*CONTENT WARNING: discussion of anti-Black racism, ableism, police brutality, murder*
Over the last several months we have observed global uprisings and world-wide responses to the rampant and systemic anti-Black racism that is embedded in the fabric of our society. Black folx have been subject to colonial rule, the transatlantic slave trade, and are still grappling with the ongoing legacy of white supremacy. The economic system from which some in society benefit was built on colonization, stolen labour, and violent dispossession from Black and Indigenous folx. Ultimately, Black and Indigenous folx, and People of Colour all over the world have continued to be systemically and disproportionately targeted by state-sanctioned tools of oppression, including the law.
Raced-based violence has real and long-lasting effects on the mental and physical wellbeing of BIPOC. One reason why the intersection of disability and race is important is that everyday encounters with racial antagonism from micro-aggressions or extreme racial violence take a toll on mental health. But there are other ways in which disability and race intersect to produce multiple marginalization and harm. These include the existence of racism in receipt of healthcare, which may result in poor health treatment for racialized disabled persons, and poor treatment of incarcerated disabled individuals (where statistically overrepresented among those incarcerated are individuals from BIPOC communities). The movement for Black lives is needed for social transformation; however, the change agents involved in the movement are engaging with harmful systems while fighting to stay alive. The intersectional nature of disability and race needs to be at the forefront of discussions instead of one erasing the other. Social movements that prioritize the protection of able-bodied/minded folx not only miss the full picture of circumstances that result in the inequity we observe in society but is materially dangerous for racialized individuals. Even within our own racialized communities ,the voices of women, persons with disabilities, and members of the LGBTQ2+ community are too often an afterthought in the fight for liberation.
Therefore, the Law, Disability and Social Change Project stands firmly against systemic anti-Black racism and systemic racism against BIPOC communities. We feel that it is imperative that we bring to light issues of intersectionality and, particularly, the issue of disability in the anti-racism movement.
Oftentimes, it becomes difficult to identify the subtle ways racism manifests in our everyday lives, specifically anti-Black racism. Many people assume racism to only manifest in explicit or violent ways without paying attention to the ways systemic racism is upheld in everyday interactions. Perpetuating stereotypes, engaging in micro-aggressions against BIPOC, and refusing to acknowledge your own power and privilege in society are subtle ways we uphold systemic racism and white supremacy. Folx who experience oppression in intersectional ways also experience uniquely different forms of oppression based on the different marginalizing social factors (I.e. race, gender, sexual orientation, class, ability). When race is the only social factor that is highlighted or recognized, the unique experiences of folx who experience intersectional oppression gets further pushed into the margins.
The recent uprisings around the world and powerful discussions demonstrate the frustration and injustice Black communities face with systemic oppression and anti-Black racism. There is a global outcry for a major shift from a world built on white supremacy and a history of violence to one rooted in justice and equity. It is critical for the disability community to be at the forefront of these discussions and engage in the work directly. It is critical to have discussions about intersectionality within all disability organizations and to make a point of hearing BIPOC voices in these discussions in order to truly make these spaces inclusive and accessible to all. Lawyer and educator, Talila A. Lewis said it best: “Thousands have been profiled, criminalized and killed by the police simply for existing at the intersection of their own disability and race or indigeneity… [The] erasure of disability in reporting and advocacy is the height of irresponsibility in journalism and activism. Regardless of intention, erasure only serves to further delay the end of state violence against racialized people and people with disabilities.” To be engaged in anti-racist work means to be engaged in disability justice and vice versa.
The Law Disability & Social Change Project seeks justice for people with disabilities as well as for all targeted and disenfranchised groups in society. We all must be engaged in this important work.
 With thanks to LDSC Project student researchers, Jhanel Dundas, Valeria Kuri and Deborah Willoughby.