Who am I? I’m the one who upsets the even tenor of every dinner party. I use words like justice without irony. Therefore I’m unpleasant. I’m actually quite dreadful. I question the bug-eyed vanities, draw a chalk line down the middle of the table, distrust easy agreement. As a blind man easy agreement has never worked for me. From Kindergarten on I’ve been made to wear the hair shirt of difference. Racism, ableism, trans-phobia, all the bigotries are territorial. As Ibram X. Kendri puts it: “Americans have long been trained to see the deficiencies of people rather than policy. It’s a pretty easy mistake to make: People are in our faces. Policies are distant. We are particularly poor at seeing the policies lurking behind the struggles of people.”
Do you want to upset the even tenor of the party? Make it clear you don’t worship the thought habits of those you’re with. I’ve always admired the poet Kenneth Rexroth who could really ruin a social occasion. He wrote:
“Since all society is organized in the interest of exploiting classes and since if men knew this they would cease to work and society would fall apart, it has always been necessary, at least since the urban revolutions, for societies to be governed ideologically by a system of fraud.”
He added: “The state does not tax you to provide you with services. The state taxes you to kill you. The services are something which it has kidnapped from you in your organic relations with your fellow man, to justify its police and war-making powers. It provides no services at all. There is no such thing as a social contract. This is just an eighteenth-century piece of verbalism.”
Back to Kendri:
“Antiracists have long argued that racial discrimination was stamped from the beginning of America, which explains why racial disparities have existed and persisted. Unlike segregationists and assimilationists, antiracists have recognized that the different skin colors, hair textures, behaviors, and cultural ways of Blacks and Whites are on the same level, are equal in all their divergences. As the legendary Black lesbian poet Audre Lorde lectured in 1980: “We have no patterns for relating across our human differences as equals.”
We have no patterns for relating across our human differences as equals.
Another way to say this—not that anything Audre Lorde wrote needs improving—is that each citizen is trapped in a province. One must never forget the Trayvon Martin was murdered in a gated community.
You’ll ruin a lot of dinner parties by arguing against provincialism.
I once told a group of disability studies professors they weren’t sufficiently devoted to accessibility for the blind. Just about all of the 60 people in attendance had eyesight.
This view was not greeted with enthusiasm. Even within the disability community you’ll find gated places.
The fancy term is ophto-centrism—the eyes have it. All hail the eyes. If the blind can’t fully participate that’s “on them” for at least we allowed them in the room.
I’ll screw up the dinner party because I’m willing to say the blind aren’t fully welcome in whatever it is we mean by disability studies in the academy. And let me add, if you squawk about it you’ll be judged and not kindly. I’ve actually been told if my behavior was better I might get the access I need. Try that on, little fella!
Rexroth: “Television is designed to arouse the most perverse, sadistic, acquisitive drives. I mean, a child’s television program is a real vision of hell, and it’s only because we are so used to these things that we pass them over. If any of the people who have had visions of hell, like Virgil or Dante or Homer, were to see these things it would scare them into fits.”
Racism and all the bigotries of the media…yes we’re making progress but have you looked at the miserable faux disability representations still being cranked out?
How about the eugenics narratives in popular books and films?
“Million Dollar Baby” or Jojo Moyes?
Please stop imagining you are inferior. And find different dinner companions.