I may have very well sipped my last Coca-cola. The soft drink giant is in the throws of a promotional campaign where words, in English and French, are engraved in caps and customers are urged to put words together. In a news story Friday, Shannon Denny, director of brand communications with Coca-Cola Refreshments Canada, said the idea is for folks to put together humorous sentences. But there was nothing funny when the words “You retard” showed up in Blake Loates’ husband’s Vitaminwater cap bottle, a Coke product.
What was especially concerning to Loates is her sister has a younger sister who with autism and cerebral palsy. The R-word? Very demeaning — even derogatory — to people with disabilities. I know: I have cerebral palsy, a physical disability. Yet, over my five decades, I have been called a retard. I find that offensive. In September of 2013 I find it very, very offensive and in extreme bad taste from Coca-cola. They should hang their heads in unforgiveable shame.
In French, Denny says, retard means delayed. I really could care less. The mere fact Coca-cola decided to use the word is simply wrong. It shows their pathetic and archaic way of thinking, and says volumes about how they view people with disabilities.
And I really have to wonder. Because for all of my adult life I know organizations and associations promoting the abilities of people with disabilities have worked hard — damn hard — to create proper language. Such efforts try to create positive awareness so people with disabilities can be seen as people. Not names. Yet, time and time again, we hear of stories of negative terminology being used. I wonder if the hard work of people with disabilities are, in fact, being listened to. The Coca-cola story is certainly disheartening.
I think I’m going to mix myself a stiff drink. And I know one thing: I won’t be using a Coca-cola product for mix.
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