I love a good meme.
I have read some memes that have made me cry HARD with laughter.
And then there are some that just break my heart.
Recently, on a meme page that I usually love, I saw a meme that I normally love and share around to my friends posted an extremely hurtful meme.
Seeing it felt like I had just been slapped in the face. My cheeks were hot. My eyes were salty. My heart started racing.
In the meme, a famous cartoon character is edited to have the markers of Down Syndrome. The character is pretending to have Down Syndrome so that they can park in a handicapped parking space to go to brunch, hungover.
I don’t even know where to begin, the ignorance, or the unkindness?
Let’s start with the unkindness.
The people who made this meme did not consider the hundreds of followers that they would hurt. Or maybe they did? The people who know and love Nicholas alone are in the hundreds. And that’s just one guy! There are thousands of people with Down Syndrome in this country alone. They must have meant to offend all of us, right?
And for the ignorance.
People with Down Syndrome can drive, but don’t necessarily need a handicapped parking space. Those spaces are reserved for people who aren’t able to take many steps, or need assistance with mobility. I know that there are many people with developmental disabilities that are in better shape than me and can walk from a much farther parking spaces. Surely they are in better shape than people who do nothing but sit behind a computer and share hate all over the internet (okay, that was mean, but I’m venting. I can get a little salty when it comes to protecting my kid). It is the same for people with Down Syndrome as it is for people without it. If you need assistance walking, you get to park closer. The end.
People with Down syndrome can get a handicap parking sticker, depending on the state, due to the hypotonia (low muscle tone) related to it, but it is not considered the norm. Either way, I have no idea what Down Syndrome has to do with that joke.
Before you make fun of someone with a developmental disability, recognize that you haven’t developed kindness and acceptance yet, so your development isn’t rock solid either.
Everyone is different. That’s what makes humans so beautiful. This is why kindness and acceptance is my #1 curriculum priority as a teacher. Wherever my students end up in life, I just want them to be kind people who accept others from all walks of life.
Look, I know it by now. This is the name of the game. I am a parent of a child with special needs. I am going to be hurt by things that I see that make fun of or attack someone with Down Syndrome. But, this is the only thing that I know how to do to help stop it. I haven’t found a problem in life that can’t be solved with education. So, the more we educate people, the better chance we have of halting acts of unkindness.
I eternally dread the day where my son is pursuing the internet, minding his own business, and sees something like this. As much as I try to raise him to be unbothered by hurtful people, I have to wonder if he will still fall victim to this. I have to do what I can to protect him. I have to!
Send this post to anyone you see that posts a hurtful meme. Maybe they need to hear it from a mom.
Disclaimer: If your instinct tells you to comment on this post defending the meme, please do not bother. I will delete it so fast you will wonder if the post worked. Sorry.
My page my rules.
Side note: I waited a full 24 hours to unfollow the page. I needed to see that people were commenting and unfollowing. I needed to see people stand together for this. Don’t worry. They did. I had some restored faith after that.