So, there's this meme going around. Lots of friends have shared it, many of whom have links to the disability community. It goes something like: Don't argue with people online. Do you know that kid in school who always ate paste? You're probably arguing with that kid.
And every time I see it, I feel a mild punch to my gut. I have a child with ID/DD, and she has a condition known as pica, which means eating non-food items. It feels like a swipe at my kid and people like her.
Now, I know that isn't what the meme is supposed to convey AT ALL. I get it: making fun of people we disagree with is super fun and has almost become the national pastime now that we've had to give up professional sports. Most of the folks I've seen where this meme are loving and kind, and many actually work with people with disabilities.
Here's the thing; disdain for people with ID/DD is so woven into the fabric of our society that we are going to be plucking to the threads for years. The sad fact is that we have been conditioned to believe having less than average intelligence is just about the worst thing in the world. When we want to insult and wound, we invoke the short bus, the special class, and the paste eaters.
People with intellectual disabilities are integral parts of their families and communities. They perform vital roles and are loved and valued. The next time you feel compelled to fling an insult, try not to bring them into it. Maybe (and I know this is a wild idea, and probably a whole separate blog post) try not insulting the person AT ALL, and instead focus on the idea you object to.
Maybe you can start a conversation. Maybe you can change a heart.
I am continually in the process of finding these biases within myself and exorcising them. There was a time when I might have laughed and shared that meme myself. So I don't necessarily see that meme and think the person who shared it is hateful and mean. I just think they're wrong.
And I feel a punch to my gut.