Condescending eye glares, sweeping inaccessibility, and stacked job rejections rings as realities for many in the Down’s Syndrome community. It’s no secret, nor surprise, that behind society’s self-avowed “diversity”, “love” and “tolerance” (choose today’s buzzword!), is more often than not, an inward-looking world that favors anyone except the underprivileged, nonconventional, and marginalized.
Sam Ross, a woman with Down’s Syndrome was spat on, walking home from work. Lena Zhang Harrap, a woman with Down’s Syndrome was murdered, taking a stroll around her local park. A 2016 survey reveals these incidents as non-isolated complexions – revealing that a staggering 73% of individuals with disabilities have experienced hate crimes.
These budding headline from troubling incidents tugs the heartstring of human’s conscience: there’s clearly something wrong. Discriminatory disservices against individuals with Down’s Syndrome proliferates due to prejudicial sentiments against their “differences” – characterized by their distinct facial traits and developmental delays.
At the thought of the injustices they experience – our eyes shrink in pain, our hearts cower in sorrow and of course, we point fingers. Who did this? How could they dare to do this? Although of course, all these questions are merited, it blocks us from achieving authentic solutions. In this generation of time-space convergence, we too often, fall prey in hierarchizing vilification – pointing liabilities and culpabilities on anyone, but ourselves.
Today, let’s embrace accountability as we ask ourselves: are the “differences” hyperfocused by the perpetrators of hate crimes, the same acknowledged “differences” behind the polite pitiful smile when running into someone with Down’s Syndrome on the street?
Concurred by many evolutionary psychologist, there are neural underpinnings that suggests that being judgmental of other’s differences and perceived weaknesses is hardwired in the human brain – making it almost like an irresistible knee-jerk reaction. It is why the gravest and greatest intergenerational social crises are centered around discrimination on the basis of differences – ethnic, race, gender – you name it. Therefore, to address these issues that orbit around immutable and inherent human characteristic, we must change our mindset about it.
Today marks World Down Syndrome Awareness Day. Declared by the United Nations General Assembly, the 21st day of the third month, March, was appointed to underline the distinctiveness of the triplication of the 21st chromosome (Trisomy 21) – the cause of Down’s Syndrome that affects 1 in 700 babies born.
But today’s not the day to merely acquaint ourselves with the biology of the condition; nor is it the day to pity them for their condition – because pitying is nothing but an undercover of one viewing them as subaltern figures to their higher hierarch.
Rather, today, both governments and civil society must use this consecrated time to reflect on mindsets – the way we perceive Down’s Syndrome. It’s a decisive time to stop seeing them as less than, or as weaklings in need of a savior, but rather as inherent equals. Individuals with Down’s Syndrome are not cursed misfortunes or bearers of disease; they are equally humans – deserving of a life set for greatness. Only with this renewed mindset of declaring them as equals, can we unlock equality.
To advance honest progress, we must tap into the power of three E’s: empowering our equals, every day. Submersing the power of celebrating the illimitable talents and explosive potential of individuals with Down’s Syndrome, Carys Cares was birthed at the age of 13. A social retail enterprise established in multiples locations across Jakarta’s shopping centers – Carys Cares is the home of a range of lifestyle creations designed by our friends with Down Syndrome.
As we embrace those with Down’s Syndrome as equals, we don’t pity them, but we rejoice as we witness our friends with Down’s Syndrome – Bagas, Irfan, Fadil’s, among many – light up like stars seeing their creations shelved in displays in shopping malls.
To unlock equality for the Down’s Syndrome community, we must refuse to view them as titlepages of misconceived disease-bearers, but rather as inherent equals. When we realize this, we too realize, that although today commemorates a special day for the Down’s Syndrome community, it is by no means, the only day. For when we accept them as equals, we too will stop treating them invisibly everyday of their life, except annually on their birthday.
Yesterday, today, tomorrow: Happy World Down Syndrome Day.
ACTIONS YOU CAN TAKE
Organizations supporting Down’s Syndrome: