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To Reed Hastings, CEO of Netflix, From a Parent of a Child With Down Syndrome

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Dear Reed Hastings,

I am a Netflix customer and shareholder and am delighted by both experiences. I am writing in my capacity as a father and member of society about troubling content recently produced and promoted by Netflix.

Specifically, I am referring to the “Tom Segura: Disgraceful” comedy routine that mocks intellectual disability and implicitly promotes the use of word “retard” and “retarded” in reference to individuals with intellectual disabilities, and specifically, Down syndrome, the most common chromosomal condition which impacts 400,000 Americans.

“R*tard” is a hateful and demeaning insult that has largely faded from popular use, only to be reintroduced into the consciousness of thousands of Netflix viewers under the guise of comedy.

I share my family holiday card so you can see the faces of those directly impacted by this. My daughter, Ellie, is thriving with Down syndrome. Imagine trying to comfort Ellie when someone, emboldened by Tom Segura’s routine, calls her a “r*tard.” Imagine trying to counsel Ellie’s brothers on how to respond when someone says “that’s so r*tarded” or slights their sister. Or imagine explaining to Ellie’s younger sister what “r*tard” means when she overhears someone tease her big sister.

Four Bowerman children

Tom Segura’s insults are in direct conflict with Netflix’s “Real Values” published on Netflix’s Culture webpage. There is an entire section of values devoted to “Inclusion.” Among them is, “You intervene if someone else is being marginalized.”

Tom Segura, and Netflix by extension, has marginalized 400,000 Americans and their families.

You are what you create. As CEO, shouldn’t you hold Netflix produced content to the same values as you aspire to hold your employees? If not, your complicity in this double standard will degrade the corporate culture in the eyes of the thousands of Netflix employees who have family members with intellectual disabilities.

I ask you as the architect and defender of Netflix’s culture to intervene. To intervene by pulling “Tom Segura: Disgraceful.”

Thank you for your time.


Bret Bowerman

A version of this post first appeared on Medium.

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Originally published: February 5, 2018
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