As Sami Schalk advises in Black Disability Politics, I am not the primary audience for this conversation between two amazing and disabled Black women, Olayemi Olurin and Imani Barbarin, especially as they embrace Barbarin’s important advice to “learn out loud.” So, it’s not my intent to insert myself into this, on the whole, very enlightening and intimate conversation. I did want to point out, however, the lateral ableism that Olurin threw at people with psych diagnoses while acknowledging her important progress towards greater disability awareness as a public figure.

Despite that Barbarin had just talked about how diagnosis is often weaponized against disabled people, it was disappointing to see Olurin close the interview by mentioning that she thinks her mother is “Borderline.” As psych survivors and critical psychology scholars have noted, labeling someone with BPD is not an act of understanding. While some people may identify with the BPD diagnosis, it should never be casually inflicted upon anyone like a brand. As Mulder and Tyrer write in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, “Making a borderline diagnosis obscures rather than illuminates pathology.” A recent article in The New Yorker by the anthropologist, Manvir Singh, goes further by highlighting the problems inherent in the entire diagnostic and classification system and recommends a complete overhaul, writing that “The DSM’s approach to categorization increasingly looks arbitrary and anachronistic.”

During the interview, Olurin also demonstrates a limited understanding of neurodiversity by advocating specifically for acceptance of autistic people on the one hand, while suggesting that people with personality “disorders” should seek treatment on the other. I was also taken aback by Olurin’s liberal usage of ableist terms like “crazy” and “insane,” and was disappointed that Barbarin didn’t push back on these instances as it would have been a great opportunity to educate about lateral ableism in the disabled community.


Like it? Share with your friends!