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Social Construct of Disability

Social Construct of Disability

Sunshine's picture

In Far from the Tree, Andrew Solomon wrote “One could argue that black people face many disadvantages in the United States today, but there is little research into how gene expression could be altered to make the next generation of children born to black parents come out with straight, flaxen hair and creamy complexions.”(pg 4) I do not think Solomon thought this thought through. There may not be research, but I do still think there is a desire. Many black women relax their hair so that it is smooth and thin and straight just like white women’s. Relaxing is a painful process, which can, and often does, cause chemical burns on the scalp. Yet black women did it, and they sent their children to do it, because white people would be more respectful to black people with relaxed hair. Today I think the desire to have straight hair stems more from the “ideal standard of beauty,” which does not include the kinks and curls of black women. Skin bleaching also used to be extremely popular, however I do not think it is as popular among black women today. So there might not be research done, but it is not uncommon for black people to try to look more “white.” And in my experience, there are more than a few black women who would have relationships with men of other races because they do not want to have black children with kinky hair. 


In Exile and Pride, Eli Clare included a story about Bree Walker Lampley, who could possibly pass on her disability to her children, yet still decided to become pregnant. Of course there were people who were inappropriately involved in her life who said that she was irresponsible for becoming pregnant. Eli Clare did not shed any light on whether or not Bree’s "disability" was so bad that she, or her child, would not be able to live a happy, fulfilling life (I’m sure that’s not the case.). The only problem was that other people thought that life without “normal” extremities would be the end of the world, whether or not it actually was. So now I”m thinking that while Bree may have an impairment, people forced her to have a disability. This story made me think of my own experiences in high school. I have a social anxiety disorder, called selective mutism (which does not manifest in the same way since I've been to college). So from kindegarden to senior year, I did not speak AT ALL in school. I wasn't easy, but I found some solutions. For example, when I needed to go to the bathroom, I would write it down on a peice of paper and show it to my teacher. One of the kids in my class always made a big deal out of it, even though it wasn't. It was just a simple way that I could make my ife easier. So after reading this book, I see it as an impairment I had but was able to work around, but people who refused to normalize the ways that I tried to overcome it turned it into a disability. 

A message I got from the book is that we should not try to cure the “disability,” but create environments where people who are impaired are no longer disabled. I think this also applies to people of color. Clearly, we should not try to make everyone look more white. Rather, we should try to eradicate racism. So I think it is a really great perspective that Exile & Pride and Far from the Tree gave me.

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