Cathy Kudlick: Okay. Miracles happen. Welcome, everybody, to a talk by T.L. Lewis. This is very exciting, and I'm really, really glad you're here. We've got lots of people that are in the room physically. But we also have quite a number of people that are Livestreaming. And so I want to welcome the Livestreaming people, audience members, too. Also I think my mom is Livestreaming. So I'm going to put in a little plug. [Laughter] She used to work in the prison. She did studies on the prison justice system. Is very passionate about this. I'm Cathy Kudlick, and I'm Director of the Paul K. Longmore Institute on Disability. Here at San Francisco State. So I want-- Yay!
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And we believe that the world's better with disabled people and because of disabled people. And that's what all of our programs try to do. Try to integrate thinking and new thinking around disabilities. So that we can imagine a better world that's integrated and, and complicated. We do it through our programs our Superfest Disability Film Festival. We also do it through a program with Longmore student fellows. And we do it with talks like the one today. And it really is exciting to be able to integrate perspectives that are left out of conversations. Tradition of the Longmore Lecture's been going about five, six years. And it's named for Paul Longmore. How many people remember Paul? Yay! Alright. And then we continue his example of scholar activism. He was a, a professor of history here at San Francisco State who lived with polio. And integrated his insights with scholarship and activism. To promote better understanding of disability and disabled people. I have a few thank-yous to offer. First of all the College of Liberal and Creative Arts has generously supported the Longmore Institute over the years. Our dean is here. Andy, Dean Andy, just give a shout-out. Yay! Thank you for coming. We also have the Dis--Disability Services and Programs Office on campus, Center, Wendy Tobias and her new Associate Director, Nicole. And I didn't get the last name, but Nicole is here, too. They're somewhere in the room. I want to thank the captioners and the interpreters. And I want to help those, anyone who helped with Livestreaming. I want to thank also members of the Longmore Institute Advisory Council. Please give a shout-out if you're here. Let people know who you are. Yeah--. [Laughter] They, they still are friends and sit together. [Laughter] I also want to thank our amazing donors. And even if you only gave a penny, I want you to just call out that you support Longmore. Because it's really great. And just don't be embarrassed. [Cheering] Yay! You're all here, and it's great. And we're really, really grateful. Thank you so much. We have student helpers, past and present. Acknowledge yourselves too. Students? Don't just do it with hands. You've got to shout out, yay! [Applause] Awesome, awesome. And I also want to give always a special shout-out to Emily Smith Beitiks, my Associate Director. I just, I always run out of words. But thank you, Emily. You are the best.
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Finally, I want to give a special shout-out to Susan Schweik from UC-Berkeley, who's here. And she's the one who introduced me to the work of T.L., and I'm very, very excited for that. So thank you. [Applause] Yeah. Now to introduce T.L. Lewis, I want to begin with a short passage from the writer and social critic, James Baldwin. Whose words from a half-century ago could easily have been written today. And they're from his No Name in the Street writing. And it's about his visit to the Tombs in New York City. It's a notorious prison there. And he says this. "I suppose there must have been white visitors. It stands, so to speak, to reason. But they were certainly over--. They were certainly overwhelmed by the dark, dark mass. Black and Puerto Rican matrons. Black and Puerto Ricans girls. Black and Puerto Rican boys. Black and Puerto Rican men. Such were the fish trapped in the net called justice. Bewilderment, despair, and poverty roll through the halls like a smell. The visitors have come, looking for a miracle. The miracle will be to find someone who really cares about the people in prison. But no one can afford to care. The prison is overcrowded. The calendar's full. The judge is busy. The lawyers, ambitious. And the cops, zealous. What does it matter if someone gets trapped here for a year or two? Gets ruined here. Goes mad here. Commits murder or suicide here." And a little later he finishes up and he says. "If one really wishes to know how justice is administered in a country. One does not question the policemen, the lawyers, the judges, or the protected members of the middle class. One goes to the unprotected. Those precisely who need the law's protection most. And listens to their testimony. Ask any Mexican, any Puerto Rican, any black man, any poor person. Ask the wretched how they fare in the halls of justice. And then we will know not whether or not the country is just. But whether or not it has any love for justice. Or any concept of it. It is certain, in any case, that ignorance, allied with power is the most ferocious enemy justice can have." That's James Baldwin writing in 1972. And James Baldwin would be proud to know that our speaker, T.L. Lewis, is fighting the power and ignorance. That have allowed the criminal injustice, injustice system. To exist for far too long. And thanks to Lewis, Baldwin would learn that disability is a key piece in all of it. Lewis' website describes everything that T.L. does. So and T.L. specifically asked me not to go in at great length. So without further ado. And I have a lot of notes here. But I know you came to hear T.L. and not me so much. But if you don't know, after know it now, you'll know that after the talk. T.L. is on the front lines of fighting against the systemic injustices embedded in the US prison system. And just as was true in, when Baldwin was writing in 1972. These injustices tell, these injustices fall overwhelmingly upon those who have been multiply marginalized. Because of racism, elitism, capitalism, and ableism. So join me in welcoming T.L. Lewis who will speak about stolen bodies, criminalized minds, and diagnosed dissent. The racist, classist, ableist trappings of the prison industrial complex. Thank you.
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Talila Lewis: Thanks, everyone for your patience as we try to navigate the technology and access. Things we needed to sort out earlier. It's, the time now is about 5:30. I of course prepared about a three-hour presentation. Was just informed I had 45 minutes in the first instance. And now we're running a little bit low. So if I jump through some things, forgive me. And I want to leave enough time for Q&A. So this will be quite the journey. And you all get to support me in figuring out what we can jump. And what we need to stay focused on. In agreement? Thumbs up? Awesome. I don't put things around my neck so I have my microphone on my arm. Right now. So if anyone can't hear me for any reason. If anyone can't access the interpreters for any reason. Captioning for any reason, please raise your hand. So we can make sure that that's [inaudible]. In terms of this space, please feel free to use this space as you will. Disability justice says you're free to move through this space. Sit down, rock, do whatever you need to do. If you're going to pace, please do it in the back. I'm a pacer as well. So I have a lot of respect for you. Okay, so without further ado. I always have to center the space. Despite the fact that we're, you know running low on linear time. It's really important that we honor the reason why I'm standing here. Which is the people who I serve. So I want to tell a very shortened version of the story of John Wilson. On the screen right now, there's an image from just this past Saturday. The organization that I co-founded and run as an all-volunteer nonprofit had our eighth anniversary. And so there's an image of myself, one of our volunteer advocates named Shelby. And a young woman named Fria, F-r-i-a. And we're standing in front of a computer. Smiling very widely, all three of us, looking at the computer. And John Wilson is displayed on a board similar to what we have up here. John Wilson is actually calling us from federal prison. This is just two days ago, three days ago. John Wilson has been incarcerated since 1994, and I've been working, trying to free him for 12 years. He is black and deaf and low-income. And resided in the District of Columbia at the time of his arrest. He was arrested and interrogated without the benefit of sign language interpreters. In fact, through the use of a finger-spelling police officer. Who currently is the head of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing liaison unit in the District of Columbia. And he was wrongfully convicted. He has served a very, very long time. And on this day, he actually met his son-in-law for the first time. While he's been incarcerated, a lot of things have happened. His mother has passed away. His daughter, Fria, who's standing right next to me in the image. Has had three children. The oldest of whom is 11. The youngest of whom is two. Obviously she's been married. He met his, one of his twin sons, he met his son for the first time as an adult. In the prison where he was housed, about five years ago. And that just speaks to the generational violence that occurs by and through our state in our names. There's a lot I could say about John, but obviously, we're limited in time now. But what I will share is that he will be getting out of prison on the sixth of March, after a very long fight. [Applause] Yes, thank you. So I just want to give everybody a moment. There's a lot of people who have gone from us. Either in a physical space. Or maybe they're incarcerated or institutionalized in some way. So I just want us to take a moment. To honor the folks who are not present in this space. But who are with us in one way or another. So we'll just take a few minutes to do that. And center this space in that way. Alright, thank you very much. Just some basic facts about the criminal legal system. You'll notice that I don't use criminal justice system. It's really important that we're really careful with language around the carceral system. So if it's not just, it doesn't make sense that we continue to perpetuate the notion that it is. And so you'll find that myself and a lot of other people who are affected. Or actually on the ground doing work, we do not use criminal justice system. Take that for what you will. There are about ten million arrests per year in the United States. About 11 million people cycling through US jails annually. Obviously, a lot of those folks are in and out, in and out. If there's 11 million people cycling through. About half a million people are currently incarcerated in our jails. So the sign we're using for jails is this. Because it's short term. And for prison is like an extended. You can see the extension on it. In ASL. It's like the movement of it makes it longer. So in jail, simply because they cannot pay bail or bond to get out of jail. That's really important. That's half a million people. And that's a, that's a really low estimate, I believe. About 70 million people in the United States. Mind you, we only have about 352 million people. Seventy million have a criminal record of some sort. Hundreds of thousands of people are deported annually. It's important that we don't decouple the "crimigration" immigration carceral system from the carceral system itself. And you'll see throughout the presentation. Some ways in which enslavement actually mirror current modern day immigration system of violence. Importantly, often people think that I guess Law and Order, and I guess CSI and what are these other silly shows? Someone give me a name of a show that's inaccurate about our legal system. Criminal Minds. Anything else? NCIS. Don't believe anything you see on those shows, right? They would have you believe that, you know attorneys are actually well-funded and resourced. That DNA evidence gets turned around in half a day. That actually literally takes six months to like two years. In some cases, sometimes longer. That cases are resolved through trial. That everyone is competent in the system. That people who are suffering at the hands of the system are not low income, disabled, and negatively racialized. What we know right now is that anywhere between 94 to 98% of cases are resolved not through going to trial, but by means of pleading guilty. Or some other means. Sometimes the cases are dismissed. That's actually quite rare. So what we're seeing is that most of the cases people are fearful of longer sentences. Which have been ratcheted up in the past 40 years or so. And so people are going the route of pleading guilty. I'll give you one example of a recent case I was working on. A deaf person was released from a federal prison. The person was not provided information about what the rules were in terms of leaving. The person was put into their regular, everyday clothes. Meaning they were returned back into their clothes. So no shackles. Previously they had shackles. This is a deaf person who uses ASL as a first and only language. The federal prison system released this person. And apparently the person was supposed to report to a halfway house in the District of Columbia. The person had no idea. And they were therefore charged with a federal escape charge from prison for not showing up at the halfway house. And that was quite literally four months ago. Right, and so that's just one small example. This happens all the time. Unfortunately. But that's what it looks like in practice. And I just want to pause for a moment. Because I know I've said a lot. In a very short amount of time.
Great. I needed that. You might not have. In the criminal legal system, the vast majority of people are not just--. I'm going to actually pause for another moment. For the interpreters to switch out. Thank you so much. No problem. Thank you. The vast majority of people in our carceral system, that's in jails, prisons, kid cages, whatever you want to term them. The vast majority are actually people with disabilities. And I use that terms not broadly in this instance. Because that's based on US Bureau of Justice statistics data, right? The way we, I think most people in this room perceive disability is much more broad and fluid than the Bureau of Justice Statistics. I actually just recognized who someone is in the audience. Wow, okay. Hi! I'm really happy that everyone is here. I should have started with that. Thank you all for coming. Wow. Give me one second. Sorry. Thank you. Right now there are about 2.2 million people incarcerated in prisons and jails across the nation. And the changes in the composition and the numbers of people who are incarcerated. Are not due to any sort of increase in purported crimes. Or crime rates. The increases are largely due to policy and legislation. And enforcement. And social inequity. And that's really important as well. So I know that I'm not going to get to everything. And I'm a little worried about it. But I think I'm just going to keep going in the order that I have things here. And I'll skip as I need to go. On the, on the screen is an image of two boab trees that have grown together. It's impossible to distinguish one from the other. They're leaning on one another. They're depending on one another. Quite literally to survive and thrive. And that is how I explain racism and ableism. Right? Too often people on all sides of the aisle attempt to talk about ableism without addressing or even naming racism as the root of ableism. Right? We have an entire categorization of peoples as inferior. Black peoples is who I'm referencing at the moment. They're been deemed inferior as a result of some sort of purported intellectual inferiority. What the United States has a very good habit of doing. Is requiring things of people to survive and thrive. And then quite literally making it impossible for them to obtain that thing, right? So what do I mean by that? I see a lot of heads nodding in the audience, and I appreciate that, right? One example is I'm a second-generation reader. Second and a half generation reader, right? Why? Because I'm a descendent of enslaved African peoples. And what happened to my ancestors when they attempted to read and write? They had their eyes gouged out and tongues cut out. And very other violent things occurred. It was actually deemed criminal, right? So they were labeled criminal. That's really important. But then we have intelligence tests that have been created. That say you must be able to read and write. Or else you're not very smart. You must be able to read and write, or else you can't get a job. You must be able to read and write. Or else you can't make it through the criminal legal system. And so on and so forth, right? And oh gosh, if you can't read and write, you're certainly less intelligent than everyone else. Right? So this idea of literacy and quote/unquote intelligence as some sort of metric of superiority or inferiority. It's a myth. It's a fallacy. It makes perfect sense as to why that would be created as a metric. And I'll get into a little bit more of that. But it's important to talk about disability as informing race and racism informing disability. Where one stops and the other ends, it's actually impossible to tell. And too often white disabled folks attempt to address ableism without addressing racism. And you quite literally are feeding the fire of ableism when you do that. And I know that that's kind of difficult to wrap your minds around. But you're going to have to if you want to end ableism. So I'll proceed. I've created, and this is a working definition. It's, this is after years of talking to community members. Being in prisons and jails and institutions. Having my own personal experiences in, in institutions. Reimagining what is ableism really. So if you ask most white disabled folks, they say ableism is discrimination against disabled people. And it's because ableds think that we are inferior. And that's partly true, right? Like to a degree, that's kind of what ableism is. But you're missing some really core components of ableism when you define it in such a shallow way. And so the working definition that's presented here. Says ableism is a system that places value on people's bodies and minds, based on society-constructed notions of normalcy, intelligence, and excellence. The society-constructed notions of normalcy, intelligence, and excellence are deeply rooted in eugenics. Anti-Blackness, and capitalism. So I see some heads nodding. I see a lot of people trying to process. I know that's a lot of information. But as I kind of go through a couple of the slides. I think this will make a little bit more sense. The most important part of this definition that's not written on this screen. Is that you don't have to be disabled to experience ableism. I think that's really important. Because a lot of negatively racialized people experience ableism all the time. A lot of low-income, houseless, unhoused people experience ableism all the time. Whether or not they are disabled. Whether that's in the legal sense, social sense, or other kinds of models of disability. So I have a question here. There's an image here. It's of Harriet Tubman standing in a dress. The image is from, I think, about the 1840s, if I'm not mistaken. I could be a little bit wrong. But it's a black and white image. And she's looking very stern-faced. If you're not aware, Harriet Tubman was disabled, multiply-disabled. And again, that's part of erasure of disability history. If you're not aware. So please do some research on that. The question on the screen says how is disability created? And I wrote the question that way quite intentionally. Some people say what causes disability, right? I think it's important to talk about the creation of disability in a much broader sense, right? So we know some of the typical ways in which disability is created. Violence, right? So war, poverty is a form of violence. So poverty actually creates disability. Trauma. That can be physical, emotional, financial, any kind of trauma. Deprivation. So let's think about language deprivation. Deprivation of any of the things that people say you need to survive. In the particular society in which you live. So housing. Access to a job. Access to anything that the society deems necessary to survive. But society is also up there on the screen. And the reasons, I don't mean that in the social model disability sense. Often people say, "That's right. If, you know disability wouldn't exist unless society you know if society didn't create buildings that weren't accessible." So that's not exactly what I mean. By society creating disability, what I mean is that society can deem something to be critically important. And then if you don't have access to it, you now become allegedly disabled. That's one example. Or law enforcement and the legislators can decide that particular actions of rebellion and revolution are against the law. Insane or criminal. And now you become disabled, right? So here in California, about six months ago. IN Southern California, there was a black deaf young man. Who hit the police because the police were grabbing his arms. Well, you know in someone's mind, that might be resisting arrest. In another person's mind might be I'm trying to communicate, right? What becomes criminal is based on people who are in positions of authority and power. Right? And so what we find is that the things that have been criminalized are deemed criminal. By folks who usually don't have the same lived experience of those who they're criminalizing. Is everybody following? Okay. I'm going to stop there with this one. I can't stop there yet. Often people try to discuss the concept of intergenerational disability, intergenerational trauma. And that's an important conversation to have. What I just kind of want to maybe pin for you all is that often. The, like we know that adverse environmental exposure to adverse risks cause trauma or disability, right? So poor nutrition, psychological stressors. Toxins or environmental racism, et cetera. Those are known to create lasting biological effects. Like we know that. The problem is the ways in which it's discussed. People tend to collapse social inequity and heredity, right? So it become oh, these, this particular race of people always has heart disease, right? As opposed to wow, your mother is concerned about you day and night. Because if you step out of the house, you might get shot and killed by cops? So her heart's a little bit, I don't know, in pain, right? Or concerned. Or whatever it might be. Like and then that's, that's generational, right? But then people have these broad ideas about how things are transferred. So just be mindful when you're having conversations about environmental influences common across generations. And biological responses to the same. That you're careful about these things. Often we talk about eugenesis. And I don't have in this presentation. If you haven't read about the first, the sixth census of the United States. This is in 1840. It was published in 1841. So it was taken in 1840, and published in 1841. It was the first census to allegedly count the insane and the idiotic. And interestingly enough, our government found that of the insane and idiots that existed in the United States. Among black freed people, you were ten times more likely to be insane if you were free. Than if you were a black enslaved person. This is our government, right? And so I just wanted to take a moment and think about what that means. So during this time period, of course and so of course that census was used as pro-slavery propaganda, right? During this time period, we had religious folks. We had philosophers, economists, eugenicists. Scientists, doctors, trying to figure out ways to justify the peculiar institution of the South, right? Enslavement. And so for our government in 19--, 1841, to publish this census. It actually really bolstered what was at that time. A crumbling infrastructure of this violent institution of enslavement. But I encourage you all to read that on your own. Because again, I don't have time to get into it. On the screen here, there's a, the header says. Scientific racism, ableism. You'll notice that when I talk about racism, I tend to include ableism. And actually usually the opposite as well. And I have bullet points here that say intelligence, education, literacy, testing, language, achievement gaps. All of those things could be in air quotes, right? Because they actually don't exist, right? Couldn't it be that there are just different forms of intelligence? Right? So think about I don't know. A well-to-do person being dropped into the middle of West Side Baltimore. Figuring out how to get along in that area is actually a form of intelligence. You might not have that skill. Some people do, some people don't. OR let's think about you know the bar exam or the SAT or LSAT. Or any of these standardized tests. What we know is that the people who don't do so well on those are multiply marginalized people and marginalized people. Negatively racialized folks. Black folks, disabled folks, deaf folks. Low-income folks, houseless folks who actually can't even sign up because they don't have an address in most places. So all the people who actually don't do well on those things. Are already marginalized. And most tests are quite literally created by the people who they want to pass them, right? So whoever creates the tests determines who's going to pass the tests. And yet here in our society we feign as though passing the bar, doing well on these exams. Is some sort of indication of intelligence and brilliance. I could say a lot about that. I'm not going to say more. But I, I, I'll pin that as well. On the screen I have black codes. Importantly, criminalization, when we talk about criminalization. Black codes were codes that were set up in practically all of the states. That. Made it impossible for black people to breathe and live and survive, right? You'll notice that I use the word enslavement when I talk about slavery. And that's because the onus need to be on Europeans and white folks who actually did view violence of enslavement. Slavery actually is very passive. Oh, slavery. But my ancestors were actually born free, lived free, and died free. Despite the institution of enslavement. And that's really important to me as well. So some of the black codes included restrictions on movement. Restrictions on marriage. Restrictions on property ownership. So enslaved folks couldn't own anything. Even though they were in their whole person and their children and the generations after. Quite literally being legally owned by white folks. Learning to read and write is actually up here on the screen right now, right? So black codes, this is just one example in Missouri. In 1847, Missouri legislature passed an act that prohibited negroes and mulattoes from learning to read and write. And assembling freely to worship, for worship services, right? And so this goes back to making something necessary that people can't physically, quite literally can't obtain. And how we then end up with categories of disability. We quite literally created categories of disability around particular things. That have been denied to people for hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of year, right? It's wild when you really think about it. I'm going to skip the next slide just because we don't have time. The next slide is another example of black codes and the conversation that was. I'm not going to skip it. And the conver, and the conversation that was going on around literacy. And I use literacy as the example here because it's just so easy. It says, "In the House of Delegates in Virginia, in 1832. Mr. Berry said," and this is a direct quote from Mr. Berry, who's white. "We have, as far as possible, closed every avenue by which light might enter their enslaved people's minds. If we could extinguish the capacity to see the light, our work would be completed. They would then be on a level with the beasts of the field, and we should be safe." This is in 1832. I have some other passages that I'm not going to show. That are quite literally in the same era, in the same decade. White folks saying that black folks being integrated into classes with their children. And I use the word, because it is literally there, retard their children's growth and intellect. And, and other language around that. So it's quite easy to see the connections between these perceived inferiority, superiority complexes. That white folks created around just literacy. And that's just one thing that it's been created around. So going back to ableism, racism, and criminalization. On the screen is an image of an elderly Frederick Douglass. And there a quote that he was, he was presenting in front of an all-white audience. They had invited him. And he started by saying. "I appear this evening as a thief and a robber. I stole this head. These limbs. This body from my master. And ran off with them." And it's really profound when you think about it. Now people hail Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman as some sort of hero, right? But they were quite literally criminals in the United States, right? They, they, their behavior was criminal. Importantly, not only was their behavior criminal but their behavior was also deemed insane by the eugenicists of the time. Doctors, right? So the particular language around folks who just can't stop running away from their so-called masters. Was called drapetomania. Like white people literally just made, made that shit up. Drapetomania, the intense urge to run away. Even when you're being treated nicely by the white man. Quite literally, that's, that's the disease, right? It's called, it's a form of mental illness, according to white people. And this is really important, right? Because it's not just drapetomania that white folks came up with. And this carries on to today. So back then there was another disability called [inaudible]. I forgot, I sent them the words in advance. I was about to say that was really good. Well played. The, the layperson's term for [inaudible] was rascality. The word "rascals" that we use? And that quite literally was work stoppage on plantations, right? So again, a form of rebellion and resistance by black folks. Has now been deemed insane. It's insane to run away. It's insane to have work stoppages and strikes. Some other things that are, were illegal or deemed insane. Is the urge to want to learn how to read. Right? So all of these things, right? And you can go do this research. I am not doing all of your work for you. It's really important that you actually do, do this research. Because it will really inform your, your disability lens as well. But fast-forward to today. Some of the very natural responses to violence that are now deemed illegal. And I'm a lawyer. But I became a lawyer so I could actually fight against the system and this is really important. Excited delirium. Anybody recognize excited delirium? I see all the lawyers over here shaking their head. Because they've fought some cases against it. Excited delirium, you'll see often in cases involving our children who don't want to be touched. So instead of respecting bodily autonomy, where they say, "Please don't touch me. That's not comfortable." Oh, you're crazy. You're, why would you like be hitting the teacher? Well, because you're touching me against my will. Like that's quite a natural response to being touched when you don't want to be touched. To restrain in seclusion. So usually they're trying to throw the kid in a closet, right? Not only are you touching me, but you're violently touching me and you want me to go into the closet for literally the whole day? Or several days? Like that's absurd. So yeah, fight back. So it's actually a form of resistance that has now been labeled insanity. It literally doesn't exist. Like people literally created it. Clear blue sky, picked it out of the sky. Like here's this disability. Let's label them that. Also that excited delirium has been used to justify murder of a lot of disability people in carceral settings. So you might recognize the name Natasha Mckenna who was murdered by Alexandria Correctional officers, so-called. In the jail. She's naked. And in the midst of a mental health crisis. Obviously of no threat. She was chained to a, a restraint chair. They tased her to death. Her last, among her last words were, "You promised not to kill me." And on her death report. It says, "Oh, excited delirium." Right? So these are the ways in which alleged disability is being levied against our people. And some people who aren't our disability people. But are people nonetheless, right? Remember I told you, you don't have to be disabled to experience ableism. And it especially happens when you're black. So I actually started a story, I just realized that I didn't finish. And nobody told me that I didn't finish the story. The story is of the young black person here in California. In Southern California who was arrested because he hit the police officer. He was given what we call a rough ride. I don't know if you know what a rough ride is with the cops. Where they jostle people about and break their necks in the back of police vans, like Freddie Gray? Which started the Baltimore uprising. That's been done for years and years and years. And nothing other than lawsuits has been done about that. And it continues, obviously. So they gave this deaf, he's deaf, nonverbal, ASL only. Put him in handcuffs, throw him in the back of a car. The cops are upset because he resisted arrest. He fought the cops. And so they jostled him about in the back of the police car. He's trying to tell them, you know, stop, stop, stop. But obviously he's nonverbal, so doesn't speak. And the cops say, "Looks like you need a 72-hour hold!" So remember the Baker Act is the law that allows you to grab a person up and put them in an institution. For up to 72 hours. To you know review their status and see how they're doing mentally. Again, you don't have to be disabled to experience ableism, especially if you're negatively racialized. He's a young black guy, football, basketball player. Great weight too. He was forced medical, had forced medical treatment. A lot of things happened to him in that setting. And then he was charged, right? And so it's just another way to torture people. And our system does that quite well. In terms of black folks and disability, the image here is of J. Cole, who is a rapper who is about 33, I think, right now. And I use this image because myself and a comrade of mine who's also black and disabled who's probably watching, Dustin Gibson. We've been working for about a year now collecting black music that discusses disability. Without using the work disability, right? Often white folks are looking for black folks to discuss disability. Black indigenous, negatively racialized folk, Latino folks. To talk about disability in the way that you do. We don't do that. And there's nothing wrong with that. And you want me to honor that? Then start listening to us in different ways. It's not about saying things like, "Oh, I was in the middle of a mental health crisis. So I needed support." Like sometimes it comes out in music in ways that are so raw, so real, so clear. And folks in the disability community, white disability community are missing opportunities. To be in solidarity with community because you're on a high horse and because you're busy not seeing the things that you need to see. So I'll pin that. Importantly, it says that disability is. And the three key words I have here are disability is erased, so for negatively racialized people. We often are gaslit. So cop, there's a, and I don't have time to play it. But there's a video of a man named Germaine Rush. He just got off of a 12-hour shift at Cracker Barrel in North Carolina. He's walking up the street, trying to get home. And he's exhausted. The cops tell him, "Stop jaywalking, stop jaywalking. And don't cut through that other business over there." And he just keeps walking. Minding his business, trying to get home after a long day's work. This is last year, spring. And when they stopped him again, he says, "You know, this is the, the fourth time y'all have stopped me. Why do you all keep harassing me?" Very politely, right? Because black folks have to manage the emotions of white cops all the time. Very polite. Y'all don't have everything better to do than stop me in the middle of the night, while I'm trying to get home after a long day's work? Rational question. Like that's a really great question. What are you doing stopping this man. And one of the cops, so there's a rookie cop. And there's a cop who's helping the rookie learn. The rookie cop says, "Look at me, look at me, look at me. I'm trying to talk to you." And Germaine was like, "I don't have to look at you. Just tell me what you need to tell me. Give me my citation so I can go." The white cop, who's a little bit older than the rookie. Gets upset because now his authority's being challenged in front of the rookie. And he says, "Put your hands behind your back." And Germaine's like, "No, like I don't need to do that. I didn't do anything. Write my citation." The cop says the, the older cop was like. So when Germaine says again, "Y'all keep harassing me." The older cop says, "It's all in your head, man. It's all in your head." Right? So that's the part of the [inaudible]. The fact that my mother could never sleep anytime I was away from her house. And that I actually used to get upset with her not understanding why she wouldn't let me out of the house. As opposed to thinking about the broader system that she was operating under. Understanding the stress that she's under, having a black child. A black queer child at that, right? Understanding all of these things is really important. So disability in our communities is erased. Disability is fluid in everyone's communities, right? That just means disability on my body looks very different. It could be the exact same disability. Looks very different on the next person's body. Especially related to cultural issues. So for instance, a lot of folks from various negatively racialized communities, if they're autistic, or have any sort of emotional disabilities. Might have such discipline at home. That you might not be able to see the disability in ways that you might. From a child who has a lot less discipline at home. Is everybody following what I'm saying? So my autistic behavior is not going to look like Sara's autistic behavior. Or you might have Germaine Rush, who's been assaulted by law enforcement. Who was accosted by law enforcement all the time. Shaking when the police are coming up to him. Now he looks guilty. Sadly, he might start crying. Oh my god. And everyone's like what's wrong, [inaudible]. What's going on? And an accommodation is made. Don't worry ma'am, you go ahead, right? But with Germaine, why are you questioning our authority. Something must be wrong. And the cop actually said, after they beat him. They ended up beating him up. Tasing him. So sure enough, his assumption around their behavior was very valid. The white cop, the other cop was like, "You made us do this," right? "Why did you make us do this? All of this for a citation." As though Germaine made them beat him up, right? These sorts of things. So a lot of gaslighting. And then disability is normalized. So Dustin and I are writing about how we're black folks. Especially indigenous folks especially as well. That disability is so much part of our marrow. That we often don't even need to name it. It is that integral to our lived experiences, right? And if you think about surviving genocide, and enslavement. The fact that the black folks in here who are descendants of enslaved people. Indigenous folks in here who are descendants of folks who were supposed to quite literally not, you're not supposed to be here! You're not supposed to be here, so we are literally our ancestors' wildest dreams! You cannot survive genocide and enslavement without experiencing some sort of disability. And I think often when people talk about enslavement, folks really talk about it at this very surface level. Oh, there was a ship. They grabbed some black people up. They brought them across the water. Everything was hunky-dory. There was so much violence that I do not have, I do not have words, signs, language to express. What occurred, right? What we know is that people arrived. What we know is that the stench of the ship. If you were in New Orleans, and the ship is in the muddy Mississippi, coming up, you could smell the ship two weeks away. You knew the ship was coming with enslaved people two weeks before it arrived. Where you actually had two different shores. One over there for the maimed and deceased and sick people. And this one where you literally put them on an auction block. Like that's wild. Like folks talk about enslavement as though it was just some sort of like calm. Less-than-violent experience. And it was nothing close to that. So I want to challenge folks again around that as well. And the question then become how expansive are we in allowing black and indigenous and negatively racialized people to experience humanity? Like to be human? So I'm writing, again, I'm writing another piece. And I've been working on it for like two years. Because I can't quite get it out. It's literally called An Ode to the Runners. And that's an ode to people who run from cops. It is the highest form of resistance to say I want to live in that way, right? It's an acknowledgement of, "I'm probably not going to survive if I get shot right here." It's also an acknowledgement of humanity of folks who are literally running from the cops. What does it mean when you feel like your only option is to run? And that's what my ancestors did. And that was resistance. And that's what my folks now are doing, and that's resistance. And it's quite human, quite natural, there's nothing crazy about it. There's nothing criminal about it. It makes sense, especially if you understand the history of my people. With law enforcement. So thinking about that as well. I'm going to have to jump through a lot of this. The image here is a ship, packed, brimming with black people, black African peoples. The words in the middle say there's a stage of 130 additional slaves around the wings or sides of the lower deck. By means of platforms or shelves. In the manner of galleries in a church. The slaves stowed on the shelves and below them. Have only a height of two feet, seven inches between the beams, and far less under the beams. Mind you, these ships didn't have any sort of a sanitation facilities. People were quite literally for months in blood, mucous, bile, and everything else that you can image. There was rape happening, there was violence and murder. People jumping from the ship where possible. There's a quote here on the screen that says, "From the moment that"--. This is from a white merchant. "From the moment that these enslaved African peoples are embarked," meaning on a ship. "One must put the sails up. The reason is that these enslaved people have so good a love for their country. That they despair when they see that they are leaving it forever. And it makes them die of grief." And the next line said, "Many of the merchants report more people dying upon leaving than during the voyage," right? And so when you think about ancestors who arrived on these stolen shores, not in their whole bodies or minds or both. It's important that we acknowledge all that they. I mean, we can't even begin to imagine. But the terror and the violence. We have Fugitive Slave Acts in the United States. There were two main ones. One in 1793, and one in 1850. The images that are presented here actually flyers from community organizers. Black community organizers. One says, "Fugitive slaves: attention. The slave hunter is among us. Be on your guard. An arrest is planned for tonight. Be ready to receive them whenever they come." And so that's very similar to a lot of the notices that we've seen as of late. Around immigration. Warning people of ICE raids. And so I put that one in here for that reason. The other says, "Caution: colored people of Boston. One and all. You are hereby respectfully cautioned and advised to avoid conversing with watchmen and police officers of Boston." I'll say that again. Police officers of Boston. This is in 1851, by the way. For since the recent order of the mayor and aldermen. They, they are empowered police officers. Are empowered to act as kidnappers and slave catchers." And there's more here. "Keep a sharp lookout for these kidnappers. And have the top eye open." Right? And so again, when you understand the connections between our experiences with law enforcement. Historically, all the way to present. All of our reactions at present make perfect sense in responding to these folks. Frederick Douglass was quoted as, as, so post-Emancipation. This was during Reconstruction. Frederick Douglass had a lot of things he wanted to say. He said that he, he noted in one of his writings that so-called negro criminals are mostly poor and friendless. Said they possess neither money to employ lawyers, nor influential friends. They are sentenced in large numbers to long terms of imprisonment for petty crimes. It's an astounding fact that 90% of the states of Georgia's convicts are colored. So I'm working on a case in Georgia at present. With some of the lawyers in the room. And that has not really changed to date. So that was written by Frederick Douglass in 1983, and it's now 10--, 1893. I, I put numbers. If you haven't noticed, I've probably been saying that for a lot of things. So thank you, Susan: 1893, 18--, 1893 is actually what it should say. So yeah. So dissent being diagnosed. There's a book that I encourage you all to take a look at if you haven't yet called The Protest Psychosis. It just kind of talks about how prior to the 1960's during the Civil Rights movement. Schizophrenia was seen as a white person's disease, specifically a white man's disease. And all of a sudden, it became a black man's disease, post-1960's through the 1970's, late 1970's. And that was as a direct result of the protest that was, that was, that were kind of running through the country. And so that's also necessary to be discussed. Rascality--I'm going to skip a couple of things here. So when we talk about behavior of particular people that was criminalized or questioned by the powers that be. Here I have an image, black and white kind of sketched image of Margaret Garner. Who was a black woman whose case made national news in 19--, 1854 because she killed her children, one of her children. And tried to kill the other two. She and her husband had escaped to freedom across the, the Ohio River. During winter. And they made it. And then, you know other slave owners were on their heels. And they realized that. She she slit one, all three of her children's necks, and succeed in killing the two year old. And was actually, mind you, at this time. Masters couldn't be charged with killing their enslaved people. But she was charged with murder. Why? Because that was property and the property belonged to the master. So she and her husband were both tried with murder. And so people might say that that's an insane action. But if you've never experienced enslavement, then you cannot say. What is and is not normal behavior for someone under those conditions. Again, Nat Taylor, Nat Turner who led the Southampton Insurrection of enslaved people, murdered 60 white people. And yeah, fist up. So, murdered 60 white people. Unfortunately 200 black people were murdered as a result in the wake of that by white mobs. But again, Nat Turner and a lot of his white co-conspirators were all called crazy. By pro-slavery apologists. But again, if you've never lived in that situation, you can't actually say that the behavior that's being exhibited is or is not quote/unquote normal. And actually normal just doesn't exist. Which is a whole other conversation. Some language that some black folks have put to disability that you might not see that way. James Baldwin said, "To be a negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is, is to be in a rage almost all the time." And that's actually how I feel, unfortunately. So I've actually grown very weary of these sorts of presentations, for this very reason. It feels as though I've said all of the things that I need to say 1000 times. It feels as though a lot of the people in this space are here for the sake of rote knowledge. It feels as though everything I share is bouncing off and falling flat. It feels as though my children and their children and their children will be in the same situation in about 200 years.
>> Oh, no!
>> Right. And that's what it feels like to be a person who's doing this work. To know that my ancestors did this work for quite literally hundreds of years before me. And for me to be saying these exact same things is actually like enraging. In a way that I can't put words or signs or any other language to. So that's so one way that one of our folks put it. Again, when we're talking about language around disability that doesn't necessarily use the word disability. Dr. Martin Luther King said, "Of all the inequities that exist, the injustice in healthcare is the most shocking and inhumane." Right? So one of the things prior to his assassination by our government. Prior to his assassination that he was working on was healthcare for all, universal healthcare for all. Abolishing poverty. That was the language that Dr. Martin Luther King used. Abolition of poverty. These are the things, ending all war. He was staunchly opposed to the Vietnam War. And that was actually what most say was his last straw with what we call the white moderates. In addition to conservatives as well now. This is a much longer quote, and I'm not going to read the whole thing. I encourage you all to read Frederick Douglass' The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass. He goes into depth about this feeling of whatever it is that a lot of us feel. He said the more that he learned, the more that he was able to read, the more he realized that what he was learning. There was no way to fix it. About enslavement, about the people who had enslaved him and his people and his, his ancestors. The fact that he now knew about it, but that there was practically nothing that could really be done. Sent him into a tailspin. Fannie Lou Hamer said I'm sick and tired of being sick and tired. Kwame Ture, who you all might know as Stokely Carmichael. Has a quote that says, "If a white man wants to lynch me, that's his problem. But if he's got the power to lynch me, that's my problem. Racism is not a question of attitude, it's a question of power." And around that, I think about. I'm sure most of you have probably seen or listened to or had it audio-described to you. The violent video of Philando Castile being murdered by law enforcement. And the calm with which Diamond, his partner, managed the emotions of law enforcement was pretty shocking and galling. To most folks who've never had to manage the emotions of law enforcement. I think my folks do it all the time. So many people were like, "How could she be so calm?" Et cetera, et cetera. But we don't have an option. That is like quite literally our day-to-day life experience, unfortunately. And so we, when Kwame Ture talks about this power to lynch or kill me. I put it to the state. I put it to white mobs. I put it to any of the, the powers that are trying to kind of tear folks down. And then for this last category, it's super short. Thank you for your patience. The criminalization of bodies and minds. I talk a lot about carceral ableism as racial ableism. Carceral racism as well. So you like actually again can't undo those things. So this idea of making bodies that were previously unimportant or unworthy or not of benefit to society. Figuring out ways to make them of value. So if you look at our carceral system and see all the ways in which it finds ways to make money off of the most marginalized people that exist. The most multiply marginalized that exist in our society. It's quite telling about how we're capitalizing. We're finding was to capitalize off of black disabled bodies, indigenous disabled bodies, low-income folks. Houseless folks, folks with addiction disabilities and disorders. And the list goes on and on and on and on. Again, I don't have as much time as I'd like to get into that. And I do want to leave time for Q&A. So I think I'm going to just skip to this last slide. Well, there's actually like three more slides. So ableism. This is the definition again. This is the super-shortened version. I have a longer version. But hopefully it makes a little bit more sense now. I know that I didn't get to kind of parse out a lot of it. But again, it's this system. So when we talk about systemic oppression. So even when we talk about racism, we don't say, "Oh, it's that one individual bad cop." We say it's a system of, of violence based on these particular features. So ableism is very much that same system. Of violence based on particular features. Lookism should be in there. Production should be in there. Capitalism should be in there. If your definition of ableism doesn't include anti-blackness, it's lacking as well. Eugenics has to be in there as well. So I encourage folks to really think through your own definition. I've seen hundreds of definitions of ableism. And I believe a lot of them are lacking. So please, please take some time to look at your own definitions. There's two more slides. This is an image of Kaite Davidson. Kaite is a black transactions disabled man. He's wearing a striped shirt, has a pen in hand and a flat-billed cap on. Kaite's turning, looking at the camera with kind of, no facial expression with their face. But a lot of expression with their eyes. And the quote is from Kaite. Kaite says, "No one is actually independent. We're all interdependent. The difference between the needs that many disabled people have and the needs of people who are not labeled as disabled. Is that non-disabled people have had their dependencies normalized." And so I think that that's really important when we think around what is normal? Actually normal--I say normal is a myth, a problem, and a privilege. It just really doesn't exist. Everything is quite relative. We're all who we are. And it just simply is that. I also meant to start this presentation by saying the more I learn about disability, the less I know about it. There's yeah, I'm no expert. I don't think anyone is. And I don't think anyone can be, especially in the U.S. context. And that's just because of again how disability has been created in this context. And the last is to honor one of the elders who actually is from the Bay Area who's not here right now. I don't see him. But it's an image of Leroy Moore. [Audience members shout out] Yeah, I know. Everyone's like yeah!
>> He said he wanted to be here, and he couldn't.
>> Someone said that Leroy said he wanted to be here, but he just couldn't make it. But it's important to honor the folks who have been doing work around disability justice. So I didn't get to the distinctions between disability rights and disability justice. We can talk more about that if there's time. But this is a quote by Leroy. He says, "All bodies are unique and essential. All bodies are whole. All bodies have strengths and needs"--bless you. "All bodies have strengths and needs that must be met. We are powerful not despite the complexities of our bodies, but because of them. We move together with no body left behind." And I like to say we move together with nobody left behind. So no body, and nobody left behind. This is disability justice. So if you're not familiar with disability justice. I encourage you all to take a look at a lot of the folks doing work around that. Most of whom are from the Bay Area. Mia Mingus, Patty Burne. I'm--hold on, I'm just letting the terp catch up. Stacie Milburn, Eli Clare. Who else? Who am I missing? There's tons of folks. [Inaudible audience comment] Lia Locksmeade, Piercna Siminatsia. Who actually just wrote a piece in Truth Out, too. So there's lot so folks doing the work. You just have to do your homework on it. Myself and Dustin Gibson have been doing a lot of writing around disability solidarity. And we built that around disability justice concepts as well. So please take a look at all that stuff. I'm sorry I had to rush through a lot of this. But hopefully, that fills in some of the gaps for folks. And I think, Cathy, I've left time for Q&A. Did I leave enough time? Great. For folks who need to exit or take a break, Please feel free to do that. But I think now, we'll open it up for Q&A. And don't ask me any hard questions. I'll just be like, I don't know.
[ Applause ]
Milton Reynolds: So I'll just, I'll gather the questions, if we can do that.
TL: Cool. We have a question gatherer.
Milton: Yeah, so hello everybody. First of all, thanks for coming out. It's great to see a packed room. My name is Milton Reynolds. I had the pleasure of sitting on the Advisory Council for the Paul K. Longmore Institute on Disability. And first of all, thank you, T.L., for dropping knowledge on us. And what I'd love to do is just spend a little time collectively doing some shared meaning-making. Let me see if it--doing some shared meaning-making. So what I'd love to do is just open it up for questions. We'll field some questions. And I'm also hoping we can pull some of the folks in who are with us online. Are we good to go?
TL: And this is T.L. If you could just identify yourself with your name before you ask your question. And make your comment. And I'm going to Emcee and make sure nobody's asking those, like, year-long questions that are really just like a speech.
Milton: Perfect. And I'll probably walk the mic to folks so we can get the audience on. So if you've got a question, please raise your hand. Or give me some gesture, and I'll come to you.
Audience member: Hi, I'm [inaudible]. Thank you so much. I learned so much as I listened to you talk on this talk. I am thinking that probably a lot of people in the room don't know much about HEARD. And the, that would be a wonderful thing for people to hear a little more about. Your work in that way?
TL: This is T.L. Thank you for that generous invitation to talk a little bit more about the work, Sue. So HEARD is a nonprofit organization that I've been volunteer directing for about eight years. The work that HEARD does is kind of difficult to summarize. We started our work trying to end wrongful convictions of deaf people. Deaf, d-e-a-f. And from our finding deaf folks who we believe to, are wrongfully convicted. When we would sit down with them. They would say, you know, yes. I'm innocent, but I'm being abused in various ways every day. Is there something that you can do to help me just make it through the day-to-day experiences in the jail or prison? OR wherever they were being caged. So we kind of put the wrongful convictions on the back burner. Had as many people as possible work on those. But decided to try to address issues of deprivation of communication. So most folks who are deaf in prison have no access to interpreters. No access to video phones. No access to any sort of communication. I call it virtual solitary confinement. Because deaf people who are incarcerated lose, lose their minds as a result of those conditions. Lose their ability to communicate in any language. We had a deaf guy down in Louisiana named William who was incarcerated for 46 years before he had a videophone. So my organization was able to make that happen. That was just three years ago was the first time he used a phone. John Wilson, who you all just saw. The first time he used a videophone was December 13, 2018. He's been incarcerated 25 years. Just getting him that phone took 12 years. And the, the violent irony of giving a deaf man a videophone. A month before his release, after spending 25 years incarcerated with no access to his loved ones. Like often people talk about the violence of the carceral system. With the large things, like oh, the death penalty. And yes, that is violent and brutal. But it's the day-to-day lived experience of folks trying to get to their own apartment being frisked and touched by cops all the time. It's the, you know the fact that Fria has not seen her father all these years. Couldn't drive to him because they're low-income. Couldn't communicate with him because the prison system didn't provide any accommodations ever. You know, those are the sorts of things. It's just the daily, it's just like daily violence that folks don't often know unless you're affected by the system. HEARD also, I mean, we've been fighting at the FCC and at the individual level to try to get video phones installed in prisons across the nation since 2011. Once this, yeah, there's a whole story around that. I mean, I'm not sure. I'm always really bad at explaining all the things HEARD does. Susan's laughing at me. The other Susan. But I don't know. Susan, should I say anything else? Yeah, Susan said to mention that we raise consciousness about these conditions. Most folks don't actually know that deaf and disabled people are being treated with such disdain and ire. Behind the walls of our jails and prisons. So that, that's the kind of work we do. I, I'm missing a ton of it. Please go to our website and our, our social media. I'm really bad at talking about myself and the work that I do. I wish I was better at it. But our Twitter handle is @behearddc. B-e-h-e-a-r-d-d-c. And that's on Instagram and Twitter. And then Facebook, if you put in our whole name. Which is Helping Educate to Advance the Rights of Deaf Communities. You'll find us there. We're very active on all of them. And the hashtag we use is #deafinprison. We also use #disabilityincarcerated. And #decriminalizedisability. So on all those different ways you can find information about us. Thank you, Sue.
Christina Morales: Hi, my name is Chris, Christina Morales. And I am so, so [inaudible] to be here and finally meet you in person. I found T.L. on Facebook. And I, and I also want to thank you, first of all, for the work you've been doing. With my son who is deaf. And is incarcerated. Thank you so much. It's been very, very helpful. And now my question. It's been very difficult as a parent of a deaf adult. To navigate the prison system. They don't provide us any information. And you know they transfer people randomly. They don't tell them where they're going. Therefore, they don't know where they're going. So they cannot tell their family members where they're going. So last month, driving all the way, the four hours that I have to drive to currently see him. I suffered a car accident and I'm alive like just because God is so good. But I'm working on trying to transfer. And I have no idea what kinds of services are in which prisons. So I'm here in California, right? But I don't know like what is there in San Quentin? So when I called them, they don't tell me. First of all, nobody answers their phone, right? And that information was also not in the website. So I don't know at all if there's any deaf in San Quentin. Is there a video phone there? Are there interpreters? The, you know or, or else where? So how do I get that information? Is this information compiled anywhere that we can find, please? Thank you.
TL: This is T.L. again. It's so great to meet you as well. Yes, it's an honor to meet you. And I'm happy that this car accident ended as well as it did because you are here. But please be careful. I don't think people realize what families go through. Having loved ones who are incarcerated. That is so important for people to understand. That when you incarcerated one person, you're incarcerated an entire community. Especially if you're incarcerating a person who is from a marginalized community. Because we focus on interdependence naturally, right? That is the way we exist and thrive. There are attorneys in California who have sued, who should have that information. Whether or not they have it is a whole other conversation. I've been in communication with most of them for years and years. They're doing their best. The carceral system has overwhelmed everyone. Right? And that's another thing I don't think people understand. And the legal system is not necessarily the remedy to mass incarceration, right? So everyone's like oh, let's sue! And so then you get a lawsuit. And then the system learns how to beat around the bush next time. And, and avoid, you know providing a lot of the accommodations that are necessary. That's not to say that lawsuits don't help at all. Sometimes they do. But often it's just cyclical. And then you have to sue again five years later. All that said, we can talk. And there's some attorneys in this room who you can talk to. Who would know better than me because I'm not based in California. But I'm happy to give you the contact information for the few attorneys I know who are, have. Are in charge of the big, the biggest lawsuits in California based on, you know lack of accommodations being provided. And lack of medical treatment and other things being provided to incarcerated folks. Yeah, and that's what I'll say for, for right now. But we can talk afterward, yeah.
Lateef McCloud: Hi, this is Lateef McCloud. Have you done any research around the status of people with disability in immigration detention? And their living conditions there?
TL: Hey, Lateef, nice to meet you formally too. Laeef and I have an article that we wrote together in a radical disability politics round table that still hasn't come out. We wrote it like two years ago. So probably both of our ideas around everything are going to be completely changed. But that exists, and it should be out relatively soon hopefully. I've done some work around immigration detention and disabled and deaf folks. Unfortunately, again with the pace of folks coming through the system. It's been, it's been a lot. Yes, I can't say I've done research, because I don't have time to do research, per se. In the typical academic sense. But I've been supporting very young deaf and disabled folks who are in immigration cages. And it's among, it's among the worst thing that I've seen in a, in a long time. And I've seen a lot of really terrible things, unfortunately. There's an attorney named Amy Robertson who is with CREEF, which stands for Civil Rights Education Enforcement Fund. Who's doing a lot more focused work around disability. The intersections of disability and immigration. But by and large, bless the attorneys' hearts who are trying to do the immigration work. They're, by and large really great people. But I get emails from them that, I mean, I spend hours and hours and hours and hours educating them. So like one of the emails that came in was, "Hi, we heard that you do deaf stuff. We're looking for an ASL Spanish interpreter. A Spanish ASL interpreter." And I was like oh, we've got a lot of work to do. So and, and there's still a lot of work going on. And for that case is for a baby. A deaf baby who's in a shelter. They call it a shelter. It's a, it's a, it's a prison. So, so there's no time for these delays, right? The delay is like death. And that, that's the entire carceral system. Is like time is death. I wrote a piece in TruthOut.com called "In the fight to close [inaudible], don't forget about deaf and disabled people." And quite literally, time is death when you're talking about carceral system. That includes kid prisons, that includes ICE prisons, whatever prison you're talking about. So there's a lot of pressure on the attorneys who are trying to do the work. And there are some people out there. So I can send you some names and email. I've got your email address. There. And there's a hand in the back over there, too.
Orkid: A few things, a few things that I have in mind that I'd like to try to get to them. I'll try to [inaudible] them. In New York state, the prisoners have sued the state for access rights. And again in New York state, as far, they said they would provide education. There was a suit in terms of that. In terms of education to the people that-- [inaudible]. Here in California, there's a lot of problems that are complicated. That. I'm sorry, say it again. I'm on the Mayor's, Mayor's Disability Council, so I work with the different organizations. The police department, and I see the policies in the department. And it, when I look at them. They really look, everything, it looks at deafness as if it's a mental problem. There's a huge problem in the state of California. So it's hard to walk without being beat up. I mean, you have to be afraid of the cops. Because of, if I walk and they don't understand that I'm deaf. It's very scary. And you try to look for material, have material about people that, you know. It says deaf people can't walk at night because it's so dangerous. I mean, it was very shocking to read about some of this information. Some of the policies that I've seen. And many of the complaints are. Many of the things that are in writing are followed very strictly. And it's written in law. And a lot of this stuff is hard, you know. It's hard in California. You have to be really careful. I felt like, before I had rights. And there's a deaf, you know as a deaf person. If you get an interpreter, that's good. You may not actually have to go to jail. But there's a lot of issues that are coming to mind. But there's a lot of laws.
TL: There's a lot of you know.
Orkid: There's a lot of, I can't get the words at the moment. A lot of--. Condescending views. [Inaudible] Condescending views that really I just did not anticipate. And I thought where is this coming from?
TL: This is T.L. One interpreter clarification. No, that's okay, no worries. Interpreting is actually really hard. So I just want to clarify that the person in the audience said that the police and the system here views deafness as a medical issue, not a mental issue. I just want to be clear there. And that's an important distinction.
Interpreter: Thanks for clarifying that.
TL: No problem. So there's a couple of things. And this is really important for everyone in the audience, deaf, disabled, hearing. Not disability. Do not talk to the police. If they're asking you a question. If you are deaf, your answers are one. I am deaf. Two, I require an interpreter. Three, I require an attorney. And four, I refuse, I choose to remain silent. The interpreter who arrives isn't arriving so you can now blah, blah, blah to the cops. They are literally arriving so you can say, "I choose to remain silent, and I require a lawyer." Every single deaf person who I've worked with who's talked, talked, talked, talked, talked through the interpreter to the cops. Has gotten themselves in trouble. There's probably been maybe two exceptions to that. Interpreters being present does not mean that there is fluid communication access. And no one should be talking to the cops regardless anyway. So even if you had three CDI, four of the best interpreters in the state or world. You should not be talking to the cops. And I would say that to you, and I would say that to Latif, and I would say that to the interpreter. And I would say it to Susan Misner who's a lawyer. I'd say, "Susan, you need to call a lawyer." I'm not joking. I hear people laughing. There is no reason for anyone to talk to the police. That is the quickest way for you to get arrested. For information to be misinterpreted. And for anything that you say to be used against you. So please, I require an attorney. That's everyone, whether you're hearing, deaf, disabled, not disabled, white, black, purple, I don't care. You're not talking to the police. So that's the first thing. The second is responding to your point about being here versus in other places. Law enforcement everywhere. It's a system. So law enforcement everywhere is awful, right? And that's, again, that's not an individual analysis of particular people. Someone in here might raise their hand and say, "My father's a cop. I'm a cop. My brother's a cop." Great. And the system is still violent. And the system is still not going to work for any of us. Right? And that's really important. Unless you're really, really, really, really wealthy. In which case, you might get the system to work for you. And that's a really unfortunate thing to say. Bryan Stevenson's quote is that, "They treat you better if you're rich and guilty than if you're poor and innocent." That, there's, that is very true. And I'm a lawyer, and I will tell you the truth, here as I stand. So one, I am deaf. I require an interpreter. I require a lawyer, I choose to remain silent. If an interpreter arrives which they probably won't. You re-emphasize that you require a lawyer. That's the only reason the interpreter would need to show up. Is that clear? Yes? Lots of head nods. Good. That's probably the most important information that you can take away today. Please share it with a friend. I'm not joking. The wrongful conviction cases, especially around deaf people. The wrongful conviction cases that I've seen. The most common that I've seen happen is one, any interpreter arriving. I have some actual DVDs with me of one of the cases I'm working on. Of a deaf guy who accepted a finger-spelling interpreter. He did [inaudible] the whole time. And is now life in prison as a young person. He's young, black, [inaudible], and is incarcerated for life from a head nod with an interpreter he couldn't understand. The other thing that happens with deaf wrongful convictions. Is a finger-spelling cops, generally. So cops who can do some sign will show up and go, like here I am. And the deaf person's like whoo! Finally somebody I can communicate with. And you feel like this person's your friend. You can communicate. And boy, all the information gets used against you. So just be very careful. This is how police departments operate. That's what they're taught to do. So you think you're being friends with them. And they are literally collecting information to use against you. You will not get out of jail if you talk to the cops. The other thing with deaf people especially that happens. Sorry, thank you. The other thing with deaf people especially that happens. Is the deaf person says, "Oh, well they didn't read my Miranda and they didn't have an interpreter. So I just thought everything I shared with them would just not be legal." And yes, it is illegal for the cops to do that. But that in reality, whatever information is still going to follow you. And you're still going to get in trouble. So just because the cops aren't providing what they're supposed to doesn't get you out of jail free. Quite literally you end up in prison. So that's all I'll say about that. Sorry to go on a tirade.
Milton: And so I think that's going to actually bring us to the, to the conclusion of tonight's program. So first of all, I want to thank you, T.L., for coming out. Can we give her one more hand?[ Applause ] On behalf of the Longmore, Paul K. Longmore Institute, San Francisco University. We also want to thank you for, for coming out tonight. We will have an opportunity for a little bit more conversation. There's going to be a reception afterwards. So if folks want to gather in the back, you can continue conversation. I know there were a few questions that didn't get an opportunity to, to be asked. But if you appreciate tonight's lecture. Or you appreciate any of the work that Paul K. Longmore Institute does. I want to encourage you to support our work. Paul K. Longmore Institute believes that the world is better for disabled people and better with disabled people in the world. And so if you would like to make an investment in an inclusive future, we would appreciate that investment. And we look forward to seeing you in the future. So thanks for coming out.
[ Applause ]