This is a thing, not sure what. Somewhere between a think piece, the start of research goal or plan, and a rough draft for something. Stilted/wooden in tone but writing it out helped me out.

Disabled people routinely report discrimination in hiring, consigning them to unemployment or lower paying jobs than their able-bodied counterparts. The scope and sources of contemporary employment discrimination based on ability are beyond what I can address here. For now, I want to address some aspects of employment discrimination based on ability in the early to mid-twentith century United States. I want to begin with what will sound like an ugly assertion: employment discrimination against disabled people made sense for much of the twentieth century.

To be clear, I do not mean that employment discrimination – whether based on ability or otherwise – is or was morally justifable. Far from it. Rather, I mean to say that employment discrimination based on ability became a sensible choice for employers according to a limited calculus of interests. Again, I make no apology for that choice or that calculus of interests – I find those choices and that calculus reprehensible. What I want to do, however is to understand those decisions and that calculus.

Put another way, my starting claim is that a variety of factors gave employers an interest in practicing employment discrimination based on ability. I mean here to say that employment discrimination based on ability became at least in part what I will call institutional or impersonal discrimination. (In what follows when I say “employment discrimination” I meant it as a shorthand for “employment discrimination based on ability” unless otherwise specified. My hunch is that this form of employment discrimination had a different character than other forms of employment discrimination, in that it there were great institutional rewards for practicing employment discrimination based on ability. I can not prove this and so I make no claim about it.) What I mean by these terms is that I am inquiring into not discrimination based on prejudice narrowly defined. By prejudice narrowly defined I mean sentiments like “the sight of disabled people sickens me,” which I take to be analogous to sexist and racist attitudes such as “women are not as smart as men” or “whites are superior to other races.” I do not deny the existence or importance of prejudice narrowly defined, but it is not what I am looking at here. What I am looking at instead are the factors contributing to contexts in which employers and their agents who were themselves not possessed of narrowly defined prejudice would still practice employment discrimination. In particular, I am interested in economic incentives for practicing employment discrimination.

[NOTE TO SELF, COME BACK AND ADD IN STUFF FROM COHEN AND FROM SUGRUE WITH REGARD TO RACISM, REDLINING, AND PROPERTY VALUES, QUOTE SOMETHING LIKE “I’M SURE HE’S A NICE GUY BUT WHENEVER I SEE HIM I SEE A $2000 DROP IN THE VALUE OF MY HOME.”]

At some point there occured processes of what the philosopher Ian Hacking calls “making up people” [CITE] in which disabled people were ‘made up.’ I want to look at practices and discussions around workplace injuries and injury insurance as an example of this making up. I do not claim that this example has special importance compared to other possible factors shaping employment discrimination. I do claim that this example made some contribution to employment discrimination, and that this example is useful for understanding some of the ways in which employment discrimination came about in some contexts.

In all of this I draw from discussions of disability and ability as categories of power, in which disabled people in ablist societies are understood as analogous to women within sexist societies and racialized minorities within racist societies. It is important to note, however, that ‘disability’ is itself a constructed category, just as are race and gender. It is not the case that there are disabled people, black people, and women in the world outside of our categories. There are not bodies which are biologically disabled, black, or female (or able, white, or male). There are persons who are so, in social contexts which make judgments about and ascribe meanings to bodies as part of making up persons.

One final prefatory remark – I highlight employment discrimination because I want to emphasize the role of economic power in disabled persons’ opppression. I address aspects of disability that have an economic character and perhaps an economic cause because I think these aspects are important, and are sometimes left out in discussions of disabiltiy and other forms of oppression. I do not mean to say that all aspects of disability-as-oppression are caused by economic factors nor do I mean to suggest that the most important aspects of disability-as-oppression are the economic aspects.

[FURTHER NOTES – creation (pre-history/cognates and history) of ‘disability’/’disabled’, particularly are related to the context I’m taking about: creation of new disabled people without changes in bodies (new classifications), creation of new disabled people by changes in bodies (workplace accidents). = creation of knowledge? IE, the making of ‘sense’, sort of like I mentioned in the opening. Accident insurance and second(ary) injuries = institutional context for distribution of that knowledge, acquisition of it, and implementation in forms of surveillance and discrimination? IE, how ‘sense’ was spread. Responses: Second(ary) injury funds and litigation. The ADA?]

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