Untangling the racialization of disabilities: An intersectionality critique across disability models

Alfredo Artiles

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

128 Scopus citations


This article advances an intersectional perspective in the analysis of racial inequities in special education so that theoretical refinement of this problem will strengthen educational equity research and theory. Racial disproportionality in some disability categories continues to affect a sizable number of students in the United States, with dire long-term consequences for the educational trajectories of these learners. After more than four decades, the problem continues to be debated in research, practice, and policy circles. There is consensus among researchers that the racialization of disability embodies complexities that defy linear explanations. But this debate has overlooked the potential of intersectionality to document complexity and to transcend the individual-structure binary that tends to permeate previous scholarship. Indeed, intersectionality's explicit attention to how the complexity of people's everyday experiences is connected to larger historical processes could offer key insights. I analyze how disproportionality research has addressed the intersections of race and disability (along with other markers of oppression) through a contrapuntal reading of works framed with medical, social, and cultural disability models. I conclude with reflections for future research on racial disparities in special education that is mindful of intersectional complexity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)329-347
Number of pages19
JournalDu Bois Review
Issue number2
StatePublished - Sep 2013


  • Contrapuntal Analysis
  • Disability
  • Disability Models
  • Intersectionality
  • Race

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Anthropology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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