Jeopardy champ Ken Jennings made the following tweet yesterday: “Nothing sadder than a hot person in a wheelchair.” The Twitterverse almost immediately exploded. Some people laughed, most were outraged. Jennings has not yet responded to inquiries and comments about the tweet. Part of me wanted to resist giving this ableist nonsense any more exposure, nor give that person any more free press, but I just have to say: I’m sorry, Ken, but that is incorrect.
What I find truly sad is when a supposedly “intelligent” person displays great ignorance. Oh, were you trying to be funny? I’m not laughing. Have you resorted to playground tactics, making fun of people you deem to be weaker than you? It is never okay to mock disability. And for the record, I do not find a “hot person in a wheelchair” sad at all. Hot person is hot. Period. Their lives may be more complicated at times, but that does not mean that they are pitiable or any less attractive. I had a boyfriend in college who happened to use a wheelchair. Years later I saw someone from a distance who I thought was him, but then realized I must be mistaken because that person was walking. I saw him as a person, not a person-in-a-chair. He was a very strong man who just happened to use a wheelchair to get around.
There is also the side issue of society’s unrealistic standards of beauty. I think this world is in a sad state when something “different” in a person can immediately detract from their value in the eyes of others. Being different isn’t pitiable, it’s wonderful. I am the proud mother of a boy has an Autism Spectrum Disorder, and in my house we have the saying, “Different isn’t bad, it’s just different!” It adds diversity and uniqueness and beauty. It helps us grow and learn, teaches us resilience and compassion. Every person, regardless of their physical and mental abilities, deserves to be treated with respect. Some of the most beautiful people I have ever met have some sort of “disability.” Each of us has struggles, some maybe more so than others. What really matters is how we respond to it.
It seems to me, Ken Jennings, if you truly want to be a “Champion,” then you need some education. Learn to be less narrow-minded and insensitive. Consider this a free lesson. You’re welcome.