Who Shall Remain Nameless: The Othering of PWD

Julie Petty.

Ricardo Thornton.

These are the names of the self-advocates who joined Special Olympics CEO Shriver and others in asking Rahm Emanuel to apologise for his use of the R Word, and to join the R-Word campaign (the original R-Word campaign is here).

But you’ll be hard pressed to find that info in most of the papers. They’ve been erased. Relegated to “other…”.

A P.S., at best.

What we’re hearing, instead, is that Emanuel apologised to Shriver, and Shriver accepted his apology. A few examples:

LA Times:

[Emanuel] apologized and met privately this week with half a dozen advocates for people with disabilities, including Timothy Shriver, chairman and chief executive of the Special Olympics.

HuffPo (who also published “Rage Against Rahm Was, Well, “Retarded”“, by a “humourist”):

Special Olympics Chairman and CEO Timothy Shriver personally accepted an apology from White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel on Wednesday, days after comments surfaced in which Emanuel used the word “retarded” to describe a proposal made by a group of liberal Democrats.

According to a joint statement from Shriver and five other disability advocates who attended a meeting at the White House, Emanuel “sincerely apologized for his mistake and the pain it caused in our community.”

ABC News:

After the Journal story was published, Emanuel called Special Olympics Chairman and CEO Timothy Shriver to apologize.

Shriver and four other advocates for the disabled community will meet with Emanuel at the White House at 2:00 PM tomorrow, Wednesday February 3, 2010.

New York Times:

Mr. Emanuel apologized to Tim Shriver, the CEO of the Special Olympics, but today went one step further, by meeting for about 30 minutes in his West Wing office with Mr. Shriver and other advocates, including leaders of groups like The American Association of People with Disabilities and The Arc, which changed its name nearly 20 years ago from the Association for Retarded Citizens.

Washington Post:

In a statement after an afternoon meeting at the White House, Shriver and five other disability rights advocates said Emanuel had “sincerely apologized” for the earlier comment during a strategy meeting, which was reported in the Wall Street Journal.

Disability Scoop:

Special Olympics CEO Tim Shriver, Andrew Imparato of the American Association of People with Disabilities and Peter Berns, CEO of The Arc of the United States, were invited to the White House meeting. Two self-advocates and a parent advocate are also expected to attend.

Telegraph UK:

After a White House meeting, Mr Emanuel apologised to Tim Shriver, head of the Special Olympics, and other advocates for the mentally disabled.

The exceptions: The Wall Street Journal, and CBS. Kudos.

5 thoughts on “Who Shall Remain Nameless: The Othering of PWD

  1. Thank you so much for posting this.

    In the realm of fail, I especially enjoyed (*note sarcasm*) that the New York Times felt it was important to talk about the name change of The Arc, which happened 20 years ago, but that it was not important to include the names of the self advocates.

  2. Thank you for drawing attention to this silencing, which is sadly almost universal towards people with developmental disability labels. Lucy Gwin, who spearheaded an outstanding rabble-rousing disability-rights magazine called MOUTH, suggested that the best new name for “folks like us” was “the dislabeled.”

    This is one of the reasons why activists have targeted the elimination of the “r-word.”
    The negative valence of the epithet has splashed even more stigma backwards on the people who have been so labeled. News organizations don’t notice how odd it is that they have omitted the names of some of those in attendance, because they’re those people. We don’t mention those people; they don’t have names or histories.

    There’s one more factor, at least in the U.S. In the past decade the government has enacted Privacy Rules regarding health care information. Because our lives have been medicalized, some important information about us is covered by these guidelines. These HIPAA guidelines are famously difficult to understand. For example, the list of people who use paratransit buses in our city is a “medical record”—coincidentally, this makes it more difficult to organize riders for better service. I think that the societal touchiness about HIPAA records may also be feeding into the silencing of names like Julie Petty and Ricardo Thornton.

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