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Scholars, Teachers, and Advocates Say No to Trump
To Whom It May Concern:
We are a national group of educators and academics who advocate for those with disabilities. We invite members of our community to join us in condemning Donald Trump’s verbal and gestural rhetoric of hate, a rhetoric is especially dangerous in the wake of increasing violence and prejudice against America’s minoritized populations. In particular, we come together to denounce Trump’s use of juvenile and dangerous messages about disability.
In a recent and now infamous speech, Donald Trump mocked reporter Serge Kovalesky, who lives with arthrogryposis, a condition that affects joint movement.* When the presidential candidate shouted “This guy, you should see this guy,” and then flailed his arms in the air in a style that evokes for many of us painful memories of school yard bullies and short bus jokes, he showed the world not only an appalling lack of knowledge about difference, but also a failure of compassion that cannot be tolerated in one who seeks to represent an entire nation. He also replayed a rhetorical violence that disabled Americans live with on a daily basis.
Why is this important?
Both Trump and his campaign officials have responded by trying to claim that he “didn’t know the man was disabled,” but the evidence in that video is undeniable. In the video, the disgusting hand-flapping routine associated with stereotypes of the “spastic” and the “retard” was obviously an un-presidential, insensitive reaction aimed at shaming a disabled body. Whether or not he knew that the man had a physical disability is irrelevant, since he was still performing a cruel and ignorant caricature of disability. His cruel rhetoric not only denies dignity to all who are disabled and who struggle for public presence so that they may make their voices heard; it also reinforces trauma experienced by people who have already suffered various forms of abuse, and those with PTSD such as survivors and veterans. Coupled with his other well-documented instances of hateful speech and negative stereotyping aimed at women, immigrants, and ethnic, racial, and religious minorities, Trump’s shameless ableism renders disabled individuals with intersectional identities especially vulnerable to additional physical and rhetorical violence.
We all know that the Serge Kovalesky incident is only one small example of the kind of bullying hate speech from which Donald Trump has built a public platform. We write now to say that we must stand against his words and the harm they inflict. Not only do words matter, but they cause real harm to individuals and communities in this country. Donald Trump has already harmed so many vulnerable Americans with his dangerous words and actions. We must not allow such a man to assume our nation’s highest office.
Sara Biggs Chaney
Lecturer, Dartmouth College
Christina V. Cedillo
Assistant Professor, University of Houston-Clear Lake
Associate Professor, The Ohio State University
Associate Professor, University of Delaware
Professor of Practice, Tulane University
Professor of English, Emerita
N. Renuka Uthappa
Wayne State University
Marissa G Michael
First-Year Writing Program
Carnegie Mellon University
Patricia A. Dunn
Professor of English, Stony Brook University, New York
Lecturer, Penn State University
Associate Professor of English
University of Colorado-- Denver
Dev K. Bose
Assistant Professor of English
University of Arizona
Assistant Professor of English
Coordinator of Writing Across the Curriculum