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Thursday, March 26, 2009

Kareem Dale and Add On Duty

Kareem Dale is in the news. Dale is Obama's "special assistant to the president for disability policy". Dale's position was heralded by the Vice-President Biden as proof that for the first time in history disability rights would be a major priority of a presidential administration. Fast forward a month, and Dale was appointed another job, "White House staff advisor on the arts and culture". As I have already noted, I am confused and worried. Exactly what is Dale's job? Is he supposed to focus on disability or the arts? Is he supposed to do both jobs?

I had hoped that Dale would clarify his position at the White House when he was interviewed on March 24 by Disability Scoop. Yet, not a word was mentioned about his dual position as the disability and arts advisor in the White House. I expected and hoped this would be the first question Dale would be asked given the fact Disability Scoop is one of the premier sources for disability news. Disability Scoop really missed the ball in their interview. Perhaps this critique is unfair as no one seems to be forthcoming about exactly what Dale's job is. The most critical article published to date was written by Deanna Isaacs today at the Chicago Reader. Entitled "One Salary Saved: Who's poised to be Obama's arts advisor? His disabilities advisor" Isaacs asks the hard question that no one in the disability or arts community has been willing to ask: What is Dale's top priority, the arts or disability?

As of today, there has been no official announcement of Dale's arts appointment. Isaac speculates that the Obama administration may be rethinking this dual appointment. Isaacs has sought clarification from the White House and her calls and emails have been ignored. Eventually Isaac reports one staffer told her someone will contact her "when she has guidance for you". Isaac, like many others, would like a clear and concise answer. Unfortunately the White House is sending mixed messages to people in the arts and disability community and this has muddied an already confusing conundrum. Both those is the arts and disability community have been painfully polite. Andrew Imparto, president of the American Association of People with Disabilities thinks Dale's dual position could be "a mixed bag" and that "with disability issues alone" Dale has a "pretty full plate". I can readily understand why Imparto and others in the arts and disability community do not want to chastise President Obama for straddling the fence with Dale's dual appointment. If I were involved I would not want to risk alienating anyone in the White House. But I am not involved and, like Isaac I want an answer. Which is the top priority for Dale--the arts or disability? No single person can do both jobs well. One community will suffer. Like it or not that is just the way it is. Thus I admire the final sentence in Isaacs article: "Disability and the arts each need their own point person. Fix it". I could not agree any more" Please fix this mess President Obama.


Terri said...

I was hoping to hear the answer to that also. It seems like giving short shrift to both to me and I don't like that message (and I can't imagine the arts community loves it.) I also wonder what happened to the other guy they said would be a disability liason. He was a college professor from somewhere out west, I thought.

william Peace said...

Terri, The other guy, Paul Steven Miller, was sucked up into the White House and has not been heard from since. Miller is a lawyer and I was not impressed by the way he and others supposed disability experts handles themselves in the Ashley X controversy. Miller was based at the University of Washington School of Law.

Laura(southernxyl) said...

I'm trying to imagine a Venn diagram where this job thing would even make sense. Not that disabled people can't be artists, or artists disabled people, of course, but I can't see any way those two positions have a logical overlap any more than any other two. How about art and the FDA? How about disability and the environment?

william Peace said...

Laura, The over lap makes no sense whatsoever. One man can can do two jobs poorly.