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2 Geo. J. L. & Mod. Critical Race Persp. 209 (2010)
Surfacing Disability through a Critical Race Theoretical Paradigm

handle is hein.journals/gjmodco2 and id is 237 raw text is: Surfacing Disability Through a Critical Race
Theoretical Paradigm
From its inception, a number of the founders of Critical Race Studies (CRS) have
articulated a praxis and methodology acutely focused on race, and also intently
conscious of intersectionality.1 Disability prospectively merges with the project of
producing knowledge within a CRS frame both as part of the study of intersectional-
ity, and also as part of the pedagogical and theoretical goal of comparative subordina-
Relatively few CRS authors have explicitly taken up the challenge of articulating
disability in CRS scholarship. For instance, I interpret Adrienne Asch's work2 as an
example of disability-focused CRS scholarship primarily based on a comparative
subordination approach. That is, Asch relies on analogy and application of racially
based analysis to disability, interchanging disability as a category of oppression with
race as a category of oppression.
Although some aspects of this kind of analysis can be productive, I also note its
limitations. This kind of comparative analysis, as represented in Asch's work, often
treats race and disability as relatively discrete categories, focusing on how the two
compare, and in some moments degenerating into a debate about which oppression
or experience is harder or worse. The unspoken and presumably unconscious assump-
tion in this kind of analysis is that disability is within the terrain of Whiteness, and is
either not experienced or not worth articulation for People of Color. More broadly,
one might imagine a White disabled person sharing notes with a non-disabled Person
of Color, with each noting, yes, I too have struggled with equal access to bathrooms
and water fountains, yes, I too have sought remedies through civil rights legisla-
© 2011, Beth Ribet. Ph.D. University of California, Irvine, J.D. University of California, Los Angeles.
Beth Ribet is a Visiting Scholar at the UCLA Center for the Study of Women, and a Research Associate at the
Burton Blatt Institute in the Syracuse University School of Law. Particular thanks for comments and dialogue
contributing to this paper to: Lorraine Bonner, Claudia Pefia, Christine Littleton, Sherene Razack, Tanya
Titchkosky, Andrea Alarcon, Malinda Lee, Lisa Concoff, Stephanie Enyart, Sara Pezeshkpour, Sa6l Sarabia,
Kimberl Crenshaw, Naomi Bebo, Brette Steele, Na'Shaun Neal, Christina Vargas, Shantel Vachani, Paul
Longmore, Susan Schweik, Angeles Zaragosa, and Kaaryn Gustafson.
1. See Kimberl6 Crenshaw, Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of
Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory and Antiracist Politics, in FEMINIST LEGAL THEORY: FOUNDA-
TIONS 385 ( D. Kelly Weisberg ed., 1993).
2. See Adrienne Asch, Critical Race Theory, Feminism and Disability: Reflections on Social Justice and
Personal Identity, 62 OHIO ST. L.J. 397 (2001); see also Robert L. Hayman, Jr. & Nancy Levit, Un-natural
Things: Constructions of Race, Gender &Disability, in CROSSROADS, DIRECTIONS, AND A NEW CRITICAL RACE
THEORY 161-62 (Francisco Valdes, Jerome McCristal Culp & Angela P. Harris eds., 2002). Unlike Asch,
Levit & Hayman are located within Critical Race Theory, and bringing in an analysis of disability and gender,
as opposed to engaging Critical Race Theory from the perspective of disability studies. However, despite the
differing points of entry, like Asch, they focus on contrasting and comparing race and disability as implicitly
distinct categories.

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