Sunday, April 11, 2010

Black Bodies cross posted from The Trouble Is...


Sent to you by moya via Google Reader:


via The Trouble Is... by thetroubleis on 4/11/10

The history of the black body is a long and twisted one. When I say black bodies, I mean the social construction of blackness, our bodies and what they mean. The phenotype of my people has been has so many characteristics ascribed to it, becuase society loves to other bodies that don't fit it's standard of what a good body is.

Our bodies were and still are seen as proof that we are less intelligent, inhuman, sexually uncontrollable and a gross deviation from normality. Our hair has been seen as proof of our savage nature, especially hair that dares to defy gravity. Our bodies were put on display in sideshows and in the halls of medicine and even in death we had no safety. For years, medical  schools in the north and south used mostly black bodies for research and we had no recourse. Even schools in the north were guilty of this, having bodies shipped to them.

The idea of blackness and disability was quite heavily linked for sometime, with men of medicine claiming that black people suffered from a disease that made them black, instead of white, as they should be. There were focused efforts to cure blackness, with much opposition, becuase many people believed blackness was more than skin deep, a build in inferiority. It was only right that the slaves should be in bondage.

Many of the black bodies on display were those of people with disabilities, even when that disease had a higher prevalence in whites. The "curse" of disability was just one more piece of proof in the arsenal of racists and traits particular to one individual or condition were often ascribed to all blacks. Many of the black bodies and black used for medical research were those of people with disabilities, especially when masters knew they could make more leasing the slave out than keeping them working.

Unsurprisingly, a great deal of the disabilities that slaves had were due to the harsh conditions of slavery, but even now, blacks are still more likely to be disabled than whites. Of course, with the lower wealth of the average black family, this is no surprise, as we all know the links between disability and poverty.

Are there needs in black communities that we are missing by looking at them through a lens of whiteness? I don't know, but I hope to find out. I've found the disability rights community to be pleasingly diverse, in more than just the area of race, but there is still work to be done as there always is. So, I'm trying to find a starting point on where I go from here. It's amazing how marginalizations intersect and I'm, hopefully, always learning of new ways to see things. The kyriarchy will always find a way to set some bodies apart as a deviation from the norm, but they don't get to win. We get to decide what disability and race mean for us and who we are, not them. Our identifies are our own and that's one thing I'll work as hard as I can to take back from it.


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