This letter was written by John Franklin Stephens as a response to Ann Coulter's use of the R-word in one of her tweets during the presidential debate. Her comment has generated quite a bit of attention, although fortunately it has not been for her. John Franklin is getting it all. Nothing could make me more proud than seeing the evolution of one ignorant comment. People are listening to John, respecting him, and are impressed with his ability to articulate his feelings so maturely into words. My response would not have been so kind. He is such a grown up.
I bring this article to your attention for many reasons. Some of which are to highlight the abilities of individuals with DS. Their capacity to have their feelings tarnished, but also to respond with grace and maturity to a hurtful stereotype. How John demonstrated he could rise above the limitations that some may perceive to be placed on him by participating in the Special Olympics, also, his very well written letter to Coulter. And, finally, to raise awareness on how individuals with DS feel about the R-word.
I am not going to preach here about how you are a terrible person if you say it or have said it. I'm not going to judge you or think you are ignorant if you say it or have said it.
I have said it. I will stop saying it!!! Simple.
One problem is that it is so commonly accepted in society to say it, we don't even notice we have said it. The second problem is that it is hurtful. It is hurtful to those who may be categorized as being, according to John Franklin, "dumb and shallow." It is hurtful to those who love someone who might be considered "dumb and shallow."
My request here is simple...keep this is mind. That's it...don't be ashamed or get defensive that you have said it. Simply, keep it in mind.
This letter makes me proud...
An Open Letter to Ann Coulter
The following is a guest post in the form of an open letter from Special Olympics athlete and global messenger John Franklin Stephens to Ann Coulter after this tweet during last night’s Presidential debate.
Dear Ann Coulter,
Come on Ms. Coulter, you aren’t dumb and you aren’t shallow. So why are you continually using a word like the R-word as an insult?
I’m a 30 year old man with Down syndrome who has struggled with the public’s perception that an intellectual disability means that I am dumb and shallow. I am not either of those things, but I do process information more slowly than the rest of you. In fact it has taken me all day to figure out how to respond to your use of the R-word last night.
I thought first of asking whether you meant to describe the President as someone who was bullied as a child by people like you, but rose above it to find a way to succeed in life as many of my fellow Special Olympians have.
Then I wondered if you meant to describe him as someone who has to struggle to be thoughtful about everything he says, as everyone else races from one snarkey sound bite to the next.
Finally, I wondered if you meant to degrade him as someone who is likely to receive bad health care, live in low grade housing with very little income and still manages to see life as a wonderful gift.
Because, Ms. Coulter, that is who we are – and much, much more.
After I saw your tweet, I realized you just wanted to belittle the President by linking him to people like me. You assumed that people would understand and accept that being linked to someone like me is an insult and you assumed you could get away with it and still appear on TV.
I have to wonder if you considered other hateful words but recoiled from the backlash.
Well, Ms. Coulter, you, and society, need to learn that being compared to people like me should be considered a badge of honor.
No one overcomes more than we do and still loves life so much.
Come join us someday at Special Olympics. See if you can walk away with your heart unchanged.
A friend you haven’t made yet, John Franklin Stephens Global Messenger Special Olympics Virginia
EDITOR’S NOTE: John has previously written powerful opinion pieces on the R-word. Read one here.