Cody Jackson is a community-accountable (Alexis Pauline Gumbs; Eric Darnell Pritchard) scholar-teacher whose work focuses on disability studies, queer studies, and the transformation of media technology. As an undergraduate at Arkansas State University in Jonesboro, Arkansas, Cody was a co-founder and President of the A-State Feminist Union. In February 2016, the Feminist Union hosted the Rural Freaks Conference on Marginalization, Liminality, and Queerness in Rural Spaces, the conference of its kind to be hosted in the state. In August 2016, Cody moved to Denton, Texas, to attend Texas Woman's University, where he graduated with an M.A. in English in August 2018. During his time at TWU, Cody led efforts for increases in graduate student pay and financial support. While graduate students at TWU still do not make a living wage, the university did implement a 3% universal raise for all graduate students and formed a doctoral scholarship for incoming doctoral students. Now at Texas Christian University as a PhD student in rhetoric and composition, Cody is heavily involved in a local effort to increase pay and structural support for graduate students.
Cody's research and pedagogy are focused on the intersections between queerness, disability, and archival praxis. Cody explores the material implications and influences of anti-ableist composition, theories of time and composing, and queer composition studies. Cody is currently working on a larger set of projects that address the ways material conditions of graduate students and contingent faculty impact circulations of knowledge and disciplinarity. He is currently the Book Review editor for the Journal of Multimodal Rhetorics and the incoming co-chair for the Disability Studies Standing Group for the Conference on College Composition and Communication, the flagship conference for the field of composition studies.
I understand (and misunderstand, at times) intersectionality to be, more than anything else, a method or tool of analysis that resists essentialist notions of identity and foregrounds the racialized mobilizations of power relations that impact multiply-marginalized bodyminds, particularly Black women and queer Black women, at the level of the body. But it is not merely an excavation of power struggles at the level of the body. As Kristie Dotson reminds us, there are general contexts and particular contexts for both the erasure and co-optation of Black philosophy, Black feminisms, and intersectional frameworks of analysis.
In "Radical Love: Black Philosophy as Deliberate Acts of Inheritance," Dotson lays out a framework for intersectional praxis that foregrounds three critical acts that are grounded in a demonstration of "radical love for Black people" (2013 38). Dotson utilizes a praxis that is firmly rooted in a relational dynamic of places, relations, and bodies (38). For Dotson, "acts of inheritance" are active struggles for survival and future-oriented archival praxis. In Dotson's words, "I understand acts of inheritance to concern serving our people by actively existing in a cultural and social life larger than ourselves, where our labor continues projects started before us and, hopefully, ending when such labor is no longer needed" (42).
I want to try to visualize my understandings of intersectionality based on Sirma Bildge's "Intersectionality Undone: Saving Intersectionality from Feminist Intersectionality Studies."
In Living a Feminist Life, Sara Ahmed reminds us that "Citation is feminist memory. Citation is how we acknowledge our debt to those who came before; those who helped us find our way when the way was obscured because we deviated from the paths we were told to follow" (2017 15-16).
I want to ask: how can we cultivate an anti-racist critical Autism studies? I also want to ask: how can we learn from, pay homage to, and write alongside our elders and ancestors in developing such an orientation toward what Melanie Yergeau (2018) refers to as "neuroqueer rhetorics"?
In "The Uses of Anger," Audre Lorde reflects and critically examines the ways that the white academy, and white women, has/have continually shielded themselves from self-reflexive practices of anti-racist activism. In her words, universities continue to make racism "a Black women's problem, a problem of women of Color" (1997 279).
I am reminded of the activist work of autistics of color, particularly @sicklefrijoles, Lydia X.Z. Brown, and the Black Disability Collective, whose online and offline work continues to push the boundaries of disability justice and autistic liberation.
Lorde's essay reminds me of the white liberal women (and men) who deploy their own forms of "marginalization" in an effort to shield themselves from the work of unlearning their own racist and ableist attitudes, actions, and complicity.
I am reminded of the work of one of my mentors Malea Powell, whose work has been critical to my understanding of the world and of the academy. I am reminded that Powell's conceptualization of "constellating as praxis" means that I, myself, am responsible for cultivating relations in and out of my writing and textual circulation.
Lorde's essay reminds me that white guilt is not productive in diversity work: "We welcome all women who can meet us, face to face, beyond objectification and beyond guilt" (285). And, yet, guilt overrides most efforts, both in and out of the academy, for white folks to unlearn their/our own complicity and capacity as active beneficiaries of a system built on the bodies of Black women, women of color, and disabled BIPOC scholar-activists.
Lorde's "The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action" is a text I believe is fundamental in articulating an anti-racist approach to critical Autism studies. When autistic people, particularly Black autistics and autistics of color, attempt to speak for themselves, the walls and boundaries of institutions come slamming down. The whiteness of my own body enables me to move freely through space with little to no consequence. This is a privilege that I have and one I must utilize for sustaining our collective liberation:
"Each of us is here now because in one way or another we share a commitment to language and to the power of language, and to the reclaiming of that language which has been made to work against us." (43)
White people must simultaneously resist the silencing of BIPOC bodyminds while also cultivating sites of resistance that cites, lifts up, monetarily compensates, and joins together-in-difference with autistics of color and Black autistic people. In the words of Audre Lorde, "there are so many silences to be broke" (44). Silences become broken by collectives of bodies acting out in-alliance. In doing so, we cannot ever "transcend" difference. There is no such thing as "transcending difference." There is only difference. And it is our (white folks') responsibility to recognize difference as a site of negotiation and bodily alliance, not something to be done away with for the sake of an artificial consensus or linearity or unity. "Consensus" is often another word for white supremacy.
How can we continue to learn from and work alongside the Combahee River Collective in working toward a liberatory praxis that necessitates a constant self-reflexive mode of accountability? Although I am reflecting and not analyzing here, I want to close by suggesting that the words, legacies, and lineages of Black feminists, particularly contemporary Black autistic feminists, be foregrounded in our conversations toward an anti-racist critical Autism studies. Ultimately, I am seeking an ungrounded foundation, one that consistently shifts and moves according to the weight of our bodies-in-alliance, acting up and agitating together for something more, something else, something altogether otherwise.