Cultural Encounters: A Journal For The Theology Of Culture Volume 11 Number 1 (Winter 2015) - Page 8

GOSPEL WITNESS - Smith Now—back to this discussion of how Native peoples have a status under disability—we see similar things being discussed concerning people with disabilities. We see that people with disabilities also are not defined under the law as people who can work. And hence, people with disabilities working in things called “work centers” or “sheltered workshops” do not actually have the same legal protection as people without disabilities, because what they do is inherently not considered work. So, for instance, the code of federal regulations defines a work activity center—a center for people with disabilities—as one in which the workers with disabilities are considered to have inconsequential productive capacity, and hence work is not the main purpose of the center. Now, if we look at these centers, we see that people with disabilities are actually working many hours a day, and they’re actually working for sub-minimum wages. There’s a big history of labor exploitation, but it’s considered okay in this case because what they’re doing is not considered work. So, for instance, in Goodwill, when people with disabilities tried to unionize, the court ruled against them, because they said, you are not a worker, and hence you do not have the right to unionize. So, that’s something to consider next time you go to Goodwill. But Goodwill was under no duty to bargain because the unit in question was composed of workers who did not qualify as employees under the act, because they were in a rehabilitative relationship with Goodwill. So, all the work they did for Goodwill did not count as actual work. The question is, why do we go to school . . . supposedly, anyway? Why do most people go to college? To get a job, right? So, the point of school is to be able to work. Hence, if you’re never going to be considered a proper worker, school is not actually for you. So it’s not a surprise then that those peoples that have been deemed non-workers are not encouraged to be in school and are diverted elsewhere into the school-to-prison pipeline. To give you one example, my nephew has quadriplegia, and he’s going to college at UC Riverside. In one of our many adventures, they told us to go to the department of rehabilitation to see if he could get some financial support. And you know what the worker said to my nephew? He said, “It looks like you’re too disabled to ever work, and hence education would be wasted on you.” So that tells us something about school: that we think of education as having no value other than to get you a job—which we could have another discussion on, hopefully at the end of this talk. But, two, it tells you who’s deemed worthy of being in school and what policies we’ve developed for those who are not seen as worthy for school. I’m going to give you some statistics that show you the stark reality particularly for people of color with disabilities in terms of their suspension and expulsion rates from school. I’m working primarily in San Bernardino, 7