Learning about KripLove from Krip Hop: Part 4 – What’s in a Word?

One of the big issues before and after the Krip Hop Nation event was the language of the movement – specifically the use of the word ‘Krip.’ Many scholars and activists in the disability communities use the term ‘crip‘ in a reclaiming political sense (explained more in my about me section of this blog). Leroy Moore shifted the spelling to use a ‘k’ to distinguish Krip Hop Nation from the LA gang – the Crips. This is due, in part, to work against the racist assumptions held and expressed by many people that those who are black and disabled, must have become disabled through being shot or other forms of (gang) violence.

Regardless of the spelling – Krip/Crip – these words are inflammatory to many. Many disability scholars and activists have reclaimed these words as a form of verbal assault against the institution of ableism through defusing the history of hate in these words. Whereas, others in the disability community are adamantly against reclaiming these words and insist upon only using people first language.  People first rhetoric requires one referencing a disabled person as “a person with a disability” to signify the disability as one aspect of the person’s identity but not the central or defining featuring of it. I do not live by the people first imperative but do appreciate its purpose; more people should see disabled people as *gasp* people – not just as objects that they can violate and exclude. People first language is all fine in theory, as I agree with the idea that disabled people should be recognized as people and I explain it to my undergrads because, like the social model of disability, I think these linguistic tools reflect the first steps in disability consciousness revolution.

My real problem is when people first politics begin to impinge on the ability of freedom of self-identifying labels. *Ahem* the First Amendment. As I explained when Bridget the Midget (former adult film star) keynoted the University of Florida disability and sexuality 2005 conference – while the word ‘midget’ is abhorred by many little people, if Bridget wants to identify as a flaming turd, she should (and does) have the right to do so. We should all be able to call ourselves the labels we need to and that feel right for our realities.

From the beginning of discussions of bringing Krip Hop Nation to the university, people were uncomfortable with the language. I was asked to change the title, but refused because it is not my movement, and I will not engage in an act of oppression of labeling something that is not mine.  The university refused to label the event correctly on the event page of the University homepage because they were afraid of giving off the wrong impression about the University. I explained throughout the pre-event discussions that Krip Hop is the language of the artists, and it signifies liberation to them. Therefore, they should decide how to label themselves, not us (as historically has happened with marginalized groups of people), but ultimately it didn’t matter – people tried to censor the name but Krip Hop Nation remains Krip Hop Nation. It will not bend to the whims of people not pushing this killer movement forward.

It is of note that an interesting dichotomy popped up with the language issue. Many people first language advocates were pumped about seeing Krip Hop and talked about it. In doing so, they used disabled first language. Thus, in a not so subtle way, Krip Hop Nation helped push people to consider language without an aggressive confrontation. Moving past what might have offended some; they saw how cool the idea of hip hop and disability could be and wanted to see it for themselves –which was evidenced by the diverse crowd in attendance. Also, a large somewhat conservative disability conference in Georgia is now courting Krip Hop Nation to perform at their event, even though they may not really be ready for Krip Hop Nation. Isn’t it beautiful how art can be part of our revolution?