by Dawn Haney and Max Airborne
In this poignant and timely piece, Dawn Haney and Max Airborne of Fat Rose describe how disability and fat liberation politics are inextricably connected to migrant rights. They describe how fat and disabled people have taken a stand against the detention centers at the USA’s southern border, in the #NoBodyIsDisposable movement, and explain how ASDAH members can deepen their social justice work by taking action on this critical issue.
No Body is Disposable!
All Bodies are Valued, Indispensable, and Cherished!
Your Body is Integral. It is necessary to make things whole.
This is the world we fight to live in, one where all bodies are cared for, including our own. This is part of the ASDAH vision.
As fat people, many of us have experienced daily dehumanization. We know how much some people are treated as disposable. When seeking medical care, we have been ignored and ridiculed. Some of us have been denied care entirely; and some of us have died as a result. How many fat people have a story about not being treated at the doctor’s office unless they lost weight?
But this dehumanization and marginalization is not unique to the fat experience. Today, Trump’s establishment of concentration camps at the US border is one of the most intense examples we have witnessed of the state treating families and children as disposable. Over 400,000 people have been held in border camps. Those detained include migrants recruited for work, and people seeking asylum from violence in countries like El Salvador and Honduras. Additionally, children are being separated from their families, despite federal rulings for that to end last summer.
“no one leaves home unless home is the mouth of a shark”
― Warsan Shire
Currently the conditions of these camps are so abysmal that lawyers are suing the camps for not having basic accommodations in place for people with disabilities. While this legal action is important, it’s clear that no amount of “accommodation improvements” will solve the underlying lack of care for migrants with disabilities. By definition, incarceration locks people in isolation, beginning a process of disposal. The only real, ethical way to accommodate people is to close the camps.
ASDAH is a leader in cherishing all bodies and valuing Health At Every Size®. How will you cherish all bodies at the border, valuing health at every immigration status, and health at every part of an asylum process?
This August, Fat and Disabled people and our communities joined in support of immigrants, demanding that the government CLOSE THE CAMPS that are imprisoning and harming thousands of people who are fleeing violence from their countries of origin. On August 28th, people gathered outside of ICE offices in San Francisco, and in actions from home and other locations. This was organized as part of a Month of Momentum of actions, where librarians and lawyers, students and tenants, journalists and adoptees came together to demand that these camps be closed.
We participated as an act of solidarity with migrant communities. We also participated as a statement of love. We know that many incarcerated in these camps are disabled, fat, chronically ill, elderly, traumatized, or impaired. Some arrived with these body-minds. Some were impacted by the state terror of the camps, others by starvation or lack of medical care. As co-organizer Stacey Milbern writes, “Our disability and fat liberation politics must absolutely name and hold those whose impairments are created by the state as a result of state terror, incarceration, environmental racism, border policing, war, forced starvation, and so many tools of domination.”
“You broke the ocean in half to be here. Only to meet nothing that wants you.”
― Nayyirah Waheed, immigrant
As fat and disabled people, we know and must insist that #NoBodyIsDisposable. We must demand a world where all body/minds receive the basic love, respect, and care that everyone deserves. These camps continue a long history of marginalizing Brown people along the US border, questioning “who belongs” as a tool to maintain state control over who owns the land, who has the right to vote and be paid for work, and who has the right to move freely without constant threat of state interference. We will close the camps, and carry that energy forward to bring dignity, protection, and security to the lives of the people inside and outside of the camps, seeking asylum or legal immigration status.
As communities that have rallied to resist disposability and reclaim our sense of value, what strengths do fat and disabled people have to contribute to closing the camps at the border?
First, we identify our access needs, and develop intimacy as a community to get them met. In many fat and disability community spaces, we ask people to identify their access needs “What will support you to be here?” For fat people, it might be sturdy armless chairs and no diet talk. For people with disabilities, it might be lowered lighting, fragrance free, and ASL interpretation.
What if we met asylum seekers at the border with this question: “What will support you to be here?” And instead of putting people in camps, we listened and developed intimacy as a community to respond to those needs? The Sanctuary Movement and community defense brigades have been leaders in responding to the needs of immigrant communities, from accompanying people to ICE appointments and developing rapid response networks, to offering up physical sanctuary. How can fat and disability communities be part of responding to the immediate needs of migrants and asylum seekers?
Second, we advocate, advocate, advocate — and we bring a friend who can speak up on our behalf. In our personal lives, we advocate for basic care at the doctor’s office, for seating at the restaurant, from our beds, on our phones and tablets. It’s true that we can use a lot of spoons just caring for ourselves and our close loved ones. But we invite you to stretch into advocacy if you have strengths here — messaging your Senator and asking five friends to help make the call with you.
Finally, we have also trained ourselves to resist surveillance industries in our lives. The diet industry and diet culture as a whole are part of the for-profit surveillance industries that keep close watch on bodies — making money off of fat bodies while teaching them they are disposable. When you resist surveillance, you reclaim a sense of value for your own body.
Sadly it is not always safe to resist surveillance openly. Sometimes resisting surveillance involves protecting ourselves within its systems. Brown people along the border are carrying passports, just waiting to be stopped. And this fear is not unfounded–a US citizen was recently held for 3 weeks.
We are writing this piece as a rallying cry for our ASDAH allies to join us in this important resistance work. We know that when the external pressures are this challenging, we need our friends and alliances to show up and remind us we are cherished and valued, that we are integral. We invite you into action, to declare: “You are our people! We will not let them treat you as disposable.” We invite you to show up in support and alliance, using your knowledge that #NoBodyIsDisposable to demand to Close the Camps.
- By messaging your Senator
- Online: Add your photo to our meme campaign #NoBodyIsDisposable on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter
- In Action from Anywhere: Join in solidarity actions
Dawn Haney has been a social justice movement organizer for two decades, transforming communities and organizations through vision and strategy, shifting power, navigating conflict, and healing. Max Airborne is an organizer and artist, active since the 1980’s in fat liberation, racial justice and queer liberation, and more recently disability justice. Together Dawn and Max are co-instigators of Fat Rose (fatrose.org).