An Interview with Mia Mingus: 2017 Longmore Lecturer

In anticipation of the upcoming Longmore Lecture in Disability Studies, Associate Director Emily Beitiks interviewed this year's speaker, Mia Mingus, who will present on "Access Intimacy, Interdependence, and Disability Justice" and the importance of making connections and building relationships with those who understand, help meet, and make efforts to achieve disabled people's access needs. Mingus is a community organizer and national social justice leader, a queer, physically disabled, Korean, transracial woman and transnational adoptee.

The Longmore Lecture will be held Tuesday, February 7th in the J. Paul Leonard Library (SFSU campus), room 121, from 5-7pm; for more information, see the event page here and please rsvp by January 27!Headshot of Mia Mingus smiling, sitting on a blue bench, wearing a beige knit sweater and circular earrings.Emily Beitiks: You'll be talking about "Access Intimacy, Interdependence, and Disability Justice" at the Longmore Lecture. Why are you choosing to focus on this topic?

Mia Mingus: I am choosing to focus on these because I think they are a crucial part of disability justice that we will need if disabled people will ever be free. I chose these because I notice how they have a huge impact on my daily life. As I wrote in "Feeling the Weight: Some Beginning Notes on Disability, Access and Love,""These are the parts of disability justice and liberation that keep me up at night, that have hurt more than any ableist remark, that have left more scars than any surgery. This is the underbelly of ableism. This is what I fear we will be left to wrestle with after every building is made accessible and every important policy is passed." These are the pieces of disability justice that often get overlooked and undervalued.

EB: The goal of the annual Longmore Lecture is to feature a speaker who continues Paul Longmore's legacy of scholar-activism. How do you feel about us giving you that label? Does that resonate with your approach?

MM: I don't think of myself as a scholar, though I appreciate that folks would think of me that way. Really, I just started writing the writing I was looking and longing for and couldn't find. I wrote to save my own life in a way and in doing so, ended up finding others like me and helped to forward a framework that continues to grow today. I wrote to leave evidence for others like me who were also looking and longing for an approach to disability that was not single-issue and that was...for lack of a better word--human. I wanted writing on disability that didn't just speak to the facts or statistics or policy, but that spoke to the whole experience of disability: the messiness, the pride, the isolation, the invisibility, the pity, the love, the struggle and the magnificence. I wanted writing that could make me feel, not just think.

EB: We lined you up for this lecture months ago. Now, we are seeing a dramatically different political climate and your work will be more valuable than ever. What impact has this had on the way you approach your work, if any?

MM: Much of my work has been building alternatives, specifically building transformative justice responses to violence within our own communities. This work is vital to our past, current and future political realities because if we don't build alternatives at the same time we are resisting, then we are only resisting--hamsters on a permanent wheel. It is not sustainable and building alternatives helps us actually build the world we long for, rather than only just rejecting the world we don't want. And I want to be clear that both resistance and alternatives are absolutely important and are deeply connected, yet distinct from one another--and they are also not mutually exclusive. If this current political climate teaches us anything, even in just the first handful of days under this new administration, it is that we need to build alternatives to our current systems because it has been made abundantly clear that they are not made for us, by us and in many cases, are actively working to erase us. I think about this for disability and how we will build alternatives to institutionalization and incarceration, since this is where so many disabled people are. What will it take for us to build the kind of communities, relationships and world where disabled people do not have to be so dependent on or ensnarled by the state or the medical industrial complex? I want us to not only focus on things like the ACA--critically important work--or specific policies and budget cuts, but to also use this moment to really think about where we want to go as a people and what we're fighting for and building, not only what we're resisting and fighting against. If anything this current political climate has deepened my commitment and determination to my work and the role it plays in supporting all the amazing and inspiring mass-resistance and direct actions we have been witnessing.

EB:  What have you read or who have you met recently that you're really excited about?

MM: Lately, I have been struggling just to keep up with the never-ending cycle of news and work every day.

EB: We work with a lot of students on campus who have disabilities. What do you wish you'd known when you were in their position?

MM: Wish I had known that there was a vibrant network of queer disabled people of color out there. I wish I had known that, no matter what anyone tells you, disability and ableism are important political pieces to the work of liberation. That ableism, though often overlooked, is a key part of how oppression--all oppression--functions and that our experiences as disabled people are valuable and unequivocally political. It means something to be disabled. And I wish I hadn't wasted so much time waiting for someone else to create the thing I needed, when I know now that we can and must create what we need with what we have. We are the ones we have been waiting for.

Learn more from Mia on Tuesday, Feb 7. Visit the event page now!