An Open Letter to Laural Scholl

posted Tuesday May 14th, 2013

Dear Laural,

I was busy getting my kids ready for school this morning and missed your post on the phxfoodnerds message board, in response to the Amy’s Baking Company craziness. A friend sent it to me. I hear it’s been taken off the board, and I applaud Dominic Armato, who runs phxfoodnerds, for doing that, but I’m going to share what my friend sent me here (I confirmed you wrote it) because I think people need to see it. Here’s what you wrote:

“”Don’t argue with people on the internet. It’s like winning the Special Olympics. You may get the gold medal, but you’re still a r*tard.” It’s an offensive statement, but the gist is accurate.”

At first I wanted to call you names without asterisks and rant a lot about this, but then I realized that I’d be feeding into the Amy’s Baking Company — and, indeed, overall internet — situation. There’s no need for histrionics from me, because what you wrote says it all.

Quite often, people use the word “retarded” around me. The worst part is the split second after they realize they’ve said it and so desperately want to take it back. I don’t love it, but I do understand. Sadly the word has slipped into our collective vocabulary.

But when people use it with purpose and forethought, that really bugs me. I could list some other examples (I’ve certainly got them) but really, yours is so much worse than any I’ve seen in a long time (compounded by the alleged self-awareness that follows, that just makes it worse) that they’d pale in comparison.

Laural, I’d love to say I’ll be able to forget about what you wrote — and I know you are probably really glad Dominic took it down, but as much as what you said might bother you, it bothers me way more. I won’t be able to think about Special Olympics again for a long time without thinking of you.

And that’s too bad, because I don’t get to choose whether or not I think about Special Olympics.

I don’t have a face to put with your name, but I’d like to give you one to put with my name: the face of my daughter, Sophie. Sophie is 10. She has Down syndrome. Depending on which test results you believe, she’s a retard. And this year, she competed in Special Olympics for her second time.

Sophie won a handful of medals in both cheerleading and track. It was wonderful. And heartbreaking. Any parent who tells you that Special Olympics doesn’t come with its own exquisite pain is a liar. But after a while, I can sort of fool myself, welcome the new normal, accept it for both the good (and there is a lot of good, I’m not asking for pity here, or to trade Sophie in) and bad.

Then I read something like what you wrote — and it’s back to square one. I’m reminded of just what Special Olympics is and who it’s for. Sophie can win a gold medal, but she’s still a retard.

Laural, I’d like to say that I’d love to invite you to come over to my house and see Sophie, maybe come to a Special Olympics event sometime and really understand what it’s all about and how simultaneously awesome and horrible the whole thing can be. But to be honest, I’m not interested in meeting you, or having you meet Sophie.

I do have one question:

If you know it’s an offensive comment, why write it in the first place, particularly in reference to the hate-filled, crazy fights on the Internet?

I hear you’re a nice person, so I’m guessing you’re asking yourself the same thing.

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Tags: Filed under: Down syndrome by Amysilverman

6 Responses to “An Open Letter to Laural Scholl”

  1. Remember when I once told you the r-word was not all that troublesome to this DS parent? Maybe it was my generation, or scientist inclination. Well, this episode, interpreted through your viewpoint, did it. Yep. Our kids can do so well, but ….


  2. Thank you Amy

  3. Sophie is one of the coolest people I know, little or big. I suspect that Laural, who I don’t know, would not make that august list.

  4. Knowing Sophie even only to the casual extent that I do, I’m aware that I can never think of her as less than, only different from. Nobody would choose to have Down syndrome or to have a child with it, but that doesn’t make it a “bad” thing. That’s why using it to describe the kind of stupid behavior that’s just infuriating is offensive, in my opinion.

    But then I have to ask myself why I feel it’s more okay for me to get so impatient or judgmental sometimes when a less disabled person doesn’t understand something (and not just on the Internet). I don’t really want to be the person who reacts that way. As someone I think we’re both quite fond of says, “Most people are doing the best they can.” Sigh. I guess we just try to enable and encounter as many epiphanies as we can.

  5. Dear Laural:
    I happen to know a little girl who, like you, was born with a hole in her heart. But hers was fixable. I feel sorry for you.

  6. How Laural responded to this incident is, to me, what would define her as a “nice person” or not. We all make mistakes, although this one was pretty calculated.
    I don’t know, I just don’t know.

    If someone made a comment like that on my blog, I wouldn’t just delete their comment, I’d ban them but that’s just me.

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