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An Open Letter to Tom Segura, From a Mother of a Child With Down Syndrome

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In today’s environment, it seems that some people are trying to rebel against political correctness. Some would argue that people are overly sensitive and have lost their sense of humor. In some cases I would agree. However, this is not the case regarding your stand up, “Disgraceful.”

You try and defend the use of the R-word. You’re upset that you need to replace it with “that’s not smart.” Then, you take it a step further. You then replace it with, “Your idea has an extra 21st chromosome” — directly attacking individuals with Down syndrome.

Have you ever met someone with Down syndrome? Have you seen what they go through? Have you seen how they live their lives?

Individuals with Down syndrome are survivors. Many have endured open-heart surgeries, various medical complications, endless hours of therapy, bullying, being put down by people like you.

They work hard to achieve their goals — and they do achieve them! What is so bad about that? Just because it takes someone more time to do certain tasks or they might not always articulate properly does not mean they are not smart.

Have you met Karen Gaffney, who swam across the English Channel? Chelsea Werner who dazzles us with her amazing gymnastic abilities? The many business owners who are channeling their creativity and passions into profitable ventures — bakers, chefs, designers, artists, actors and more? Anyone with Down syndrome who is just living and loving life?

People with Down syndrome are humans. Their feelings get hurt. They get frustrated when people talk to them like they are babies. (Check out the “Not Special Needs” video — now that is clever!)

They are just trying to live their life, making a contribution to society; just like everyone else. Just like you. Correction — they are better than you. They take hits from people like you, trying to make a quick buck, and they rise up, dust off and continue to show how amazing they are.

I first began writing this letter hoping to reach out to you, show you why your words are so hurtful. However, I see that you are just seeking shock value to try and increase your popularity, trying to cash in on today’s hateful culture. I was hopeful that next time you use the phrase, “your idea has an extra 21st chromosome,” you would use it to describe an idea that is powerful and strong. But judging by your reactions to everyone who has spoken up, you won’t.

So instead, we’ll try and teach others that it’s not okay to use the R-word — and that it’s no longer profitable either. We’ll contact Netflix, asking them to take down your show. We’ll write to any talk/radio show host who might be thinking of bringing you on. We won’t stop until there is an end to the R-word.

Have you heard of “Spread the Word to End the Word?”

As a side note, you say you don’t support the arguments of why we shouldn’t use that word? It’s because in the past it was used as a medical diagnosis — the same word you use to describe something that is not smart. We are trying to break away from that stigma because individuals with Down syndrome are smart, and they are capable, and if given the chance they will show you that. They have been marginalized and segregated for too long, and now is the time we stand up with them and give them their place in this world.

One last reality check, Tom. What happens if you and your wife, Christina, decide to have another child? What happens if that child is diagnosed with Down syndrome? What happens if your son, Ellis, when he grows up has a child with Down syndrome? I’ll tell you what happens. You’d love that baby. He would become your pride and joy. You would cherish him and he would completely take over your heart. Then, you would look down in shame, wishing you could take back your words.

A version of this post first appeared on Down2Dream.

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Originally published: January 19, 2018
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