Monday, February 6, 2017

Let's talk about the diversity nobody's talking about


I was half-watching the SuperBowl last night (until the end—that end!) but caught Airbnb's "We Accept" ad. It flashed faces of different ethnicities as these words popped up:

We believe
no matter 
who you are
where you're from
who you love
or who you worship
we all belong.
The world is 
more beautiful
the more you 
accept.
#weaccept



It's a timely message for the world, in light of the immigration ban. It's timely for me, too, because I am constantly trying to help people understand that Max belongs, and to encourage acceptance. And I wished that a person with disability had been included. Sure, you could argue that's not the point of an ad like this, given what's happening out there. But I'd argue that including people with disability in ads is always timely, and necessary, especially when one is making a plea for diversity.

Embracing diversity means accepting religions other than yours and skin of all colors. That, people know. Embracing diversity also means accepting people of all abilities. That, people often don't think about, in my experience. While I hope that parents are having conversations about their children about accepting those with disability, I'm not so sure. Over the years, I've found that kids and adults can get uncomfortable around Max, and don't know how to behave or make conversation. I am glad to pave the way; I just wish it weren't such an uphill effort.

"Yes, he talks, in his own way," I'll respond as Max is standing right there.
"He understands you—ask him how old he is!"
[In my head] Would you quit staring at him?
"Yes, people with cerebral palsy can walk. CP affects everyone differently."
[In my head] Please don't make it like my son is a tragedy. 
"You can just say 'hi!'"

I mean, it's not like including a person with disability in a Super Bowl ad about diversity would change everything. As if. But it would be one step in the right direction. This recent article on Forbes.com by a professor of marketing noted that diversity is "the new norm" in Super Bowl ads. But I don't think there was one person with disability in any of this year's Super Bowl commercials. Last year, there was a girl with Down syndrome in a Super Bowl ad for SunTrust bank (at second 38); another little girl with DS appeared in a 2015 McDonald's ad that aired during the Super Bowl (at 52 seconds). These do not exactly a trend make.

It's more important than ever to accept different ethnicities and religions. There's no question about that.

And it's just as important to this mother today, as it was yesterday and as it will be tomorrow, for people to accept those like my son.

15 comments:

  1. I agree. Although I would argue that you don't know for certain any of the people in the ad didn't have a disability. Just looking at most of the pictures you post of Max I wouldn't know he had one either if I didn't read your blog. There are lot of people with disabilities that are invisible to observers, which is why we need to lead with compassion whenever possible.

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    1. Very true, re, invisible disabilities—and assuming equality for all/compassion! For purposes of a Super Bowl ad, with SO many people watching them, it would have been great for Airbnb to include a person with Down syndrome or a hearing aid or a person who is visually impaired to represent the disability community.

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  2. I love this post! It's so easy for people to br friendly and nice to my daughter now because she's only two and there's that "hope" that she's going to "get better" and be fine, but what happens when she's 7 and still in a wheelchair, or not talking fully, I'm sure we'll experience many of the same obstacles you have.

    Paige
    http://thehappyflammily.com

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    1. I hope that in years to come things keep changing for the better, Paige, because of parents like us who keep speaking out.

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  3. I have realized the lack of disability in conversations about diversity and discrimination. As a disabled person, I try to introduce disability interesting these conversations as much as possible, whether it's in class, in a paper, or in an everyday conversation.

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    1. Kathryn, I truly hope Max grows up to self-advocate like you do.

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    2. Thank you I hope so as well

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  4. First ofd all it's NOT A BAN. Secondly Budweiser missed a very important detail in their ad. Unlike today the immigrants back then learned how to BALANCE thei own cultural diversity WHILE blending in wit America, they didn't want to change America.

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    1. Good point, Justin. And while Trump does not describe what's going on as a ban, many of us believe it to be so.

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  5. There was a man in a wheel chair in the "its a 10 Hair" one. But your point is well taken.

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    1. Oh, I have to go look that up! I missed that part, I just saw the start of that ad when they mentioned we were in for four years of bad hair!

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  6. This is totally my pet peeve. My son goes to the self-proclaimed Most Diverse School in Canada's largest school board - but there are NO students with visible disabilities. No physical disabilities. No intellectual disabilities. No visually impaired students. My daughter would have had zero support in her local community school. We opted for another board (in Canada we have a Catholic school board and a public school board).

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    1. I am glad you found a good school for her. Have you found it to be inclusive?

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  7. Part of the problem, IMO, is that folks still seem to think of disabilities as something to be ashamed of, rather than just another facet of a person. My anthropology professor this semester made a big deal on the first day of class about equality, and treating others with respect, and how no one should feel afraid in her class to show who they are. All of which made me feel happy and safe, don't get me wrong. However, five minutes earlier, when I'd introduced myself and attempted to explain my needs as a disabled student, she "suggested" (read: demanded) that we "discuss this later, [because] it's not everybody's business." And this was right after I had mentioned that I didn't care if she named me as the student who needed a note-taker because I'm not ashamed of my disabilities! I feel like it's this perception, that people SHOULD feel ashamed of their disabilities, and that there's something (even more) "wrong" with them if they don't, that makes visible disabilities so rare in advertising, because who would want to be associated with people "flaunting" their "deviance" that way?

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Thanks for sharing!



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