I’ve written about the harm of ableist language before. In that post I spoke in general terms, about population groups and risk statistics. Today I’m going to tell a specific real story.
Content warning for false imprisonment, kidnapping, physical assault, extreme violent ableism.
Former Polk county sheriff and convicted felon Phillip Dale Simons (52) was keeping a disabled adult woman and two minors, one of them a non-speaking “severely disabled” teenager, in his home. It is not yet clear how or if he is related to any of them.
Simons had a walking stick he used to beat the disabled woman and child which he called “the stupid stick”. He also had “eight long guns, five handguns, ammunition, reloading equipment, holsters and boot knives” according to Bay News 9.
Simons used these guns to threaten and intimidate his victims. On one occasion earlier this month, he forced the barrel of a gun into the woman’s mouth and threatened to kill her and make the two children watch if she attempted to contact law enforcement.
He has been charged with multiple counts of illegal firearms possession and various forms of assault. The Department of Children and Families is investigating. In theory, the abuse is over for his victims.
But they will probably hear the word “stupid” again, maybe even directed at them. We have this false cultural idea that stupid is a mild word, not a real slur like “faggot” or the N-word. You can hear “stupid” in G rated children’s movies. It’s everywhere.
Disabled children and adults are abused with the word stupid every day. It’s not usually so literal but it is always harmful. Stupid is a slur. Being seen as stupid by an abuser justifies the abuse in their mind.
Stop agreeing with Phillip Dale Simons that “stupid” people are worth less and deserving of violence. Stop sharing memes that say things like “I’ll slap the stupid out of you.” Stop using this hateful and harmful slur.