I am lying comfortably on the table in my acupuncturist’s office. Mellow music plays in the background while my acupuncturist soothingly talks me through my treatment. As we chat casually about the different approaches between Eastern and Western medicine, she suddenly stabs me with a metaphorical needle, puncturing our trust: in the same calm tone she has been using all morning, she tells me that, within Chinese religions, physical illness and disability are often understood as “a result of mistakes made in a previous life — a disability is an indication of a lesson that one’s spirit needs to learn.” Inaccurately conflating the rich diversity of Chinese philosophical and religious systems of thought under the single blanket of “Chinese religions,” my white acupuncturist has simultaneously disseminated incorrect information and made me feel inferior and unmeritorious.

Her suggestion that I am to blame for my disability...

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