Time for Oscars to Support, Not Undermine, Deaf and Disability Rights
People in the Deaf, Autistic, Muscular Dystrophy, and Disability communities will be gathering in Los Angeles, California, USA, near February 22, 2009, to tell the Oscar awards organizers that human rights is more helpful to people with disabilities than pity or charity.
If you didn’t already know, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has announced that it will give Jerry Lewis its Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award on February 22, 2009. This award primarily recognizes his years of work raising money through his annual telethon for the Muscular Dystrophy Association. Disability activists, including many who have muscular dystrophy, object to this award because Jerry has perpetuated negative stereotypes of people with disabilities. Yes, he also raised money for research–research that some among the protesters may support. But their message is that the end does not justify the means. Jerry could have, and should have, chosen fund raising tactics that would not do so much destruction to the efforts of disability rights advocates to gain recognition for the fundamental dignity and value of people with disabilities. By projecting us as pathetic, helpless creatures, Jerry’s tactics has made it harder for usto be judged on our actual merits for the jobs we apply for–rather than on other people’s mistaken assumptions about what people with disabilities can and cannot do.
Read more in the announcement below that was recently circulated among members of the Facebook Group organizing these protests against Jerry’s award. If you haven’t already, you may also wish to sign the on-line petition protesting Jerry’s award.
Subject: UPDATE: Oscar Protests Being Planned
Put it on your calendar! Actions are currently being planned to take place before and during the Academy Awards ceremony. Can you come to Los Angeles to participate in two BIG actions on Oscar weekend, February 20 and 21? Can you organize a local action in your community on or around February 22?
If you want to be part of the protest at the Oscars in LA, now is the time to make airline reservations and other travel arrangements. Plan to be in LA at least 2/20 and 2/21, and 2/22 if possible. We’ll send out information soon about a nearby accessible hotel, and about the specifics of the protest actions.
If you want to organize an action at a local Oscar party or other appropriate target, get the ball roling now! Find local Oscar events — perhaps sponsored by your local film society, charity, or media outlet. (Try a Google search with the terms “2009 Oscar party [your city name].”) Talk to local disability, LGBT, and feminist activist/advocacy groups. Even if you can only get a dozen or so people involved, you may be able to pull off a great action, and get some press coverage to raise public awareness. Stay tuned for more tips on organizing a local protest…
Jerry Lewis advised his critics to “stay in your house!” Whether you come to LA, or do a local action, you’ll be letting Lewis — and everyone else — know that you’re not going to let prejudice, ignorance, and shame keep you inside your house, OR keep you quiet!
Learn about protest planning and other activities through the Facebook group organizing action against Jerry’s humanitarian award: http://www.facebook.com/groups.php#/group.php?gid=40538392681
Sign the on-line petition protesting Jerry’s award. You are encouraged to use the comment line in the petition to explain why you have chosen to sign the petition: this will strengthen the value of your signature: http://www.petitiononline.com/jlno2009/petition.html
See what bloggers have been saying about Jerry’s award:
Learn more about why people with disabilities object to the tactics Jerry uses to raise money via his annual telethon: http://www.cripcommentary.com/LewisVsDisabilityRights.html
And also see many excellent blog posts from last year at: http://karasheridan.com/?p=164