Tuesday, September 25, 2012

T-shirts that slam kids with special needs: another disability WTF


This super-offensive, super-demeaning t-shirt is not from one of those sites that specializes in offensiveness. It's being sold online by Hastings, a multimedia entertainment store with 146 locations around the country; a mom of a child with special needs in Montana found it in her store. "We were able to have it pulled from shelves locally," she wrote to me on Facebook, "but since it is a national chain, we feel this might be a concern for all special needs parents and it might be in other stores."

Max rides a "short bus." Not once has he ever considered this to be shameful, or something to be ridiculed. Actually, he loves that mini yellow bus. Hastings powers-that-be, can you imagine how this t-shirt would make my child feel if he understood what it meant? And can you consider what sort of message you are spreading about children with special needs when you sell t-shirts like this?

FOR THE LOVE OF HUMANITY AND DECENCY I ASK:

• Who came up with the idea for this t-shirt in the first place?
• Who printed this t-shirt?
• Who from Hastings gave the green-light to purchase these t-shirts?
• Has any staffer or manager spoken up?
• Who the heck thinks this is actually even funny?

The t-shirt page says the shirt was released back in March of 2011. I have faith that once this comes to Hastings' attention, they will take it down online and remove it from stores.  RIGHT, HASTINGS?

Other reputable online companies have similarly offensive t-shirts, too, like this one on Zazzle (actually, they have 8 pages of shirts involving the word "retard"):


You can get "retard" mugs, buttons and bumper stickers, too (conversely, Zazzle also has a great selection of shirts that raise awareness about our kids). If you want to get really riled up, hit some of the sites that only sell crude, obscene and offensive shirts like Foul Mouth Shirts. I won't even mention what some of those shirts say.


If you'd like to get in touch with Hastings, speak your mind on the shirt's product page. Here's a link to Zazzle's Facebook page. Zazzle's press person is one Nikki Plati— press@zazzle.com. I'm just going to send her a link to this post. You can also tweet @GoHastings and @Zazzle.

Oh, and if you are new here and don't completely get why the word retard is offensive, watch this.

To me, the biggest question of all is: How is it possible for people to have such perverted mindsets against kids with special needs? How can you think making fun of them in this way is funny? That, I just don't understand—and you don't have to be a parent of a kid with special needs to wonder that.

9/26/2012 UPDATE: GoHastings has taken down the image of the t-shirt. No response from Zazzle.

1/14/2013 UPDATE: The above Zazzle t-shirt is no longer on the site, along with the many others that used to exist. While there is still a page titled "Retards T-shirts & Shirts," there appear to only be two shirts left using that word and no searchable mugs, buttons or bumper stickers with it. That's still two t-shirts too many, but an improvement.

38 comments:

  1. I'm utterly gobsmacked that ANYONE would think these were funny or suitable. *sigh* Starting to feel rather like Sisyphus any more.

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  2. I simply hate everyone right now. I was so proud to put my son on the short bus for the very first time today. :-(

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    1. My son loves riding his bus too. He sports a huge grin when we see one driving around town too. I won't let these idiots spoil what has been a real blessing for our family. May your son have many happy trips!

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  3. I am so disgusted by people who are so thoughtless. My child is perfect to me, no matter what his disability is. And for him to even be able to go to school is a huge blessing.

    Debby, congrats on your baby's first day. Hope he had a great day.

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  4. Debby,

    congratulations. It is a big move and a big step. I remember the first day too. He has come so far from that day in tears (and I have too).He he loves it! Many good wishes for you and your little one!

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  5. Thank you for letting us know about this. I will be tweeting about it all night...

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  6. this is not funney I liked riding the bus in preschool

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  7. I wish I had known this before ordering shirts from Zazzle a few months back. They just lost a customer!

    The new "R" word is "Respect."

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  8. I'm simply appalled that in this day and age we STILL treat members of our society as though they are LESS.

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  9. Every post I read regarding this topic just makes my stomach SICK!! Chiseling away at this awareness is daunting, but thankful for you and other bloggers to tackle this for ALL of us.

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  10. Debby,

    With an invisible disability the short bus was the only way I could get around on college. It was the only way I could live in a dorm and my parents knew I would get what I needed. The drivers were the kindest men I will ever meet. I was excited to tell those old gentlemen about my engagement as I was my roommate. You should be proud. It is a big step and it is AMAZING! Today, your kid rocked!

    Abby

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  11. Thanks for posting about this! You can also call the corporate manager BILLY MAYS at 877-427-8464. Some moms have set up at change.org page as well: http://www.change.org/petitions/ceo-of-hastings-entertainment-inc-cease-sale-of-i-ride-the-short-yellow-bus-shirt-in-stores-and-online?utm_campaign=autopublish&utm_medium=facebook&utm_source=share_petition&utm_term=7190721

    Thanks for spreading the word from Missoula MT!

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  12. You pose an interesting question: What would your son say if he saw that shirt? Would he even realize it was supposed to be offensive? Or would he think it's cool? If I were you, I'd buy him one and have him rock it! In a way, finding this shirt offensive is tantamount to finding riding the short bus embarrassing.

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  13. Just shared this on my page. Thank you for standing up for so many and speaking out! I can't believe they still have the t-shirt up on their website.

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  14. Yeah, I am with elapad, pretty sure Max wouldn't get the shirt. It is past his level of comprehension, and past my son's level too. Freedom of speech is a right, even to shitty people. I have seen much worse things printed on a tshirt. Awhile back, in my home state a Hmong deer hunter killed a guy over the rights to a deer stand. Soon after some idiot came up with a bumper sticker than said "Save a hunter, shot a Hmong." Nice. Now that I think about it, I would like to had the people who bought these shirts wear them everyday. It would be a lot easier to identify the idiots and confront them. Hate speech is not against the law, unless it may "incite a riot, uses fighting words or is defamatory."

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  15. I do have a friend who wore a "retard" shirt on occasion as a joke at his own CP - and it's cool that he had the self-confidence to do that. But in general, I'm pretty much in favor of letting people define the place of terms themselves - as a non-disabled person, it is not my place to decide what is offensive or not, because I have not been in your shoes. The people who made those shirts were total idiots - did they not realize what kind of reaction they would get?

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  16. Unbelievable--who on the planet finds this entertaining or humorous? Disgusting!
    Jill -Proud Mom of a perfect son who happens to have Cerebral Palsy!

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  17. My sister proudly wears a shirt that says "I ride the short bus." She has Downs Syndrome and we respect the choice she made to wear this shirt. She bought it with her own money at our local Hastings store. We explained that some people might think that it's making fun of people with disabilities. She just looked at us and said, "So. I love riding the short bus." My point is you can take offense at tshirt sayings if you want to. And you have a right to free speech as much as I do, but why harp on a store that genuinely supports all people no matter their disabilities and beliefs. You are allowing yourself to be offended by something that is true and instead it's something you should celebrate. The uniqueness of your child. So what if he rides the short bus? A lot of kids don't even get to do that.

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  18. These Shirts are offensive. I agree. You don't have the right to stop someone from making/buying/selling them. Every single person here who commented on here needs to grow up. What you are doing is creating word of mouth advertising. The more you bitch and complain and do things like post the link over facebook the more popular the shirts will become. Honestly, I don't care one way or the other. People can wear the shirts or not...use them to teach your kids that there are shitty people out there that are going to make fun of their disabilities. It sucks but that will never go away because there will always be shitty people. Stop acting like you control what others are allowed to do because you don't and you shouldn't.

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  19. Previous Commenter "Anonymous" -
    why are the "anonymous" people always the chicken shit cowards that hide behind an "anonymous", not even giving their real name?

    But that's besides the point I wanted to make. The point I wanted to make is, slap race on there instead of disability and tell people of colour that it just "sucks" and to get over it... Yeah. I didn't think so.

    Horrible slogans are just that, and noone needs to let it lie just to make someone else feel okay about being insensitive and asshat enough to come up with them in the first place.

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    1. Not all anonymous commenters are like that. I'm just a 13 year old autistic girl who is interested in things like this.

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  20. To be honest, I was waffling after reading the comments. Not that I think these shirts are okay, I don't and am personally offended by them and think they are disgraceful but I sort of saw the points that the other "anon' posters were making until I got to Meriah's comment and there you have it...it's not about "growing up" as someone else suggested or even about free speech. It's about right vs wrong and why should it be okay for one group to be made a joke but not another. Thank you Meriah for pointing out to me what should have been obvious!

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  21. Just want to tell you that I noticed that the shirt image has already been pulled off their website. Thanks for doing your part! My son who has mild CP and is in a wheelchair refuses to ride the special needs bus because he knows that it is different than the "regular" bus. It's sad that people nowadays are still encouraging kids to make a differentiation between kids who ride the short bus and kids who ride the regular bus, especially with the level of inclusion that now happens regularly in most school districts. The short bus=safer for special needs kids... THE END!

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  22. This is appalling and sad-making. It makes me so angry when people think bigotry is funny.

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  23. Right on Meriah! Perfectly put. Thanks for getting this out there Ellen.

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  24. To all the anonymous posters touting free speech. Yes of course they have the right to make this shirt and people have the right to wear it. We also have the right to our own free speech and point out to Hastings and others how offensive it is, and to boycott them and spend our money elsewhere. That is how it works. If Hastings chooses to listen, that is up to them. In my view it is educating others regarding how these things can be offensive to people. I also loved Meriah's comment about race. That is right on the money. You can't offend someone's race, or even religion (usually), but its ok to offend disabled people. Yeah right.

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  25. Kevin, free speech only prohibits defamatory speech, fighting words, and speech intended to incite violence. You can freely say the n-word, offend religions and the disabled. Decent people just dont use those words. The website did not take down those shirts because they felt bad, they just don't want to lose business. I called and voiced an opinion, they listened and took it down. Awareness was spread. It is all we can hope and work. Wasn't it MLK Jr. Who said something along the lines of "I don't agree with your speech, but I will defend your right to say whatever you want"? I don't know, but since shitty people can make shitty shirts, we have to respond. Peace out.

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  26. Ellen,

    I saw a number of those kinds of shirts on Zazzle as well, so I designed alternatives for my own son, Duncan. They can be found here:
    http://www.zazzle.com/cphero

    I have only ever sold one (not counting the ones I have bought for Duncan, but I intend to donate any profits to United Cerebral Palsy.

    Info on my little guy is here as well:
    http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/duncanlawrence

    All the best,

    Tom

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  27. There is a petition on change.org requesting that Hastings remove this product from stores and their website. Please sign it if you are as offended as I am. A special needs child is not a joke. Just search for "hastings CEO" and you should find it.

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    1. Just search for "hastings." For some reason adding "CEO" will not pull up the petition. Many thanks!

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  28. Debby: Haters gonna hate. Be proud of your son's first day of school! I hope it was a good one.

    Meriah, bravo. I've written about how these days people know not to be blatantly racist, but they have no issue being disablist. It's here: http://www.lovethatmax.com/2012/08/you-know-better-than-to-be-racist-so.html

    For anyone who thinks I and all the other parents here are going to stop caring about offenses like this simply because you are not offended, you are severely deluded. These t-shirts demean kids with special needs. I sure will speak out about them.

    I can't imagine a kid like Max wearing one of these t-shirts as a "Yeah, so what, I'm proud!" statement. You just can't make these shirts cool when they are cruel. Also, I'd never want to support a company that makes shirts like this, or a store that sells them.

    And YES, Kathy! The new "r-word" is RESPECT.

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  29. It is amazing to me that the "short bus" joke is still around, among others. I am a youth pastor and I really get on my kids when I hear the R-Word or the "duh de duh" phrase or other stuff. Thanks for exposing these terrible t-shirts. We will be sure to let those who carry them that it is not acceptable!

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  30. This kind of thing makes me so mad! I once saw a precious little special needs ghuy wearing a shirt that said "Trash" it broke my heart. I think I will send an e-mail off to Zazzle

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  31. Trying to change language -inference-tone is daunting even in a 5 woman department. 3 of the women didn't finish highschool and 2 can't read very well. These people are in their late 50's early 60's. There are several other lesser educated people in the department next to us.
    These guys call eachother R**** all. the. time!! I wish I were kidding.
    reminders don't work- so- since no one knew any trolls that would be singled out and defamed, that is our replacement word.

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  32. I don't get the mindset of the jerks who designed those things, never mind the fools who thought it was a good idea to manufacture them.

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  33. I could be wrong, but I believe zazzle has pulled those 8 pages of shirts... I just went looking for them and couldn't find them! Progress?

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  34. I don't mean to sound asinine, but what's offensive about the bus one?

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  35. Funny t shirts for kids make the most remarkable impression indeed. If this is the only gauge to figure out the popular movement behind kids’ t shirts, then this is a victory for both the t shirt company as well as the parents that have good taste in selecting the kind of designs for their kids’ t shirts.

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Thanks for sharing!



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