Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Respecting People Just Because They Are…

“Did you see that pink letter?”  My hair dresser asked while washing my hair.  Of course, she was talking about the infamous hate mail that was sent to a family of a child with autism in New Castle, Ontario.  She continued. “Obviously, whoever mailed it hasn’t heard of people like Temple Grandin or John Elder Robison,“  I just acknowledged how awful the letter was while ignoring the reference to Temple Grandin.    It was another example of something that I’ve been hearing a lot lately.   When hateful and hurtful things are said about people with autism, some think the best way to defend them is by bringing attention  to the intellectual and accomplished people with autism , rather than simply pointing out how all people deserve respect and it’s reprehensible to deliver vicious, nasty insults.

In various cases when people with autism are put down in one way or another (often by using the “R” word),  I’ve seen many respond  with statements like “My son is autistic and he has an IQ of 180.”  “My niece is autistic and she is going to college in the fall.”  And even “You are the one who is retarded! ”  I want to ask these people, “So if your son had a low IQ and your niece didn’t make it into college, would these nasty, hateful things be any more acceptable?” “By labeling someone who is vicious, hateful and shallow as ‘retarded’ aren’t you really insulting those that had a diagnosis of being ‘mentally retarded’ and therefore, adding insult to injury?”

 If there were no Temple Grandin and no John Elder Robison, that pink letter would be no less offensive.  I understand the desire to recognize the achievements of people with disabilities, but in the face of hateful attacks, this is not the time for one-upmanship.  We simply need to stand together and say “This is wrong”.   We don’t care how many or how few accomplishments can be referred to, it’s still wrong.  Making it about intelligence levels says “Hey, it’s justified to talk about some people that way, but not about  us!”  Nobody deserves to be referred to so hatefully, regardless of their IQ, their level of education, or even their lifetime achievements.  People deserve respect just because they are living, breathing beings. 

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