I get to hear some pretty awesome stories about special needs advocacy thanks to Twitter, my Facebook newsfeed, trusty old Google alerts and some of my favourite Internet-obsessed online editors.
Some of my recent favourites include Conner and Cayden Long, 2012’s Sportskids of the Year and the family that took a horrible, hate-filled act and turned it into an amazing lesson for the world.
And I’m sure that many of you have heard the most recent story about a Houston waiter, Michael Garcia, who became a symbol of advocacy and inclusion after defending five-year-old Milo (who has Down syndrome) and his family. Michael refused to serve a patron who said, “Special needs children need to be special somewhere else” before proceeding to move to a table that was further away.
This patron has been called ignorant in multiple blog posts and online comments. But here’s the thing: I don’t think he is ignorant. Ignorant means a lack of knowledge or awareness. This guy was neither of those things. He is a bigot, he is prejudiced, he is a jerk. I mean, come on: “Special needs children need to be special somewhere else.” Can anyone else see a scary and sad reference to segregation here?
So, thank you, Michael Garcia. You’ve proven to me that, once again, decency will prevail, which gives me hope and allows me to carry on with optimism. Thank you to the parents at the park who treat Syona like every other two-year-old terror. Thank you to the people who refuse to use the “r-word” as a synonym for stupid. And thanks to those of you who encourage others to stop using the r-word.
I believe that diversity is beautiful — in every form. I love the fact that my daughter will grow up with friends from different cultures, with different abilities, with a number of different preferences and orientations. I hope that she will grow up to be a loving, optimistic child who values diversity as much as we do. And I hope she grows up to be like the Michael Garcia’s of the world and defends against those who seek to spread hate.
What do you think?