March 2, 2005


The last segment of society to deal with the onslaught of insensitivity has to be the mentally and physically challenged. As the single mom of a child with cerebral palsy, I often struggle with the ambivalency of swirling angst. The mother in me comforts and nurtures her, the advocate in me fights for her medical, scholastic, therapy, social and emotional needs, yet society would rather I just hid her from its incessant illusion of "perfection" or "normalcy".

Being her primary caregiver leaves me with very little social life, but last month I attended a play that was adapted from one of my favorite novelists, Eric J. Dickey. "Friends and Lovers" ironically was the 1st novel that I had read of his. My best friend was adamant about getting me out of the house, so this "treat" was going to whisk me away from my daily life. Or so I thought.

After the play, I felt the need to write this letter to the producers.

Dear Producers:
I attended the Feb
17th performance last night . It was thoroughly enjoyable. The sets were
amazing, the scene changes seamless, the audio was A+, & the writing, music
and performances top notch.
However, my only criticism relates to ONE joke
in the show. There is a reference to a character that dated a "RETARDED" girl
and several "RETARDED" jokes. I am the mother to a child with cerebral palsy and
developmental delays, (the new PC term for retarded). Please be mindful that
this segment of our population still struggles for acceptance and placing them
up for ridicule and tasteless humor makes that transition harder.
I know
that it was just a joke, but the lingering sting of insensitivity is still
Perhaps you might add a character to one of your plays with a
physical disability to help with the societal perceptions. Give them the dignity
that they so richly deserve.
Remember, this is a group that may not be able
to speak for themselves.
God bless you all in your future endeavors. I look
forward to attending more of your productions in the future.
(Sepialove) <--inserted real name

PS. I thought of a positive spin to the joke. What if the character says: "You know I loved that girl." (HIM) "What happened with her?" (HER) "We broke up ... she said I wasn't BRIGHT enough to be with her!" (HIM)

That changes the context in a way that gives the "RETARDED"
girl the upper hand and creates more folly for the character he is pursuing.
Just a thought.

My friend thought I was being too sensitive at the time, but having a challenged person in her family made her almost immuned to the harshness of society's scrutiny. Maybe I am too close to this subject to see these and other "jokes" about "RETARDED" people. I really don't think so. I also jotted an email to Mr Dickey himself. No reply.

I did finally get a nice email back from the producer. Will he change the joke? I don't know. But my heart feel lighter for my efforts.

I am speaking for thousands of African American parents of children that have disabilities when I say that the messages that we send into the public arena are extremely critical as it relates to inclusion and acceptance of disabled individuals. I think I can rest easy tonight. Another battle will have to wait till later today.

Good night. ;)



Grace said...

As mentioned when we discussed this "blog" you made some very valid points which otherwise I may not have related too without reading your letter. In your entry you gave me the opportunity to "step into your shoes" and that gave me the insight to see your point. On another note I may have also made the comment "its just a joke" and while seeming like an innocent joke to the teller and some listeners there are others who have a life long struggle with these "jokes". When delivering certain messages one has to be extremely careful of the forum they use to tell these jokes, whom they may influence and also whom they may offend. They must also realize that any comment they make in a public forum will no doubt have a butterfly effect on a wide range of people and also must be aware of whether the effect they are going to have is positive or negative. I would hope the comments you made in your letter have a positive "butterfly effect" as it has had a positive influence starting here. Well Done!

EG said...

I floated over from Black Informant. Great site! Particularly enjoyed this post.

I shall bookmark and visit often. Keep up the good work and count me as a regular reader.

Sepialove said...

EG, Ty so much for comming bye. This is all so new to me, but I'm hooked!

Stay tuned. ;)


Sepialove said...

oops @ the typos