As a microbrew lover and mother of a child with Down syndrome, there are a few important things to point out about Special Ed’s Brewery’s controversial language and marketing.
On the Special Ed’s Brewery Facebook page, one of the owners posted, “I never wanted the intent to be that I’m insensitive or some of the horrid things I’ve been called today”. Get in line. Horrid name-calling is soul damaging. That is why this brewery’s choices are inappropriate, unacceptable, and horrifying.
Using slurs against any group is unacceptable. Period.
People with intellectual disabilities have been called names and treated as sub-human for countless generations. That must stop. Freedom of Speech is not freedom of hate speech, and these beer names perpetuate derogatory behavior and language. How could I order a “One, Two, Twee” without ridiculing a person with a speech disorder? Or a “Back of the Bus” Brown Ale without being a bigot? And how exactly is “’tard tested, ‘tard approved” supposed to be a compliment? If you can answer that, I might just buy you a beer, but certainly not anything served at Special Ed’s Brewery if they ever open.
It is not funny, charming, tongue-in-cheek cute, or adorable. If you would like help naming beers, check out the fabulous “lighthearted, feel-good”
beers around the country with fabulous names like “Hopdish” named for Minnesota’s famous regional “hotdishes” from Liftbridge Brewery in Stillwater, Minn. Head to Beaver Island Brewery in Saint Cloud, Minn. Yes. Beaver Island. It’s named for Beaver Island in the Mississippi River. Cute. Adorable and delicious. Or head to Bakersfield, California, and have Temblor Brewing Company’s Six Six One, adorably located in the 661 area code. Try one. Try all three. They are great. Not one of these delicious brews needed to bully for beer-lovers to enjoy them. Their hops speak for themselves.
The national trend of bullying people with disabilities is appalling. This is a horrible business plan, clearly, but it says more about the times we find ourselves in than we might like. When actors, comedians and politicians use people with disabilities as the butt of their jokes or to get a reaction from a crowd, we must pay attention and act. We are responsible for demanding their attention and their corrective action.
This brewery made a horrible choice, but, perhaps, it could be an opportunity. There is no reason why good cannot come from this. One of the reasons bullying occurs is lack of exposure. Segregated classrooms, where children with disabilities are removed from the rest of the world, remove the opportunity for interaction for typically-developing peers. If you are not raised with diversity, you may not learn that it is an essential part of the human experience. You can choose to learn later, as I chose to do, but the easiest way to fix this problem is to include all learners in the world starting at birth. No segregation.
Derogatory language allows people to continue deceiving themselves by thinking this language is benign. It is not.
It hurts. It damages. It separates. It shapes how we think. How we use language says more about us than it says about those we disparage.
Please do not misunderstand, this is not a matter of political correctness. It is a matter of humanity. No one accidentally bullies and degrades others. It is a choice.
We have a choice. I choose kindness. I choose inclusion. And I choose to vote. What do you choose?
California Down Syndrome Advocacy Coalition, Co-chair