Allyship is not mere “tolerance”.

Or, “sorry no cookies for you, insincere able-person.”

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[Image description: A pink “your ecards” that depicts a black and white drawing of a man and a woman standing side by side on the right hand side. On the left black text reads: “P.S. I’ll tolerate you”.]

I paid $26 to renew this domain so I may as well use it to vent my spleen (because why else do we blog?).

My ire this morning was drawn to this article. The tl;dr version is “Professor condescend to a student asking for accommodations so hard she scares the student from ever contacting her again. She takes this as a victory for some reason.”

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[Image description: A gif of Jim Carrey in “Liar Liar” slamming his head on a desk in a courtroom as his stunned client sits next to him.]

This is a personal matter to me as a disabled student in college. Because I have already had to correct a few professors who I am sure felt they were quite “woke” but still made mistakes about my accommodations. Luckily both were willing to listen to me and we came to mutually satisfactory solutions. Let me make it clear however at no point did either of these professors try to deviate from my stated accommodations like this professor appeared to. These were merely clarifications on how to implement accommodations.

Nevertheless, as I am also a neurodivergent person who has suffered from depression and anxiety (even if I currently don’t need accommodations for these conditions) I can easily imagine why “Lee” was not heard from again. Not because she “toughened up”; but instead had a panic attack after each of this professor’s classes but kept quiet about them because she had been shamed into silence, and possibly at the expense of other areas of her mental health. This honestly would have been my outcome as a younger person.

Plenty of straight-A students commit suicide, because they sacrifice their mental health for grades. For a supposed mental mental health professional to equate good grades with mental soundness is distressing at the very least.

This article includes several other ableist conclusions beyond the dismissal of a student’s legal and educational rights and faulty logic about gauging mental health. Physical disabilities are also not static. I am suffering from the most intense nerve flare I’ve had in a year. Prior to this I was doing reasonably well, perhaps the best I had done in a year. This difference came in a difference of two weeks.

Professors, including ones I’ve had, are usually incognizant they are seeing you anywhere from only one to four hours a week, on average. There are 168 hours in a week. A professor is only seeing you anywhere from .06% to 2.4% of your entire week. For the rest of that 99.94% to 97.6% they are very unlikely of having any idea what else is happening in their student’s life. (And this applies to all students—not just disabled ones.) This is a ridiculously small time frame and especially if a student has been scared away from office hours. Anyone with any sort of concept of deceit can play-act their way through such a small expanse of time.

I’ve sat through classes in extreme agony—without ever even grimacing, and only occasionally clenching a fist. Because if I screamed and threw myself to the ground every time I had a nerve flare—I’d soon be hoarse and exhausted. Anyone with a debilitating condition soon learns coping strategies, humans are naturally resilient. If someone is so debilitated they need accommodations, which are not easy to get, they have very good reasons for seeking them.

“Ally” doesn’t mean “I may speak up if someone advocates gassing you (depending on who is doing the suggesting of course, then I may play “devil’s advocate”) and I may tolerate your presence if you conform to my preconceived notions of disability (I better not catch my “wheelchair-bound” student out walking around or I’ll call them a con-artist!)!” This sort of smug “wokeness” is scraping the very bottom of the barrel of Decency. No, actions speak louder than words. You can sing as much as you want about being so “empathetic” and “a strong ally!” but then dismissing a reasonable request (at no point did “Lee” say “I can’t” but “I may need more time if I have a medical emergency”) and assuming that the student doesn’t have coping strategies because somehow the psychiatrist who wrote the doctor’s note didn’t suggest step one in any sort of therapy?! That is beyond arrogant and being incredibly harmful. It’s frankly disgusting.

I don’t claim the title of “ally” in anything for myself because, to me, it’s a sacred term. To me being an ally is not synonymous with being a good person. It’s extending beyond what common decency in current society expects. Because, frankly, society’s standards are super low in these sorts of matters, as shown above. To me there should be a long process of evaluating and learning to overcome your inevitable prejudices first. It’s a process I still believe I am going through. I am trying to be a good person but god, there is so much to unlearn.

Whether or when you consider yourself an ally in something is probably a personal decision. It’s your choice what to label yourself as. However I would hope pointing out this kind of damaging hypocrisy at least gives an idea of what “allyship” is not.

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