Week 3: Thoughts on Social Justice and Prejudice and Discrimination

Throughout the material covered in this week’s module, at times and I felt a bit overwhelmed with all of the information, at times sad or bothered by the realities of what some people in society have to face as part of their daily lives, but mostly I feel more informed about social justice and the effects that prejudice and discrimination can have in society. I also feel more educated and aware of my actions and how I can use my knowledge as an educator to make a difference.

The reading from the text chapters 5 and 6 really provided a wealth of information to help better distinguish the meanings of the words prejudice and discrimination through examples and explanation of key terms. One area that I found interesting was in the definition of stigmatization and how it is society’s tendency to ascribe “deviancy” to a person with disabilities. Through an undesired differentness, this can lead to stigmatization and that any attribute can be considered deviant. With this being the case, the number of persons with disabilities increases and then persons considered deviant are as a result, kind of as described in the text “lumped together”. But what is interesting is deviance is a judgment of the “dominant and defining segment” of the society and it is done without any means of social comparison. I think if each person took time to self- evaluate, they would find deviance within, however it depends on what is considered deviant, and whom.  Even with a disability there are some people that can escape from the stigmatization, however, most cannot because of the resulting shame and alienation which can occur.

Another area that bothered me was the discussion regarding handicapism and how these assumptions and practices promote an unequal treatment of people because of “ an apparent or assumed mental, physical, or behavioral difference”. And between stigmatization and handicapism, they both come down to an assumption or a misconception that could be resolved through increased public awareness of differences and tolerance. It is also interesting that handicapism can be promoted by well-intentioned people because they focus on the person with disabilities and their sole purpose is to help them however because of their kindness the results can be harmful because it causes an unintentional handicapism.  People interested in helping the PWDs end up having a negative effect because it can come across as pity, or increase feelings of stigma as a result.
I also found interesting the discussion of impression management and the different ways in which PWDs make decisions about whether or not to show that they have a disability or opt instead to hide it. Part of the reading from the text and also the having the opportunity to read the different blogs enlightened me on what people have had to endure in the past, and some of the people in a position to educate the public on different disabilities instead chose to try and conceal a disability. Or some which use their celebrity status to draw attention to the disability for what would seem to be a positive benefits such as education or funding, but in the end had more of a negative effect as a result.

Some of the celebrity status or termed “disabled heroes” were people such as Albert Einstein, Helen Keller, Beethoven and I can see how they would be given the disabled hero association, however under my understanding of a hero, they don’t necessarily fit because their actions were not heroic.  Perhaps it is because of heroes today, I think of persons that risk their lives for others in dangerous situations such as law enforcement, those who dedicate their lives to finding cures and helping other people.   I think they each had unique stories and experiences that had an impact on society however I personally learned more from having read the blogs that I chose for part of this week’s assignment and somewhat considered those writers more heroic.
Overall, I am shocked at learning more types of the treatment towards people where they have been dehumanized either because they are seen as animals or objects, relegated to freak shows or made part of a “dwarf tossing” event, or spoken to in “motherese” and infantilized, and not had equal status or considered equal in society at the hands of persons other than themselves

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In addition to some of the feelings that result from prejudice and discrimination, I also learned a lot about the effects, such as role entrapment and the pity that results towards the persons with disabilities, lowered expectations and decreased opportunities even though their functions for work or leisure may not be affected by the disability. There are so many aspects to what the daily life is like for a person with disabilities and even after more research studies or when people involve in simulation exercises, there still is the possibility to increase prejudice and discrimination because of forced empathy. And through legislation and acts such as the American Disabilities Act, or spokespersons and more education in schools and in the community, people are becoming more aware and society is making things more accessible to all people, however it really is a very complicated area and one in which there is not a quick and easy solution. It takes collaboration on the part of many people in society and in order for changes to happen, people must work together and learn to understand the diversity that does exist in today’s society. And also as a final note, it is important to respect personal boundaries of all people, whether or not stated, everyone is entitled to privacy and personal space. And has the right to simply be left alone, if wanted.

Image Retrieved May 28, 2015 from http://bit.ly/1LOFBE4

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