is that
adapters are getting on the radio and getting in the newspaper and getting on
TV and I hope that continues because they’re the people who teach me about
where the where the about what the stakes are
but if you can’t if someone isn’t there to get you out of bed you can’t get out
of bed and if you can’t get out of bed you can’t live so then you get put into
an institution or you become homeless and for many of these people without
attendant care their choices are institutionalization and I want to be
very clear that’s forced institutionalization is a form of
incarceration it is not the same as other forms of incarceration it is not
you know we don’t want to make kind of loose analogies but if you have your
only choices are to live in a nursing home or to not live at all or to live on
the streets that is that is not voluntary decision making and so these
adaptors that’s why they’re willing to be arrested right that is why they’re
willing to have their bodies abused Bruce darling one of the
national coordinators who comes out of New York he his his he was his blood was
literally on the floor outside McConnell’s office just I think
yesterday the day before yesterday Monday a woman had her knee dislocated
by a police officer in Indianapolis and in that protester there and there’s
going to be more but the the other choice is to be shunted aside into these
nursing homes to be isolated from the community so one of the things that
you’ve been doing in the last couple of minutes that I have with you you you
have you spend a lot of time tweeting out information that and I would
encourage everyone to follow you your handle is is lollard fish lol la RDF is
H you’re one of my my favorite follows on Twitter particularly on disability
issues but one of the things that you’ve been using Twitter of late to educate
people about is that the images that come out of these dramatic protests that
the media really have actually started to cover over the past week to two weeks
in a way that I and many others are greatly appreciative of these images
sort of end up becoming the the memes or the symbols of the of the fight of the
fight to protect Medicaid to stop the Affordable Care Act from being repealed
and one of the images that has really made the rounds and become one of those
sort of signature images representing this debate is a woman in a wheelchair
that the shot is actually taken from behind and you can see her hands in
handcuffs behind the wheelchair a truly powerful image but something that you
have really gone to great lengths to educate people on Twitter about is that
this isn’t just an image this is a person and it’s a person who’s worth
knowing I would love if you would would talk a little bit about that and why you
think that’s important yeah I think one of the things that really the even even
as I was delighted to see adapt get it to do I was I’m a historian as well as a
journalist so I wanted to have a historical context I wanted people to
understand this at that this event didn’t just happen that there’s since
1983 or even earlier 1978 1974 this specific group has been doing these
actions to know about disability relates rights
related civil disobedience the longest sit-in of a federal building in US
history was a disability rights group in the 70s in Berkeley we may see longer
sit-ins to come who knows so it’s for people to know that there’s a history
here of activism to give agency to disabled people which often in our media
is taken away and the other side of that agency is to know that this is a woman
that that woman is her name is Stephanie Woodward she works for the Center for
disability rights in New York I think up in Rochester she really likes her pink
wheelchair her glasses match it we were joking about a she and I about uh this
beautiful black and white version which the handcuffs were pink but the chair
was black and how that was totally wrong even though it was iconic and powerful
because she you know she she she chose that wheelchair on purpose um she’s
funny she she did finally get to write a piece the other day for Vox which I was
really happy to see these are people who are making choices and can talk about
their lived experience but also should be seen as as sort of full agents right
that that um there was pushback saying oh yeah I don’t believe these people are
really disabled or you know who Weill done there was the kind of right wing
you know counter to this this kind of to the adapt images and and we need to know
that that counters come in and say no I’m sorry that’s Stephanie that’s Anita
that’s Greg that’s Bruce that’s larell you know that’s these these actual
individuals who are not just objects protesting but people who are advocating
for change who know a lot more than than any that I do anyway
um and certainly than most people and whose voices need to be on the
television I was really struck you know it’s always a danger I think especially
among progressives that we we spend too much of our time criticizing ourselves
or criticizing each other so I love Rachel Maddow and I was thrilled that
she did a big segment on the history of adapt thrilled great but the end of it I
said you know I really wish she had had an adapter on air across the table for
her to talk to and I wish that when CNN is debating the health care bill and
they have you know 35 people around the table on one of their preposterous huge
one of them might be a wheelchair user and preferably you know a wheelchair
user of color or you know a non-white guy you know and so on and so forth that
bringing these individuals it is kind of a price not even kind of a problem it is
a problem that I have seventeen thousand Twitter followers and stephanie has I
don’t know three thousand that should be reversed but I’m the one generating
media so I you know people now see me as a node a place to find this kind of news
and I’m trying to use that to refocus direction where it really belongs we’ve just heard clips today starting
with a trailer for the film bottom dollars followed by a discussion about
the film on top poverty radio big pink asked the question why are people with
disabilities still invisible in the workplace
Papa ganda looked at the intersection of disability and incarceration the Laura
Flanders show had a conversation about moving beyond disability rights to
disability justice our activism for today is in support of the disability
integration Act and finally we just heard off-kilter discussing the history
of civil disobedience in disability activism as always you can find links to
each of these segments in the show notes for easy reference and sharing and now
we’ll hear from you yes my name is Christopher Davis calling
from Greensburg Pennsylvania I just listened to your podcast on Russian
influence with Trump bit disappointed with that’s the last much of what I
heard in the different segments pretty much involved Trump’s attempts to turn
Russia into a profit-making endeavor and I just feel as though best left should
be doing a little better in trying to debunk a lot of the Russia gate hysteria
and using that opportunity as well to see what media in relationship to russia
gate as a means to stifle Quelch the left to you russia gate as a weapon
against dissent particularly from the establishment Democrats who have been
embarrassed in 2016 but Beeks embarrassed by the red
relations that day were trying to use the DNC as a tool for Hillary getting
elected and I’m I was expecting to left and I think it’s time maybe you do a
show where we’re seeing the realities of Russia gait particularly in terms of it
affecting bartlett’s activism far-left programs and ideology that challenge
establish a democratic style that child establishment politics and particularly
with her and really becoming more critical in particular that this whole
Russia gate thing has become a industry it is an industry it has become
money-making all these writers all these people are profiteering off Russia gate
at various levels so it’s time to really be critical I appreciate it stay well thanks for listening everyone thanks to
the volunteers who helped gather clips to make the show possible thanks to
Amanda Hoffman for all of her work on our social media outlets and activism
segments and thanks to all those who called in to the voicemail line if you’d
like to leave a comment or question of your own to be played on the show simply
record a message at 2 0 to 9 9 9 3 @ 9 9 1 now first of all Christopher who we
just heard from was disappointed that I didn’t do an episode completely
different from the one I set out to do so I take his point to a certain degree
but here’s a little story of how that episode about Trump and Russia came to
be genuinely ice I set out to make an episode about Trump and his history of
corruption and when you do that you cannot help but fall headlong into story
after story after story about his long long history with Russian oligarchs and
people who need to launder money and all that sort of thing so it just sort of
became a trump Russia episode even though I tried to just make a Trump
corruption episode so yeah I wasn’t I wasn’t gonna veer off and dissect how
the DNC and MSNBC are spinning Russia gate into something completely bizarre
that is an episode that’s that’s a topic that we could talk for a long time about
it just has nothing except the word Russia to do with the episode I intended
to make also though if you look at it in a different way to be able to make an
entire episode about Trump and Russia and have it sound nothing like MSNBC I
feel like really is one way of creating a countervailing narrative but sort of
says something without having to come right out and say something isn’t it
okay second thing today I had two listeners right in I didn’t expect this
I thought I so suppose I’m not surprised by it two listeners wrote in with pretty
similar concerns after the Confederacy episode at the end of which I said
something that I don’t doubt could have been construed as defending something
that was said by a guy who was defending his use of the Confederate flag
it was the clip I played from last week tonight with John Oliver and sort of
dissected that a bit I have no doubt that plenty of people understood what I
said no doubt that a handful of people or maybe a lot of people misunderstood
it’s something that is easy to not not be clear enough about it is sort of a
complicated thing I was trying to say I have no doubt that I I wasn’t clear
enough so let me clarify a quick recap of what was said in in the clip black
guy comes up to a white guy says why you holding Matt Confederate flag the white
guy says my great-grandfather fought under this flag to defend his farm black
guy says oh yeah who worked on that farm white guy says my family did we were
poor you have any idea how expensive slaves were back then and that’s the
whole clip and John Oliver made fun of it and said you know hey if you’re
trying to argue how expensive slaves were to a black guy then you know you’ve
lost the argument and my point was yeah it’s a terrible terrible argument it
makes no sense but if that’s what his genuine belief and argument is then
there’s value in understanding how he came to that understanding the mechanics
of how his argument works to him so that you can reverse engineer and figure out
how to have a conversation with that person and make progress rather than
shouting and making things worse so I you know I I tried to have a
conversation about the importance of understanding where a person is coming
from and undoubtedly it came across as sounding like I was open to his idea or
you saying you know actually his argument may have some merit and that is
not at all what I meant so
I say a lot it’s really important to understand the difference between
explaining something and excusing it it’s really important to be able to
understand where people are coming from and that’s a big difference from
actually being open to what they’re saying or giving merit to what they’re
saying so when it comes to argumentation and discussion I believe in the Darrell
Davis school of argument which is not really to have an argument at all but to
have a conversation so I’m gonna play just a short clip this is Daryl Davis
being interviewed and it’s from a longer segment this was actually in the rerun
episode that I played recently so it was from an episode of like a year ago or
more so it was in the rerun I think was the last segment but I’m just gonna play
a little short piece of it what specifically in all the conversations
that you’ve had with these clan guys what do you think that you do
differently that a lot other people don’t I think what I do differently is I
give them a platform to express their views honestly in a safe place where you
know they’re dealing with their alleged enemy a black person I’d give them a
space in which they can express their views without fear of attack or
retaliation or whatever and allow them to discuss them and most importantly
have a conversation with them you don’t have to respect what they’re
saying but you need to respect their right to say it nobody wants to be wrong
we all want to be right and so if somebody says something to you that goes
against you know what you have believed from the day you were born but there’s a
little spark that says that that piques your curiosity that you think that
person might be right you know you’re gonna begin to shift in that direction
it might not be an overnight turnaround but over time I’ve never gone and say
you know what you need to get out of this organization you need to stop this
nonsense bla bla bla or I don’t go on on CNN and talk about them and bash them
and then tell them to send me their robes and hoods idiot that doesn’t work
so it’s like dogfighting you get a dog that’s already
disposed to being mean you know there’s certain breeds you know that have that
disposition say a Rottweiler a pitbull what have you and they take these dogs
and they beat these dogs even beat him even more and make him even meaner and
then they put him in the in the pit with the with the other dog to fight so it’s
like that you know if you have something that’s mean and you’re mean to it you’re
making it meaner if you can’t beat the meanest out of it but beating it you’re
increasing it same thing with hate if somebody hates you ain’t sure of beating
on them you know they’re gonna hate you more like you know you you know I’m
gonna beat the hate out of you but you can drive the hate out with
logic and love and respect and that’s the example that I have set and and for
me it has worked now I strongly recommend that everyone go listen to the
full interview you just google the terms how to argue love and radio that’s the
title of the episode and the name of the show it’s a two-part episode go download
them both listen to the whole thing so the Confederate economic argument that
the idea that well you know if my grandfather or great-grandfather was
poor and he didn’t own a slave then he wouldn’t have fought to support slavery
and that is not a good argument I said this more than once in the previous
episode it’s not a good argument it doesn’t make any sense if you understand
more about the world but it’s important to understand that people believe that
and to make this as crystal clear as I possibly can let me tell you a little
guilty pleasure that I’ve had recently I have just discovered that there are tons
and tons of videos on YouTube explaining why people think the earth is flat look
I’ve heard of the Flat Earth Society they’ve been around forever but there
seems to be there’s a renaissance of Flat Earth theory so I came across these
videos I was fascinated like a train you know looking at a train wreck and I’ve
watched a whole bunch of them now and I learn a lot about why people think the
earth is flat but that doesn’t mean that I have budged in my thinking about the
roundness of the planet on which we live by 1% or less you know so to me that the
flatter whole idea is a perfect example of the dangers of a small amount of
knowledge all these people who believe the earth is flat they know a little bit
about stuff and they don’t know the context they don’t know how to examine
this a little bit of knowledge that they have they don’t know how to extrapolate
from the little bit of knowledge they have so they just like make some jumping
guesses like well I know this little bit so I can assume this or that and they go
off in these bizarre and profoundly incorrect directions so to me I think
that white supremacy is sort of similar not understanding it or having a very
little bit of knowledge about what the whole concept of white supremacy is is
going to tend to lead you in very very wrong directions so regarding the John
Oliver clip you know my main point was that you’re likely to have better luck
trying to understand what a person is saying you know rather than just
laughing at them and if I wanted to convince someone that the earth is round
I would want to understand why they think it’s flat in order to have a
starting place for the conversation now I know some people say like look it’s
not a debatable point I’m not willing to have that debate and that’s that’s
absolutely fine and what I’ve just laid out is how I think it’s best to argue
and I recommend that people make their arguments in this way but I absolutely
stopped short of condemning those who just don’t feel up to it you know using
the analogy that Daryl made in the clip you know if you don’t have the emotional
capacity the energy the time whatever to adopt an abused dog that’s fine I don’t
blame you just don’t kick it and make it meaner if you don’t have the patience to
debate conservatives or Confederacy defenders or white supremacists or
Klansmen or whoever then I don’t blame you but don’t kick
them and make them meaner that’s working against the ultimate goal so having
those kinds of conversations doesn’t have to be everybody’s job but for those
of us with any amount of emotional energy available to engage in that
debate with the goal of trying to make individual people and the world as a
whole better I think we should be having those conversations and I think we need
to know how to have them so within reason I am willing to meet people where
they are and hear out their nonsense in an effort to figure out how to bring
them back to the path of truth and facts like you know that flat-earthers often
don’t believe in gravity like some do some don’t it’s sort of a mixed bag but
that’s the sort of thing that you learn when you watch a bunch of videos
explaining why the earth is flat and it’s not so different from confederacy
defenders not believing in white supremacy I mean except I’m willing to
admit that it’s just slightly harder to prove the existence of white supremacy
than gravity you know but if you’ve never heard of or don’t understand the
concept of white supremacy then you could be forgiven for not understanding
how slavery was upheld socially or how lynching became normalized or why
segregation was seen as imperative or why mass incarceration could very well
have been seen as inevitable but the only way I think to get someone to
understand the facts about the world whether it’s about the world being round
or about a lot of it being run by whites rimsey is to meet them where they are
and try to walk them step by step toward the light
so that’s my take on arguments and I hope I have made it abundantly clear
just how open I was or how much merit I was giving to the Confederacy defenders
economic argument about white supremacy that’s gonna be it for today keep the
comments coming in at 2 0 to 9 9 9 3 & 9 9 1 thanks to everyone for listening and
thanks to those who support the show by becoming a member or making donations of
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always be found in the show notes on the blog so coming from far outside the
conventional wisdom of Washington DC my name is Jay and this has been the best
of left podcast coming to you every Tuesday and Friday thanks entirely to
the members and darn to the show from best of left calm