In this essay, I look at #DisabilityTooWhite (Thompson, 2016) as an activist call to center the messy intersectionality politics in the disability community, specifically in terms of disability and Whiteness. I center my theoretical commitments within the realm of DisCrit (Disability/Critical Race Theory) to critique the interplay of race (ism) and ability (ableism). I further utilize thematic textual analysis to study the content that has been posted by Twitter users under the #DisabilityTooWhite hashtag. I use an inductive approach to my analyses by drawing themes from my research that fall in line with DisCrit's central commitments as a means to deepen the conversations about disability, Whiteness, and social media.
Digital media in general and social media in particular have widened the boundaries of social movements in terms of how they function and who they can reach. Specifically, Rogers (2013) & Durham & Kellner (2012) write about the power of the hashtag: usually under 30 words on Twitter or Facebook that captures the essence of the social media post. The hashtag, though, has power beyond its word limit. As a result of the increasing access to social media, users have utilized hashtags to speak back to important and relevant social issues (e.g. #BlackLivesMatter). As such, the hashtag can also be viewed as a tool for resistance and transformation. In hopes of transforming or at least starting a conversion about the Whiteness in Disability Studies that often goes unspoken about but not unfelt, activist Vilessa Thompon began the hashtag #DisabilityTooWhite in an effort to speak back to Disability Studies or what can be also called "White Disability Studies" (Annamma, Connor & Ferri, 2016).
Therefore, in my paper I center #DisabilityTooWhite (Thompson, 2016) as an important statement for Disability Studies scholars to pay attention to and embrace in humanizing ways. I will use DisCrit as my theoretical framework to center the intersection of race (ism) and ability (ableism). DisCrit functions as an extension to Critical Race Theory with a focus on the macro-level institutions while also considering how racism and ableism intersect at the meso and micro levels (Annamma, Connor & Ferri, 2016). Then, I will conduct a literature review on the role that hashtags have had in beginning and publicizing social movements when a certain identity is advocated for or called into question (e.g. Black Lives Matter). Next, I will describe my method: thematic textual analysis. Then, I will inductively draw themes from my research using tenets of DisCrit that speak to the intersection of race and disability on social media. I conclude by reflecting on future directions for my study.
DisCrit was created in response to the activism by disabled people of color who contend that the dismissal of race by Disability Studies (DS scholars) scholars and of ability by Critical Race Theory (CRT) scholars leads to the experiences of people of color with disabilities being largely absent in both discourses. DisCrit works to examine how race (ism) and ability (ableism) function in tandem to relegate people of color, people with disabilities, and people of color with disabilities to the margins of society (Annamma, Connor & Ferri, 2016). DisCrit is split up into many distinct and interlocking tenets to describe how race/ism and ability (ableism) function in tandem. First, DisCrit centers how racism and ableism function together in relation to a standard of normalcy in ways that are often read as neutral. This tenet can be compared with CRT's assertion of colorblindness, which states that societal institutions and people do not see color, and this leads to neutral societal systems, such as law and digital media usage (Delgado & Stefanic, 2013). In terms of DisCrit, race and ability function in tandem to explain how people of color and/or people with disabilities both face societal systems that cast them as abnormal, while the larger systems at play, such as subjective readings of social media, are viewed as neutral. My study and research question aims to analyze how this tenet manifests in the creation and controversy in the hashtag #DisabilityTooWhite on Twitter: how does this hashtag call attention to issues of marginalization within Disability Studies, specifically in terms of race and the presence of Whiteness?
Second, DisCrit scholars, similar to CRT, emphasize the power of intersectionality to frame one's experiences at the macro-level, such as in law and education, but the politics of intersectionality can be extended to other realms as well, such as social media presence/absence. One's experiences are not based on a singular identity; since multiple identities intersect and impact a person's realities (Annamma, Connor & Ferri, 2016). Third, DisCrit scholars embrace social construction and reject biological determinism (Annamma, Connor & Ferri, 2016). From a social construction perspective, race and ability are not inherently physical characteristics; rather Whiteness/non-Whiteness, ability and disability are socially constructed based on society's conceptualization of normalcy. This tenet holds significance, because oppression on the basis of race or ability is often focused on centering certain groups, such as people of color and people with disabilities, as inferior (Annamma, Connor & Ferri, 2016). Now, this reasoning can be challenged. The constrictions of racism and ableism are not perceived as physical, but as socially-created by the environment.
An assertion such as social constructionism holds significance for my analysis of the #DisabilityTooWhite hashtag. The use of #DisabilityTooWhite- shows while race and disability are both understood as social construction, they often collide in ways that exclude the experiences of people of color with disabilities in terms of their access to humanizing treatment from institutions (e.g. education, police, and media). Through a social constructionist lens, race (ism) and ability (ableism) are issues that need to be studied from a critical communication perspective, because such oppression does not stem from physical characteristics; it comes from systemic power structures that uphold certain identities, such as Whiteness and able bodiedness, over others.
Fourth, DisCrit functions to create space for people of color, people with disabilities, and people of color with disabilities to voice their own lived experiences (Annamma, Connor & Ferri, 2016). While people of all three marginalized groups just mentioned have been written about and spoken about, they have not been largely granted the space to speak and/or write for themselves (Annamma, Connor, & Ferri, 2016). DisCrit, scholars aim to privilege their voices by embracing the importance of embodiment as theory. According to DisCrit scholars, people of color, people with disabilities, and people of color with disabilities are not objects, but subjects who are worthy of humanizing attention.
This tenet applies to the creation and success of #DisabilityTooWhite in important ways. The hashtag's creation and success seems important to understand as a specific counter narrative that speaks to how the disability rights movement is not as inclusive as the movement's collection of disability activists make it out to be. While it would be hard to argue their success at making strides that benefit the disability community in some way-I feel it is important to ask ourselves: what kind of people with disabilities are granted access to and benefit from our activist endeavors? From my perspective, #DisabilityTooWhite attempts to begin to provide some insight to answering this question, and furthermore to provide a medium in which people of color with disabilities can resist the dominant (White) narrative of disability activism in a U.S. context.
Fifth, both Whiteness and ability are considered as property in a DisCrit perspective. Whiteness and ability as property refers to the economic power one gains from identifying as White and/or able-bodied. People who fit into these privileged groups have more economic mobility (Annamma, Connor & Ferri, 2016). The aforementioned tenet applies to my analysis of the #DisabilityTooWhite hashtag, because it centers a key reason of the creation of #DisabilityTooWhite. Ability and Whiteness often intersect in ways that I perceive as being violent in the disability community by excluding, whether implicitly or explicitly, people of color with disabilities from spaces that are meant to support people with disabilities. Sixth, DisCrit views activism as a central component to academic theories and resists ideas of resistance that privilege an abled body. DisCrit scholars believe in the necessity of blurring the lines between theory and praxis. They resist the notion of academia as an ivory tower, where ideas merely stay inside the academy. Such scholars embrace their role as community practitioners as well by staying involved in social justice efforts regarding racism and ableism at the community, state, and national levels. These actions stem from a commitment to "theory as an emancipatory project" (Annamma, Connor & Ferri, 2016, p. 26). Additionally, DisCrit scholars challenge the ways that activism is often articulated as a physical endeavor requiring an abled body, such as standing on street corners holding up signs or marching in parades to support certain causes. From a DisCrit perspective, activism also can take place just as effectively via non-physical forms of resistance, such as creating and publicizing #DisabilityTooWhite.
Whiteness in Disability Studies
A discussion of DisCrit also necessitates a critique of the Whiteness that has often been undiscussed in the disability community, leading to the significance of the #DisabilityTooWhite hashtag. Based on DisCrit's attention to intersectionality politics, not only does racism and ableism function interdependently as systems of oppression, the murky waters of intersectionality emerge as a dominant force that shapes the disability community. According to Annamma, Connor & Ferri (2016), disability has often been centered via U.S. disability discourses as a monolithic identity, pointing to the inherent ideologies of Whiteness in disability activism, disregarding the idea that the disability experience is significantly impacted by other identities as well, such as race. As such #DisabilityTooWhite holds significance, since it centers this very issue and points to the importance and messiness of intersectional politics.
Specifically, as shown via the hashtags included in my analyses, disability and Whiteness intersect in U.S. institutions, such as education and policing, and impact how discipline is enforced in such spaces. Annamma, Connor & Ferri (2016) and Annamma (2018) focus on the significance in expanding race analysis of educational debt to include disability as it functions along with race and Whiteness. Educational debt, as a concept rooted in sociology, also hones in on the communicative powers education as an ideological tool to forefront the intersections of privilege and marginalization Annamma, Connor & Ferri (2016). For example, there remains an overrepresentation of students of color in special education classrooms, which forefronts the ways in which educational debt, racism, and ableism intersect, although such discussion remain largely absent in Disability Studies discourses (Harry; Klingner & Cramer, 2007 & Harry & Klingner, 2014). In addition, such overrepresentation in special education classrooms is intricately tied into how school discipline is racialized and pathologized (Annamma, 2018). Such a statement leads to questions about how disability is perceived differently based on intersectionality politics and can be viewed as an act of defiance or even criminality (Annamma, 2018). Now, with foundations of DisCrit and the Whiteness in Disability Studies, importance lies in understanding how hashtags have communicatively been used to vitalize social movements.
Hashtags referring to race
The hashtag, popularized on social media websites, was developed by people who identify as Black in an effort to begin counter stories on injustices that disproportionately impact the Black community (e.g. police brutality). Such issues are often viewed through the lenses of the White gaze, which promotes the ideas that Black people hold the responsibility for the inhumane treatment they often receive, and fails to recognize the presence of systemic racism (at the least) in the lives of people who identify as Black (Delgado &Stefancic, 2013). #BlackLivesMatter was first used on Facebook by a Black community organizer after a White police officer, George Zimmerman, was acquitted in the death of Treyvon Martin, a 17-year-old, unarmed Black teenager. In 2013, the hashtag, developed as a response to the racism present in the U.S. American court system that is often discursively positioned as neutral (Delgado & Stefancic, 2013), did not garner notable attention on social media. It was only used on Twitter 5,106 times during the second half of the year. However, the movement gained increased visibility after the tragic death of Michael Brown, another Black teenager who was murdered by a White police officer in Ferguson, Missouri (Day, 2015; Luibrand, 2015).
In the three weeks after Brown's death the hashtag appeared on Twitter roughly 58, 747 times per day. On November 25th, 2013, the day after a grand jury decided not to indict the officer responsible, the hashtag was used on Twitter 172, 772 times. It was utilized 1.7 million times in the three weeks following the decision in the murder of Michael Brown. (Day, 2015; Luibrand, 2015). These statistics hold importance for at least a few reasons: they establish #BlackLivesMatter as a significant claim, because people who identify as Black still need to fight for their humanity, and also it points to the ability of social media to expand social movements, while also pursuing the ideal of justice. Subsequently, #BrownLivesMatter developed as an extension of the original hashtag. Its emergence does not attempt to erase the original hashtag's message; rather to make an addition to it by pointing to the violence often committed, particularly by law enforcement, on the bodies of people who identify as Latino/a) (Day, 2015).
The hashtag #AllLivesMatter was created generally by people who identify as White. Its focus centered on resisting the counter story that #BlackLivesMatter and #BrownLivesMatter tried to forefront by claiming that #AllLivesMatter. I think great importance lies in noting that if all lives truly mattered that there would not be even a need to create hashtags, such as #BlackLivesMatter and #DisabilityTooWhite. However, the claim of #AllLivesMatter shows why study of Critical Race Theory and DisCrit is needed in the academy and beyond. #AllLivesMatter functions to discredit the nuances of identity politics and ignores the experiences of people of color. Additionally the hashtag #BlueLivesMatter has emerged out of the #AllLivesMatter movement, pointing to the need for police officers to be protected. (May, 2016). However, the claim represents the structural racism inherent in debates over such hashtags. Of importance to point out is that a life cannot be equated to a chosen profession, but it again speaks to a culture of colorblindness and post-racial rhetoric in the U.S.
Hashtag referring to disability-#TheBarriersWeFace
In the last few years, #TheBarriersWeFace) has emerged on social media to resist perceptions, often lodged in the medical model of disability, of what it means to identify as a person with a disability A medical model, historically and currently, often permeates rhetoric surrounding disability (Dupere, 2016; Evans, 2017). Such a rendering has led to people with disabilities in general as being viewed as defective. This characterization of people with disabilities leads to limited and unfair access to education, the workplace, and transportation, just to name a few areas where ableism is entrenched within these U.S American structures that govern one's life (Evans, 2017). As such, disability rights activist, Dominick Evans devised the hashtag, #TheBarriersWeFace as a method to speak back and resist ableism on an institutional level. Since its creation last year, hundreds of people with disabilities have utilized the hashtag to make the challenges known that they face while facing systems that are grounded in ableist ideologies (Evans, 2017).
For example, some of the hashtags specifically dealt with the policing of disabled bodies in the U.S. educational system. In particular, two stories shared under the tweet #TheBarriersWeFace caught my attention, because they speak to larger issues that people with disabilities have endured and also align in some way with my own experiences of my childhood in a U.S. American educational system that views the abled body as the objective norm. It further pressures people with disabilities to not accept their bodies how they are by encouraging students to "rehabilitate" their bodies. I chose to put "rehabilitate" in quotes here to challenge how a disability is discursively positioned as a lack (Hall, 2011 & McRuer, 2006). Within the #TheBarriersWeFace disability activist Alice Wong (2017) writes "I think my bladder suffered quite a bit during my school years." She goes on to share how at the beginning of certain class periods she would ask to quickly use the restroom. However, the teachers would mock her for not having the ability to hold her urine, and would not let her use the restroom. According to research on the educational experiences of students with disabilities, such a situation does not function in singularity. However, it symbolizes how disability is often still rendered to a culture of disbelief in educational settings Such experiences also speak to the medicalized lens in which the educational system specifically views a student who is labeled with a disability (Hall, 2011 & McRuer, 2006).
The emergence of #DisabilityTooWhite
Activist Vilissa Thompson created the hashtag #DisabilityTooWhite in 2016. Thompson, a person of color with a disability, needed to resist how the disability rights movement and disability empowerment groups and disability media coverage in particular often leaves out the experiences of people of color with disabilities (Bahovec, 2017). In addition, her idea to create the hashtag #DisabilityTooWhite was further inspired by a social media post created by Alice Wong, another disability rights activist. She wrote about how the disability media coverage in the U.S. does not accurately and fairly represent the experiences of people of color with disabilities. As such, Thompson aimed to resist the notion of political correctness that plagues the disability community by making the eventual statement, #DisabilityTooWhite, clear and blunt. The Whiteness in the disability community often does not receive acknowledgement, as White people with disabilities largely do not embrace the complexities of navigating intersectional identities (Bahovec, 2017).
Procedures: I viewed the hashtags under the search term #DisabilityTooWhite on Twitter. I read each one between the dates of June 10th, 2017 and August 10th , 2017. I chose these dates, because there was the largest number of tweets to draw from. I then read the tweets all at the same time to gain a clear picture of the data I was working with. Furthermore, I wrote down all of the tenets of DisCrit and inductively read through the tweets again, putting Tweets into categories when they spoke to an element of DisCrit either directly or indirectly.
Racism/ableism as every day and the challenges of intersectional politics
Racism/Ableism as Everyday calls attention to how the intersection of racism and ableism do not just converge occasionally in a news headline; rather it speaks to the micro-level (but not less important) experiences, in which racism and ableism often emerge together in naturalized ways that silence the voices of people of color with disabilities. For example, Vilissa Thompson on July 7th, 2017 posted: "I have realized I have stopped reading disability-related articles, because I am tired of reading White perspectives and I am not sorry either.
Such a statement may only contain 24-words; yet it is loaded with meaning. First, it shows the ideologies of Whiteness that are present but often not critiqued in the Disability Rights movement. Furthermore, the Disability Rights movement often prides itself on its inclusivity. However, this sense of inclusivity historically and currently can be critiqued for the tendency to view disability as a monolithic identity (Annamma, Connor & Ferri, 2016). Race-related research is often not welcomed by the "mainstream" (e.g. White) disability community. I chose to put mainstream in quotes here to point to the ways that people of color with disabilities are discursively left out of the disability community.
Also, Vilessa's statement casts light on the messiness of intersectional politics. Of importance to note is that intersectionality does not always lead to greater inclusivity; it can also lead to further marginalization between groups. This is not to say that intersectionality does not function as a useful lens in which to study identity politics; yet, it's a word that should not be romanticized (Annamma, Connor & Ferri, 2016; Delgado & Stefancic, 2013). The utilization of an intersectional lens does not always result in one having a more nuanced understanding of identities; it can lead to an oversimplification of what it means to hold intersectional identities. One's identities do not merely fit into a neat puzzle; they can often tug and pull at each other as one navigates the intersection of privilege and marginalization.
Further explicating the importance of understanding racism/ableism as omnipresent in the lives of people of color with disabilities, Michelle (June 10th, 2017) retweets an earlier status by Thompson that reads: "We are not saying that White people with disabilities don't struggle." The intersection of racism and ableism here is shown by her feeling in some way that she had to make such a statement in the first place. Historically, when marginalized groups assert their humanity through social media the privileged group feels the need to resist with some kind of statement of their own (e.g. #AllLivesMatter).
However, the resistance that White people with disabilities have leveraged towards #DisabilityTooWhite shows a troubling trend in identity studies in general and disability studies particular of people using one marginalized identity to cancel out their own privileges (Annamma, Connor & Ferri, 2016 & Delgado & Stefancic, 2012). For instance, a White person with a disability may become so focused on their disability and the marginalization they experience that they may not feel that they benefit from White privilege. However, much importance lies in understanding that privilege often functions in ways that are invisible to those who benefit, but this does not mean we are off the hook in terms of holding ourselves accountable (even if it will be imperfect).
Additionally, Alice Wong posted an article with the hashtag #DisabledTooWhite about a woman of color with a disability who problematized via her personal blog how she cannot get a prosthetic leg to match her skin tone (Wong, July 5, 2017). This holds importance in terms of critiquing how disability representation largely represents the White disabled experience, while dismissing that there is even a tangible difference in the experiences of people of color with disabilities (Annamma, Connor & Ferri, 2016 & Bell 2012). In addition, the issue of not having a prosthetic leg that matches one's skin tone shows how the economy behind products made for people with disabilities is centered on the needs of those who are White. Furthermore, when one cannot even access a prosthetic leg that reflects their racial identity, the disability movement sends a message that people of color with disabilities endure on a regular basis: that the disability rights movement may as well be labeled as the White Disability Studies movement (Annamma, Connor & Ferri, 2016; Bell 2012).
The realities of racism and ableism in the everyday lives of people of color and the complexity of intersectional politics also extends to a macro-level issue that I have written about at length in a previous paper: the incidences of police brutality experienced by people of color with disabilities. For example, Steve Glassner, while utilizing the hashtag #DisabilityTooWhite posted an article about a person of color with autism who was harmed by police, commenting "For parents of young Black men with autism, extra fear about the police" (Glassner, August 10th 2017). The article referenced focused on the case of Alfredo Olango, who on September 29th, 2016, was shot and killed in San Diego, California by police officers (Sanburn, 2016).
Olango had an intellectual disability, and his sister thought he was not acting in the ways he usually would so she called the police, expecting them to be able to keep both her and her brother safe by mediating the situation. Olango's sister even told the police officer upon his arrival about Olango's disability. However, a San Diego officer shot and killed him upon arriving at the scene, apparently not paying attention to the mention of a disability or not realizing the significance of how a disability can impact one's behavior. Olango too was unarmed. The police officer claimed that he thought Olango had a weapon on him, because he put his hands in his pockets. However, the officer did not take any steps to make sure that Olango was armed. Olango's story is not singular; it represents a disproportionate number of people of color with disabilities who are either killed or harmed by police officers (Sanburn, 2016).
Additionally, Sara (July 9th, 2017) posted an article about a White man with a disability, Sean, who was injured by police, after crying, screaming, and kicking in the back of a police car. However, his injuries were minor and non-life threatening. Lunterman (2017) writes in response to the article: "if Sean was Black having a meltdown in the back of the police car it would have gone much worse." I want to point out here that Sarah, from my interpretation informed by a DisCrit lens, is not attempting to say that Sean's experiences with police are not real and unjust; however, she is pointing out that Sean's Whiteness likely saved his life and/or decreased the level of his injuries. Similarly to Michelle (2017), Sara (2017) aims to show how the experiences of people of color with disabilities are materially different than White people with disabilities. This is not to discredit the ableism that White people with disabilities experience, as explained also by Michelle (2017).
Counter storytelling, aims to function as a method to create spaces for people of color with disabilities to speak back to a disability movement that would rather their voices be left out Annamma, Connor & Ferri, 2016). Also, people of color with disabilities can employ counter storytelling to position their experiences as necessary for the development of academic theories. Counter storytelling weaves through many of the posts that fall under #DisabilityTooWhite. They collectively call one's attention to the importance of embracing alternative disability epistemologies. Additionally, counterstories aim to position anger as a productive force that can be utilized for self-expression. Specifically in the lives of people of color with disabilities, anger is often situated as an emotion to avoid the expression of all costs, because one may be rendered as "out of control" (Annamma, Connor & Ferri, 2016).
In particular, counter storytelling was centered in a post captured under #DisabilityTooWhite in a post by Reclamation Press (September 3, 2017). They, signing their statement as "Radical Disabled Women of Color," have formed a group a group of women of color to resist the ideologies of Whiteness in disability studies, through their writing and counterstories to the traditional "White" disability narratives. One of their posts specifically, entitled "An Open Letter to White Disability Studies" shows how people of color with disabilities are routinely left out of the Disability Rights movement. I mentioned in an earlier section that Disability Studies can be synonymous with "White Disability Studies" (Annamma, Connor & Ferri, 2016). The title draws this point home even further as the writer addresses Disability Studies in particular from her own cultural location as a woman of color with a disability.
In their letter, the "Radical Disabled Women of Color" focus on particular instances in which they feel that their experiences do not matter to The Disability Rights Movement. For example, their calls for more cultural inclusion of their specific experiences often is met by resistance. They point to how the idea of disability pride and the events that take place every year to celebrate "Disability Pride weekend" are often dominated by White people. In such meetings, when people of color speak out to include an event that focuses on the experiences of identifying as a person of color with a disability it often is dismissed, because the excuse is made that people would not be interested in that (Thompson, 2016).
However, I question: who would not be interested? Also, this resistance clearly attempts to again hold up disability as an identity that occurs in isolation, which in my opinion is very dangerous for the expansion of Disability Studies. As a discipline, Disability Studies needs to resist an era of political correctness and understand that the issue of racism and ableism is rampant in U.S. American institutions (e.g. digital media, and education). The intersection of racism and ableism needs to be discussed to further the field of critical intercultural communication in general.
Bonnie (September 20, 2017), a user of the #DisabilityTooWhite hashtag, also writes about the systemic consequences of identifying as a person of color with a disability. She says: "My Blackness is the reason I had diagnosis delays" Such a statement qualifies as a counter story in many ways, and it shows that even short counter stories have the potential to be rich in meaning.
Bonnie speaks to a very important issue that shows how racism and ableism intersect in very complex ways, specifically in the medical industrial complex. It is usually framed in U.S. American discourse as an objective institution; but it most certainly is not. People of color with disabilities are much more likely to experience a diagnosis delay for many years. I am aware that a diagnosis presents issues in itself, because it further reinforces the medical model of disability where it is rendered as a defect that needs to be fixed (Hall, 2011; McRuer, 2006).
However, as a result of the prominence of the medical-industrial complex there are very material manifestations for a person who does not receive a diagnosis of disability early in their life (Annamma, Connor & Ferri, 2016). First, without some sort of diagnosis, people with disabilities are unable to access support services at an early age (e.g. therapies). While therapies to "fix" a disability can be seen through a medical lens, it is also important to think about what having access to this service means as well. With access to such programs, people with disabilities have the chance to meet their full potential; as such, if people of color with disabilities do not have access to the same services, they are already put at unfair disadvantage (Harry & Klinger, 2014).
In this moment, it feels important for me to stop and reflect on this issue. As a result of both my Whiteness and middle-class status, I had access to some of the best therapy centers in the country while I was growing up. Thinking back to those experiences, I can't say enough about how much they influenced my success throughout my life. I always had access to the best therapy services I needed to bring out my full potential. In addition, reflecting on those experiences I remember how "White" those spaces were. Sure, there were a few people of color that I would see working in therapies on a regular basis; but it was predominantly a White space.
Diagnosis delays also connect to a very important issue that disproportionately impacts people of color with disabilities. If one experiences a delay in diagnosis they are at least twice as likely to experience placement in a special education program, which while may be helpful for some, has also been critiqued for pushing people of color with disabilities out of the general education system. African-Americans represent the highest percentage of students placed in special education environments; closely followed by Latino/as (Harry & Klingner, 2014). Such a problem can be explained by many systemic factors; but one of the most prominent issues for students of color in special education classrooms is a diagnosis delay. Therefore, Bonnie's short counter story holds much importance, because it not only speaks to a medical-industrial complex that disadvantages people of color with disabilities but holds implications for educational access as well.
Conclusion and Future Directions
#DisabilityTooWhite functions more than a hashtag; it represents a longstanding problem in the disability community. I utilized DisCrit in particular to argue for the significance of the hashtag and also to challenge the disability community to think about the ways they uphold Whiteness. After introducing the theoretical foundations of DisCrit, I explored how hashtags have also been used in the past to articulate and offer a counter story to racist and ableist discourses. My exploration here of #BlackLivesMatter, #BrownLivesMatter, #AllLivesMatter, and #TheBarriersWeFace provided a useful lens in which to analyze #DisabilityTooWhite. All of these hashtags collectively speak to the power of social media to both spark and reinforce social movements. Then, I introduced how I conducted my research of the #DisabledTooWhite hashtag. Lastly, I embarked on a DisCrit-inspired analysis, in which I aimed to call attention to the importance of the relevance of the hashtag to the (White) Disability Rights movement.
In the future, I hope to study this hashtag by centering not just the hashtags itself; but the participants that utilized the hashtag. I would like to center the participant stories in greater depth by conducting qualitative interviews that focus on why they feel the hashtag holds significance. Such a move, I believe, would assist me in further attempting to humanize the users of the hashtag. In the interviews, I would like to focus on the development of their specific counter stories (e.g. why they chose to participate in the promotion of the hashtag). The overall purpose of such a study would be to hopefully shine light on the importance of hearing these stories in order to increase the inclusivity of the Disability Rights Movement, not merely for diversity's sake but to challenge the Whiteness inherent in the dominant epistemologies within the Disability Rights movement. I hope this paper and my work in the future demands the creation of more reflexive and inclusive disability spaces.
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