Jan 16, 2019

speaking for and speaking against

When parents and others do speak about or for people with intellectual disabilities, we need to do so responsibly. For a start, that means surrendering rhetorical techniques that are crude but effective. It’s easy, for example, to play to positive stereotypes of Down syndrome, but doing so would buy into everything I reject: taking the individual for the group; accepting the medical classification of that group as the primary one; auditioning for acceptance making the child a reality show contestant, canned story and all. A victory on these terms is not worth having, because it leaves the larger conceptual errors untouched, and how we conceive of people with disabilities is crucial — which is to say, how we conceive of we, of who is counted in the first person plural.

George Estreich, “I Don’t Speak for Laura.” I’ll be in conversation with George at the MIT Press bookstore on March 14, talking about his new book on biotechnology, ethics, disability, and more. Here’s his commentary on genetically editing children, his web site, and here’s the event link.