I watched an old episode of All in the Family this afternoon, and it’s just starting again. It’s about how people treat individuals with intellectual disabilities. It’s all about a young man named George who delivers groceries to the home. There’s a little bit of a language debate when Archie says the person is crazy, and Mike says he’s “mentally retarded.” (Both those responses made my head hurt!) Gloria and Edith treat George with respect, and Gloria allows him to call her his girlfriend, but corrects him when he says he loves her. Archie talks to him “like he’s a dog” and speaks very loudly and slowly. We all know people who do exactly that, I bet. Archie tells the young man named George to stay and take a break, and George gets fired because he took too long to get back to the grocery store.
George’s father comes looking for him because he found out George got fired from the grocery store and had not come home. While Archie is talking to the father and saying his usual prejudiced things,George’s father asked if Archie would hire his son. Archie said “No, you have to be on your toes, and to do that, you have to know where your toes are.” When George returned to the Bunker’s home, he brought a plaque that said,”Every man is my superior that I may learn from him.” He also came back with a new job–the same kind of work that Archie does at the landing docks. He fixed a tool when Archie hadn’t been able to figure out that the blade was in backwards. He earned a begrudging respect from Archie at the end of the show.
It was funny because Archie wasn’t his typical cynical self and was trying to “give him advice’ about how to approach women and talk to them. He used the stereotype of all people with intellectual disabilities being obsessed with sex, a topic Archie generally stays far away from. I can only interpret that to mean he had a sincere concern for George–as usual, he wasn’t very good at showing that concern.
This episode was 40 years ago. I can’t help but think that inclusion hasn’t come a very long way since then, ADA or not. What have you all seen where you are?
I work in education and at a mainstream school often teach kids on the Autistic spectrum. It’s so frustrating when people call them naughty or weird. They just have different needs and there is nothing better in the whole world than getting a high five from the child who was too overwhelmed to even speak at the start of the year.
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Amen! We need so many more people like you!
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