Friday, November 22, 2013

Selected To Silence

Apology number one: I am about to link to a video that is not close captioned and I do not have the ability to transcribe video. I am going to attempt to describe the video and it's contents in such a way that, hopefully, it doesn't matter if the reader is able to either see or hear the video. I found that there were a few words that I couldn't quite hear because of a combination of the accent and the effect of age on my hearing.

Apology number two: I am not able to do anything other than link to the video as there is no embed code along with it and I can't find it on YouTube. You'll have to click on this LINK to be taken to the page.

Request number 1: Please take a moment to watch the video.

Request number 2: Please watch it all the way to the end.

The blog finally begins.

A couple of days ago I wrote about the protest over the tee shirt that had a version of the 'r word' on it and the successful protest against it. In that post I mentioned that a 'disability advocate' showed up at the event and said that there was nothing wrong with the tee shirt in her opinion. I said what I have to say about that but I want to look at the news reporting of this incident because I think it's instructive.

1) The news commentator says that there is disagreement within the 'disability community.' This makes it clear that, no matter what divides we see, there is a general understanding that the disability community is a unified community of diversified disabilities. That's important because it means that they can grant 'spokesperson' status to someone about an issue that has no relevance to their personal experience with disabilities. It gives the media an 'easy out' when wanting to leave out the voice of those whose disabilities make them uncomfortable.

2) Several people speak and those who do are named in the clip. A parent speaks, a paralympian speaks, a Dignity for Disability MP speaks ... and all are named. Not only do these people speak, they are interviewed - selected out as important people to make comment. A man with an intellectual disability speaks, unnamed, to the paralympian and that interchange is caught on camera. He is not interviewed. He is not named. Selective listening is of course selective silencing.

3) Even though several people with intellectual disabilities are at the protest the news broadcast makes no mention of them being there at all. The voice over states that 'parents of children with a disability say ..." Even though the camera clearly shows a man with an intellectual disability giving a 'thumbs down' sign regarding the shirts, his presence and the presence of other people with disabilities is not noted, not commented on, not acknowledge in any way.

These three facts are disturbing enough but when combined they make a toxic mix. The people MOST AFFECTED by the word in question, the people who LIVE WITH the disability being disparaged, are there but not included in the discussion. This robs those with intellectual disabilities of their voice and it robs the viewers of hearing from the people who have the strongest point to make - this word hurts, it hurts deeply.

But you know what else hurts - having your voice considered irrelevant.

We need to be careful, really careful about how we advocate. I teach, in my lectures and training, that we 'support advocates to advocate' ... that's our job. Our job is to turn the mike over to the right person. A long while back Vita was approached to speak about an issue of national concern with a reporter whose writing appears in papers across the country. We did that interview but we also facilitated interviews with those with disabilities. In this case the reporter came in wanting that, it was just that he was surprised that we said, 'yes, of course.'

We all have voices.

And we all have things to say.

The parent who spoke, the Disability MP who spoke had important things to say, important perspectives to be shared - but the inclusion of the voice of someone with an intellectual disability would have added immeasurably to the discussion.

It's just that some are selected out of discussion and therefore selected in to silence.


Anonymous said...

As usual, Dave - right on all counts.

You know perfectly well that they had oodles of footage to choose from - these things do not get filmed in the less than 2 min. shown - they are edited (like Reality TV shows) to make a point.

One can only hope that their actual desire was to raise controversy - which leads to protests and more discussion. Unfortunately, it also leads to more polarization.

I can't believe the young woman with the bright hair and wearing the shirt - but then I can't believe similar statements from people without a disability (as if there were any of those).

The pressure eventually will get to the Globalize owner - people are protesting, all kinds of people.


wendy said...


Anonymous said...

The "man" with an intellectual disability is 13 years old. It was his mother who was the parent interviewed.

Dave Hingsburger said...

I was unaware of the young man's age ... even at 13 he seemed able to speak for himself if he'd been asked by the media and his mother gave consent. There were other's with disabilities there. I, figuratively, stand by what I've written.

Purpletta said...

"No more T-shirts that say rude words to anyone..."

It's ironic, Dave. I read your intro, then followed the link to the video, then came back and read the rest of your blog. I didn't catch in the video those who were "named" and those who were not -- a good lesson to me. I did hear and feel the value in the broadcast given to those who speak for people with intellectual disabilities. And the value given to the group I can only describe as those who speak against the rights and dignity of persons with intellectual disabilities.

To me the most profound thing said in the video, direct, to the point, moving the situation far beyond any one individual's experience, protesting bullying of all people, and attempting to educate the woman wearing the t-shirt... as said by the self-advocate with Down Syndrome, "NO MORE t-shirts that say RUDE WORDS to ANYONE!"