What a total non-apology.

Standard

I’m not generally one to throw a blog post out there every time someone uses a disability slur. But the way this was handled is just pissing me off on multiple levels.

So a politician named Rahm Emanuel decided to insult a bunch of political activists by calling them “fucking retarded” when they didn’t agree with him on something.

Then when he realized this was going to get out, he called Tim Shriver (CEO of the Special Olympics) to apologize. This apology was apparently accepted. Newspapers are calling this an apology to the disability community.

Here’s where my brain’s starting to stall on me coming up with the language for it.

He didn’t apologize to the people the insult was aimed at.

Argh brain splitting up into pieces.

He apologized to Tim Shriver only because Tim Shriver has power and political clout and could have made his life difficult. Not for any other reason.

The slurs “retard” and “retarded” are used mostly on people with (all sorts of) developmental disabilities. If he were going to apologize to the people the terms are actually used on, he would have apologized to one or more of us, or all of us collectively.

Worse, Tim Shriver has no authority whatsoever to accept apologies on behalf of even one of us, let alone the whole of us collectively. He doesn’t even have a developmental disability, he just runs one of those primarily “of the nondisabled, for the disabled” sorts of organizations. While nobody can speak for all of us, if he’d really wanted to apologize to us, he could have started with apologizing to the heads of self-advocacy organizations. Even they couldn’t accept apologies on behalf of entire communities, but they’re closer to it than Tim Shriver is. (And why is it that when people think of DD people their minds always jump to Special Olympics?) And yet the newspapers seem to be totally buying it without even questioning. HELLO EVERYONE, WE’RE OUT HERE! REALLY!

This is just multiple layers of wrongness all piled up on top of each other. If I’ve missed one of the layers, it’s because this is really stretching my brain to write this and it hurts. Suffice to say, there haven’t been any genuine apologies going on here, to anybody. But if it’s wrong to use a slur and you genuinely want to apologize, then you have to apologize to the people the slur refers to (and directly to us, not to the most powerful person you can think of who “works with” us but isn’t one of us), as well as the people you used it on. No matter what you think of either group, if it’s wrong to use a slur then you can’t just throw a half-assed apology vaguely in the direction of someone sort-of-connected (but not actually a member) to one of the groups in question and just leave it at that.

About Mel Baggs

Hufflepuff. Came from the redwoods. Crochet or otherwise create constantly and compulsively. Write poetry and paint when I can. Physically and cognitively disabled. Anything you hear in the media or gossip is likely to be oversimplified at best and wildly inaccurate at worst, the only way to get to know me is to actually know me. I'm not really part of any online faction or another, even ones that claim me as a member. The thing in the world most important to me is having love and compassion for other people, although I don't always measure up to my own standards there by a longshot. And individual specific actions and situations and contexts matter a lot more to me than broadly-spoken abstract words and ideas about a topic. My father died a couple years ago and that has changed my life a lot in ways that are still evolving, but I wear a lot of his clothes and hats every day since he died and have shown no sign of stopping soon.

7 responses »

  1. This is unsurprising. Both he and Governor Quinn have done practically everything they can to cut funding for the poor/elderly/disabled under the aegis that Illinois is broke/the economy is bad/what have you, and not address any of the real problems – overspending on pork barrel projects, the horribly underfunded pension plan, and the state’s good ol’ friend, corruption.

    It’s all about the blame game.

  2. Dear All, I’m afraid I don’t know as much as should about my state’ situation, except that we’ve been at something like #49 or so in mental-health and disability funding which is quite a shame, though I’ve been focused on the national situation a lot. I think they should leave Medicare, etc. alone and cut the Pentagon budget instead, and stop giving breaks to the ultra-rich. I think some of them still hate Pres. Roosevelt, from 70-some years ago, who initiated the Social Security, as you know. I think he was one of the best Presidents we had.

  3. You’re right—this is terrible, because it doesn’t respect our community; rather, it keeps us as invisible as we have already been. Apologising to Tim Shriver makes Emanuel look ‘good’—if he looks like a dick in front of Tim Shriver, there goes some of his poitical clout. He’ll look less like an ‘ally’ if he doesn’t apologise to someone in a position of power like Tim Shriver. But if he does apologise to the disability community as a whole, he gains nothing from it. Entirely cynical power-play.

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