Hi, my name is Christine, and I'm a TV-holic. "HI CHRISTINE!!" (Thank you...oh, please--no applause!) Yes, I admit it freely--I know television is my vice. Which I suppose isn't all that bad...I really don't suffer from the typical vices. I don't smoke, have no interest whatsoever in doing drugs (I already have balance issues without adding to them!) and I actually have a very serious allergy to alcohol. Which can be disappointing, since I AM Irish, and would like to throw back a Guinness now and then with the best of them! And since none of those particular issues plague me, it's my habit to turn the TV on whenever I am home, and keep it on for most of the day. Sometimes I even accomplish other tasks such as reading a book, and typing a post for this blog, while watching a show...in fact, right now as I type I am watching a documentary on a family that disappeared about seven months ago in the mountains of Oklahoma. And every so often I will take breaks from typing (to rest my hands,) and read the current book lying next to me on the couch, which is a mystery from the 1800s written by Anne Perry. I know...I'm slightly off the beam. Why not just turn the television off?? Don't get me wrong--I do turn it off from time to time, and just read...or type...or whatever is currently keeping me busy. Though I like the noise...and I like to multitask, since I find that focusing on just one thing is often boring!
But the other night was different...in the fact that I wasn't multitasking. I did have the TV on, however, and I was glued to it! I watched a program entitled Primetime: What Would You Do? which airs on Fridays at 9:00pm, on ABC. If you haven't seen that show before, I highly recommend it...and if you would like to check out previous episodes, you can do so at http://abc.go.com/. WWYD touches upon difficult topics such as discrimination, creates scenarios about these topics using actors, and tapes the general public's reactions from behind the scenes. Kind of like Candid Camera, though with serious issues instead of comedy. You'd be amazed what people say and do (or what they DON'T do,) when faced with these topics, and the question always arises...what would you do in this situation? As usual, this episode displayed four separate scenarios, though two in particular dealt with different forms of discrimination.
Now, this is a topic I have talked about in the past. I have certainly dealt with my share of discrimination and ignorance, being a person with a disability. It can be upsetting and embarrassing to know that someone is only seeing the braces and what I CAN'T do...and I feel even worse when I realize they see me as useless or (surprisingly enough,) contagious! And discrimination against a disabled person is only one type...unfortunately, it comes in many forms. WWYD's first scenario involving this topic was filmed in Arizona, about the controversial Arizona ID check law. This allows random checks of people's 'papers' to prove that they are US citizens...and these checks can happen anywhere, though must be conducted by the police during a "lawful stop." There is a lot of controversy as to when a check is 'lawful,' and when it is going to far. Many people in Arizona are for this law, and feel it will cut down on the amount of illegal aliens who have come across the border into their state...and many are strongly against it, and see it as racial profiling. And so this scenario showed a security guard (actor) who stopped an Hispanic man in the middle of a packed restaurant (he was also an actor.) The security guard (who didn't even work for the restaurant,)asked for the man's papers and identification and told him he looked like he 'might not belong there.' Filming behind the scenes, WWYD captured men and women who spoke out against this injustice, yelling at the guard asking if he had HIS identification...they reminded the guard that he was NOT a policeman, and told him what he was doing was discrimination. The response was amazing, and it was uplifting to see people stand up for what they thought was right, and rally against an injustice...so many people spoke up, I lost count! Here was that positive energy I had been looking for!
And then came the second scenario on discrimination. I must say, I was not as uplifted...in fact, at the end of it I was really ANGRY! This scene, filmed in New Jersey, involved two deaf girls (actors) who entered a coffee shop to fill out applications. The manager (actor) had posted a help wanted sign for a kitchen job. One girl in particular was able to read lips, and spoke quite fluently and could easily be understood by anyone who couldn't sign. Certainly she was more than capable of completing any kitchen duties, and the job did not require any customer service. Though the manager's response to her verbal request for an application was met with much less enthusiasm, and blatant rudeness! After asking why they were signing to each other and being informed of their deafness, the man didn't even want to give them applications, stating that they weren't right for the job. Now, these girls hadn't filled out any paperwork or interviewed for anything...though this little putz was more than ready to write them off just because they were deaf. "What if I need you to do something? I can't just call out and tell you what you need to do..." he stated. The one girl assured him that she could read lips...in other words, all he would have to do is walk the 5 feet to the kitchen door to make his request, allowing her to read his lips and complete the task. Not rocket science, right? The girls insisted they wanted to fill out applications, and finally the manager relented..."Go ahead and fill them out, but I'll be honest with you...I'm not gonna hire you," he said, and had the AUDACITY to write 'Deaf' at the top of the job form.
If that wasn't enough to upset me, the response of the different customers sure pushed me over the edge! Only one man, at the end of the clip, spoke out and told the manager what he was doing was wrong. A female customer who was obviously just as disgusted by the manager's reactions, said nothing as she grabbed her order and walked out. Several people stated that they worked in Human Resources, and every single one of them told the manager that he shouldn't have said the things he said--not because it was wrong, but because he might get sued. "Just let them fill it out, then don't call them..." was the general consensus. One woman from HR suggested as much, and finished with the words of wisdom that basically proved one thing--a mere kitchen job was WAY above her mental capacities! "You have to at least take their application, or you could be sued...Handicapped people have the most rights in the world," she advised. Wait...WHAT? We DO?? When did that happen...and why wasn't I given the memo??! It's funny...but through all those years of teaching that I spent asking for more help in my classroom, because I physically needed it (only to be denied,) I never felt as if I had many rights at all. After finally winning my SSD, only to find out it meant the government would be allowed to put a cap on any income I made for the rest of my life, I felt as if I had even less.
The truth of the matter is, despite having the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) which was put into place to provide equal opportunity and reasonable accommodation to people with disabilities (as long as the accommodations do not require an undue burden,) many businesses and employers still fall short of complying. I'm proof of that! I had the knowledge and training to run my classroom...all I needed was an extra pair of hands. Those extra hands were never given to me, though the number of students kept increasing. Was that accommodation unreasonable? I don't believe so. Though sadly, many others with disabilities don't even go as far as I managed to go...they never even get their foot in the door. Today, unemployment still remains above 70% for the disabled. And quite frankly, the ADA was only established about 20 years ago--in the 80s. Whatever rights we have, we haven't had for very long! Isn't it time that changed? WWYD showed me once again that discrimination still rears its ugly head, in all its ugly forms...thank goodness I didn't pick that night to turn the TV off! I'm glad I watched, even though it made me angry. It showed me the ignorance that is still out there, and what else needs to be done to bring about education and change...only we can accomplish that, and stamp discrimination out once and for all. Only we can guarantee that change begins, and not just for one group...but for everyone!