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Dis/rupting and Dis/mantling Racism and Ableism in Higher Education

  • Author(s): Mireles, Danielle
  • Advisor(s): Echeverria, Begoña
  • Comeaux, Eddie
  • et al.
Abstract

The marginalization of “dis/abled” Black and students of Color is well-documented in the K-12 contexts (Annamma et al., 2013; Artiles, 2013; Artiles et al., 2002; Artiles, & Trent, 1994; Blanchett, 2006). Studies have found that not only do Black and students of Color experience overrepresentation in Special Education but that Special Education placement increases the likelihood of these students being removed from schools and placed into carceral facilities (Annamma, 2015; Annamma, 2017; Artiles, 2013; Artiles et al., 2002; Artiles et al., 2010; Sullivan & Artiles, 2011). While these studies allow us to understand barriers impacting dis/abled Black and students of Color in the K-12 system, far less is known about this student population upon entering higher education. Extending Dis/ability Critical Race Theory (DisCrit), my study examines the racialized experiences of dis/abled Black and students of color attending four-year colleges and universities in California. I build on existing literature in K-12 and higher education contexts to examine the ways in which race and dis/ability intersect and perpetuate inequity for students in the study. I found that many existing policies and practices were not objective or race-neutral and privileged constructions of dis/ability rooted in hegemonic whiteness which invisibilized the experiences of Black and students of Color with dis/abilities. Building on Pérez Huber et al.’s framework (2010) of racist nativism, CRT, and DisCrit, I propose “racist ableism” as a conceptual framework to theorize these intersections of race and ability. I use racist ableism to describe how particular forms of ableism, informed by racist beliefs and institutions, oppress and dehumanize Black, Indigenous and people of Color based on actual or perceived (or, inversely, lack of perceived) dis/ability, thereby reinforcing the relationship between whiteness and ability. Last, I found that institutions of higher education police, surveil, and criminalize dis/ability. I identify particular practices, such as requiring students to register for services or using campus police in crisis response, as embodying carceral logics and carceral control. Overall, these findings highlight the need for colleges and universities to reexamine existing policies and practices with regard to dis/ability. Intersectional framing is of paramount importance if colleges and universities are going to meet the needs of increasingly diverse student bodies.

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