Thanks Ann Coulter for Your Help

As I watch ESPN's 30 in 30 special Ghosts of Ole Miss about the University of Mississippi's 1962 football team and the integration of their campus with the admission of James Meredith as its first black student, I find it an appropriate time to identify the parallels between the elimination of racism and ableism. Rebel QB Brian Boyd '64 says "he's appalled we treated another human being that way."

Of course we've come a long way from the intense hatred and the real end of the civil war with the signing of the Civil Rights Act, but no one can say racism has ended. Kimberly Dandridge, an African American female, is the first of her race to be the (current) Student Body president of Ole Miss. She talks of how one individual denounced her with a racial slur. She goes on to say "I refuse to let one person define this campus." It was noted that he later apologized.

Last week Ann Coulter referenced the President as the r-word. You don't know the r-word? You do know what an n-bomb is, don't you. Of course you wouldn't use it to describe a person. And for the sad few who may still use it, I know you wouldn't say it out loud in public and any civil, decent person doesn't have it in their vocabulary. I know my children have NEVER said it and am certain they never will. That's what happens over time. We learn what discrimination is, how our ancestors (probably) did it, and how wrong it is. But back to Coulter. You see, Ms. Coulter had no thought to use the r-word in referencing the President. Before you shed this aside thinking it's a political piece, I know she uses it in reference to many people she feels 'act' a certain way, she just happened to use it during a presidential campaign and someone gave her a mouthpiece. And the use (and abuse) of this word certainly crosses party lines.

Now we've learned over time that terms such as colored and Negro were no longer appropriate, so I'd like to try and give leeway to those who still are learning that certain language is inappropriate when it has direct reference to a person with a disability. You mean there's more? It's called Person First language, and it's time we learned it. Did you know that moron, imbecile, and idiot were once acceptable terms to describe a person with an intellectual disability? This has replaced mental retardation as the term used as a diagnosis (now you know what the r-word is). How about when we say someone is crazy, nuts, schizo, or psycho. I have family and friends who have a mental health condition (we prefer this over mental illness), and use of slang relative to their condition is demeaning and only leads to more stigmatization. You want more? My son has spastic quadriplegia cerebral palsy. Ever use the word spastic in describing yourself? Are you really?

You see, once you learn that a term is not acceptable, you respect the wishes of the demographic and you don't use it. But here's where ableism is still in its fledgling stage. What is it? It's discrimination based on disability. Many people unknowingly do it, and the most common way is inappropriate language. But here's where Coulter exemplifies a race of people that no one wants association with. See, after her senseless comment, she was chastised by many people, including a powerful letter by Dylan Stableford, that simply asks for respect by not using derogatory terms. Her response to that article (and countless others who lambasted her) "screw them, I'm still going to use that term." Yes, screw them! Really Ann? As actor Jane Lynch says in the very direct commercial about the term "the r-word is the same as every minority slur, treat it that way and don't use it."

Now even the Ole Miss student had the maturity to realize the error of his ways when he apologized to Ms. Dandridge a few months ago. Hello Ann, it's time to grow up. My kids get it, their friends get it. Ableism is an ugly thing. It is oppression just as what occurred on the campus in Oxford, MI 40 years ago (and MANY other places). Certainly you wouldn't deny a student of color admission to a segregated university, would you Ann? Or would you?

Those 'them' our my colleagues, peers, family members and friends. They are YOUR colleagues, peers, co-workers, and possibly family members. If you see past the disability, then they are probably your friends. Reach out, don't fear disability, embrace difference (because we're all different, aren't we?).

Ann Coulter is not my America, and with the disabled population representing the largest minority in the country (one in five Americans) and every family affected by it sometime in their life, I'd say you're in the minority, the vast minority. Anyone still standing by her side?

For more on Person first language open the link on the resources page.