Letter to the Editor: Inclusion is anything but a buzz word

I didn’t think much of this whole “anti-woke” business as it seems everything from Mr. Potato Head, Sesame Street, vegetarian sausages, and M&Ms are fodder for the Far-Right and their never-ending petty grievances. Unfortunately, I do have to get loud when inclusion and diversity gets caught in the crossfire of all the nonsense. Now bookshelves have been cleared for review and books such as All Are Welcome and The Sneetches have been banned. Candance Owens lamented on her show that she didn’t feel she should be forced to see a woman in a wheelchair in an ad. Calls for cuts to Medicaid are becoming louder. And closer to home, a mother suggested to me on social media that a disabled child shouldn’t have equal access to education if it interferes with her able child getting the best education. Inclusion is just a “buzz word” she stated.

Let me assure you inclusion is anything but a “buzz word” when you are the one being excluded. I am reminded of Geraldo Rivera walking through Willowbrook State School in 1972 giving the world a glimpse of the horrid living conditions of the disabled. I think of the movie Radio (based on a true account) where a disabled child was kept under a porch like a dog in the 1950s. Finally, I am reminded of the T4 Euthanasia Program initiated by Nazi Germany after a similar anti-woke propaganda campaign was initiated in the 1930s.

Believe it or not, there was a point in American history where we looked upon all of this and said, “This is not right. We can do better.” In 1975 President Gerald Ford signed into law the Education for All Handicapped Children Act (IDEA), and in 1990 George H.W. Bush signed the American Disabilities Act (ADA) into law. Just the simplest act of widening a door and creating an accessible sidewalk opened the world up for a disabled person. The idea that that a disabled child could go to school and learn or go on a field trip with their peers and be accepted was realized. It is not only the disabled that are positively impacted by inclusion either. I am reminded of a book I recently read, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? By Philip K. Dick. In the book the only way to detect an android from a human was an empathy test. Humans found empathy to be the most valuable attribute one could have. That book was published in 1968.

There was a reason we valued inclusion and diversity. It was based on past lessons learned. The perceived minor grievances of those that have no concept of what it means to be excluded have no idea of the harm they cause. The first blow came when President Donald Trump signed H.R. 620 ADA Education and Reform Act in 2017, and the culture of excluding others has only grown from there. It is now becoming preferable to some. Let us end it here. We can do better.

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Kathy Wickman

Quincy