To be sure I have been disturbed by what I have read about the stereotypical representation of people with disabilities in Tropic Thunder. I have written against it but not been surprised by it. The ignorance about the people who have intellectual disabilities is often greater than the ignorance attributed to them. So, while I protest, I do not do so with shock.
What disturbs me, almost more, is the stereotypical representations of people with intellectual disabilities that I read in blog posts and comments from people purporting to disagree with the Stiller stereotype.
In many presentations I have read descriptions of people with disabilities as ...
cannot defend themselves.
Really? This does not describe the vast majority of people with intellectual disabilities that I know. To be sure this is a minority with vast differences within it, like all minorities their differences from one another is often as great as their difference from the norm. Even so, to suggest that people with intellectual disabilities are solely dependant upon others for their protection is what has led to their constant victimization. The image of the 'helpless' has led to the creation of the 'helpless.'
Indeed, I have seen incredible ablility to speak up, speak out, speak sense in many self advocate groups. In my own agency, just days ago, a self advocate walked into the Executive Directors office with a complaint - he expected to be heard, he expected his words to bring change. He did not do this with help. He did not do this with the encouragement of others. He did this on his own. A powerful man, a confident voice, all wrapped in the personhood of someone with an intellectual disability.
In many of the comments I get the sense that people should be guilted by pity into abandoning the use of the word 'retard'. I do not want this. I do not wish this. And if we win with this arguement we will lose so much else. I demand the retraction of the word retard not our of pity for a lesser but out of respect for an equal. People with disabilities can equally feel social pain, therefore social pain inflicted upon them is equal to the social pain inflicted on anyone else. Stop it because it is wrong to purposely hurt others ... that is the only reason.
Parents, if your child is as helpless or as vulnerable as many state - then this is more often a failure of parenting than it is a characteristic of disability. It is the duty of all parents to teach their children self reliance in the face of bigotry and bullying. It is the duty of parents to teach their children how to manage in the real world, not a world of pity and compassionate tolerance. Teach your children about bullys and bullying. Teach your children to value themselves as people with disabilities. Teach your children about diversity and their role in the world. Teach them to withstand the slings and arrows of walking down hallways and sidewalks. That's the job of parents.
Yes we fight bigotry and intolerance. We do this with protests. We do this with placards. With do this with letters to the editor. We also fight bigotry by instilling pride into the backbones of people with disabilities. Every minority has won rights only after it came to recognize the inherant value of difference. Gay Pride. Black is Beautiful. Out of the kitchens and into the cabinet.
So decry any form of stereotypical representation of people with disabilities. That done by others. That done by ourselves.
DISABILITY PRIDE NOW!