tyresias: (simpson)
[personal profile] tyresias
In preparation for an upcoming presentation next month, I read the ethnography by B.A. Ferri of blind black poet Lynn Manning. I LOVED IT. I considered scanning the whole thing to post it all here but I recognize that few people on my flist are ethnographers so I compromised with a few key excerpts. I recommend reading the poet, Lynn Manning’s original piece entitled Weights. It is about a man who survives a shot to the head that leaves his blind after refusing to fight someone at a bar and the difficulties he faced both from the medical industry, social workers and his family as he tried to become a writer afterwards.
When he is finally allowed to leave the hospital his rehabilitation counselor says “Mr. Manning, after a loss such as yours, there’s a grieving process that occurs. … The grieving process is real. You will go through it.” Assuming that there is some universal way that he’s supposed to deal with an acquired disability, Manning is given no authority over his own experience. Justified by her authority and clinicalexperience, she knows how he is supposed to feel. His own knowing as informed by his own bodily or lived experience is inconceivable. Manning, who is eager to reclaim his independence wants to start rehabilitation immediately. He responds, “I don’t need to grieve. … I already accepted it. That’s why I am here.” She reiterates her diagnostic expertise, and tells him that only after he grieves (in a way, of course, that she understands to be grief) will he then be able to choose a vocational program. Manning explains that he already knows what he wants to do. He tells her that he wants to go back to school and study English – that he is interested in becoming a writer. Once again discounting his perceptions and aspirations, she responds by explaining that in vocational rehabilitation, they discourage careers in the arts and would want him to focus on a more practical vocation, such as selling peanuts or other snacks. Caught in the webs of low expectations informed by both race and disability, his vocational rehabilitation counselor echoes Booker T. Washington, who championed this kind of practical and vocational education for African-Americans a century prior.


Later in the narrative, Manning also recounts some of his everyday interactions with ordinary people after acquiring a disability. For instance, he talks about those who pray for him because they think blindness must signal a lack of faith. He also recollects times when people try to “help” him cross the streets that he had no desire to cross, throwing him off balance and making him look as helpless as they perceive him to already be (and, of course, making themselves look as virtuous as they might hope to be). In each encounters Manning must come to terms with peoples’ preconceived notions about disability, which have little or nothing to do with what he is experiencing. He insists, “Coming to terms with my blindness was a challenge. Coming to terms with other people’s perception of it was something else.”

Throughout Weights, but perhaps most explicitly in the poem, “Magic Wand”, Manning uses juxtaposition to illustrate how, as a blind and black man, he is “caught in a network of contradictory gazes” (Sandahl, 2004, p595) which fail to apprehend the whole of his identity. Moving back and forth between images of the basketball star, sociopathic gang-banger, and pimp to images of the saintly soul, pitiful child, burden, and gimp, Manning underscores how he is constructed by others either as a black man or a blind man, but never as both. He writes:
Quick-change artist extraordinaire,
I whip out my folded cane
And change from black man to blind man
With a flick of my wrist.

In the remainder of the poem, Manning explores in more detail the ways in which, as a black man he is reviled, while as a blind man he is patronized and pitied. Yet, whether shaped by hared, fear, or pity, both of these constructions fix his identity. Manning reminds us, however, that although he “wield[s] the wand”, each perception is simply a magic trick, an illusion that never fully apprehends him. Moreover, this construction is not of his own making, but of ours. The poem ends:
My final form is never of my choosing;
I only wield the wand;
You are the magician.

---end of transcription---

I found the source of the protein that made B so ill recently! I had a kick out of this one: soy. Lol Daddy and princess have something in common. So, the party responsible has been forgiven and the offensive treat removed from future repertoire. I cannot emphasis my dog’s devotion to cucumber. Bell peppers are cool too but nothing beats cucumber. Stick with crunchy veggies. Soy protein makes my vegan princess literally delusional. She’s still pushing her forehead against various surfaces but the shakes have diminished as has the “digging” through my floor to “bury” her food. She hasn’t run for her life as the sight of my keys either all day nor run towards cars. A tremendous relief, this really facilitates her walks.



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