A law professor from Fordham University argues that African Americans should be allowed to present their blackness as a recognized legal disability to better combat inequalities and prejudice.
“Blackness in the United States has an independent disabling effect distinct from the effects of socioeconomic status,” Kimani Paul-Emile has written in an upcoming article titled “Blackness as Disability” for the Georgetown Law Journal.
Paul-Emile contends that given the historical ineffectiveness of civil rights law and Supreme Court jurisprudence to root out modern-day racial injustice, African Americans should turn to disability law as a more effective legal avenue to combat the effects of racism.
“Understanding Blackness as disabling,” she contends, “brings to the fore a surprising new approach to addressing discrimination and systemic inequality that has been hiding in plain sight: disability law.”
Whereas race law has been “relatively effective” at countering intentional discrimination, she declares, “it has failed to combat the predominant forms of discrimination that now harm minority populations: unconscious bias, stereotyping, and structural inequality,” which makes disability law a much better option for dealing with such effects.
“Rather than focusing on malicious intent, disability law accepts the impact of even neutral actions, policies, and programs, directly confronting the ways in which social structures, institutions, and norms can ‘substantially limit’ a person’s ability to perform ‘a major life activity,’” the law professor wrote.
Fordham Law News published an excerpt from the forthcoming article, praising Paul-Emile as a “foremost thinker and writer in the areas of law and inequality, race and the law, law and biomedical ethics, and health law,” while declaring she is just the person to furnish “a fresh perspective on racial discrimination.”
The ever-attentive folks at The College Fix, a student-reported conservative journal that reports on stupidity and liberal bias in academia, reached out to Prof. Paul-Emile for comment in the hope of addressing some of the obvious problems with her proposal.
Via email, College Fix reporters asked her whether Hispanics or other minorities could also claim disabilities, while also inquiring what her opinion would be if it were a white person who made the claim that black people are disabled. Paul-Emile did not respond.
In her article, Paul-Emile makes the stunning assertion that as a racial designation Black “was designed” to be disabling. “Racial categories were created explicitly to serve as a caste system to privilege some and disadvantage others,” she insists.
The racial status of African Americans “is disabling in a myriad of specific ways,” she writes. “To be Black means facing increased likelihood, relative to Whites, of living in poverty, attending failing schools, experiencing discrimination in housing, being denied a job interview, being stopped by the police, being killed during a routine police encounter, receiving inferior medical care, living in substandard conditions and in dangerous and/or polluted environments, being un- or underemployed, receiving longer prison sentences, and having a lower life expectancy.”
As yet there is no available summary of reactions from the African American community in the United States to see whether they appreciate being labelled as disabled, or how such a designation would affect the perception of blacks in the wider society.
Both Fordham University and Georgetown University are run by the Society of Jesus—the Jesuits—a Roman Catholic religious order founded in sixteenth-century Spain for the propagation of the Christian faith in the world.
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