Whatever the future holds for Joan Rivers, who may have experienced brain damage during surgery, she will always be an exceptional human being deserving of equal rights and perceived moral value.
To put it another way, contrary to some stories describing her potential health outcome, she will never be a carrot. Carrots are vegetables, human beings never are.
We need to stop using the V-word to describe our brothers and sisters with profound cognitive disabilities. That word is just as bigoted as the N-word for people of sub Saharan African descent, the K word for Jews, or the C-word for women. From my piece, “That Unrepentant Bigotry:”
Many of our brothers and sisters remain the victims of a pervasive but nearly invisible bigotry—and indeed subjected continually to profoundly demeaning and hateful characterizations—mostly without social protest, cultural opprobrium, or even notice by the usual enforcers of cultural comity. Indeed, the “hate speakers” may even be applauded or their denigration either not noticed or ignored, perhaps because the denigrators are often themselves unaware that they have engaged in hurtful rhetoric.
Ironically, this still-discriminated-against group is also our most diverse. Its membership comes in all races, ages, nationalities, genders, sexual orientations, and any other human identifier one can conjure. In fact, if not already within this scorned cadre, any one of us could become a member at any time, and all of us have—or had—loved ones who could be so identified.
So, who are these despised unfortunates? People with profound cognitive disabilities and catastrophically debilitating diseases, against whom it remains respectable to employ profoundly demeaning descriptives both in public discourse, public policy advocacy, and private conversation.
I am often amazed that in a time when a football team is pressured from the highest levels of political leadership and ubiquitously in the media to change its name because it is offensive to Native Americans, that so many have no compunction whatsoever using the hurtful and inaccurate V-word epithet to characterize the most defenseless among us.
Yet, it is just as demeaning to the intrinsic human dignity as racial and sexist slurs. We need some serious consciousness raising.