If you’ve read my 100 Things About Me post you know that I cringe at the sound of the “R” word. Likewise, I also take offense when I hear jokes being made about the “shortbus” or Special Olympics. You can imagine, then, how appalled I was to see the President of our country mock Special Olympians on national television. If you haven’t seen it, it will take but 29 seconds of your day to watch this clip.
Not too long ago this man would have been crazy to even have dreamed of holding the office he holds now. There was a time when men and women who share his skin color and have similar heritage were mocked, beaten, and segregated based on their pigmentation alone.
One would think that the struggles and pain of those who share his African American background would have given this man great insight as to the underside of discrimination. One would assume that knowing what he knows, this man would be especially compassionate. One would hope beyond hope that this man–especially this man–would be capable of leading honorably and setting a strong example that all Americans could follow.
Unfortunately though, this man has fallen heinously short.
There is nothing funny, cute, or endearing about the mocking of an organization as instrumental as the Special Olympics. Special Olympians are heroes who’ve faced tremendous struggle and great hardship and have come out stronger for having done so. People with developmental disabilities should not be used as an easy target for quips. Especially by the President of our country and especially when a national audience is tuned in.
I can think of a word that conjures up hateful connotations towards a huge population of ethnic people in this country. It’s a word that you or I would be ashamed to use, ashamed to teach our children, ashamed to have heard in our homes, schools, and churches. It’s a dirty word, not because of its meaning, but because of its history. Its a word that has historically been used to inflict pain on an entire population of people. People who did nothing to deserve the treatment that fell upon them. People who were persecuted for simply BEING.
It’s a word I wouldn’t dream of using.
I wish that Mr. Obama would pay me the same courtesy when it comes to being sensitive about the struggles my family faces with regard to my daughter’s disability.
Like him–like each and every one of us–she had no say as to the mental, genetic, or physical state she was born into. But with each label that is slapped on her, with each disparaging comment that is thrown around, she is made to seem less worthy than she really is.
I am saddened and disheartened that the President of our country would stoop so low as to disparage people who have done no wrong. I am appalled that there has been no public outrage over an incident that so clearly deserves it. I shudder to imagine what would have happened if our previous President had gone on national television and said the same thing. Can you even imagine the outcry that would have commenced had that happened?
Whether we are talking about people with developmental disabilities or members of any ethnic group, discrimination is a wretched thing and should long ago have been abolished.
There is something each of us can do to institute change.
We can pledge to stop the frivolous use of the “R” word in our homes and in our families. We can stop using terms like ‘shortbus’ because they garner us an easy laugh. We can respect the Special Olympics organization as a great resource for children like mine, not an easy target for jokes and mockery. Together, we can change the way our society reacts to demeaning usage of the “R” word.
YES WE CAN.
And I hope you will.