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Rebecca Cokley is one of the country’s leading voices on disability rights, and centers race in her analysis and advocacy. She is the founding director of the Disability Justice Initiative at the Center for American Progress, and served in the Obama administration from 2009-2013.

Dr. Kendi sat down with the California native for a frank conversation on the intersections of ableism and racism in America, the historic civil rights legislation governing both, and what we can all do to advocate for a better future for people with disabilities. 

For a transcript of this episode, click here.


  • Rebecca Cokley borrowed the words of Talila Lewis and Dustin Gibson to define ableism as “a system that places value on people’s bodies and minds based on societally constructed ideas of normalcy, intelligence, excellence, and productivity.” What values and ideas about what’s “normal” and “good” do you hold that may unconsciously perpetuate ableist attitudes? And where did you learn these values?
  • Dr. Kendi and Rebecca Cokley each shared stories about how disability shows up in their personal lives. How does it show up in yours? Are you or a loved one living with disability? Do you interact with the members of your community who are living with disability?
  • Rebecca Cokley challenged us to acknowledge the ways in which we may have behaved in an ableist mindset, and to check our language and terminology. Have you unknowingly or knowingly used ableist language, or expressed ableist attitudes? What can you do differently going forward?
  • Rebecca Cokley outlined the ways in which disability intersects with race, economics, social class, gender identity, sexual orientation, immigration status, education, and criminal justice in America. How do you look at the causes you already support through a disability lens? What can you add to the conversations you’re already having around these issues to amplify disability rights?
  • Rebecca Cokley informed us that roughly one-third of people with COVID will have long haul symptoms that might not realize they’re not protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act. Do you know any COVID survivors who might be in this group? What information and support can you provide them to help them on their journey?




The Host

Dr. Ibram X. Kendi

Dr. Ibram X. Kendi is the host of Be Antiracist. He is the Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the Humanities at Boston University and the founding director of the BU…