Professor Stephen Hawking, world-renowned physicist and a person who developed the theory about black holes, was subjected to a barrage of hateful jokes about his disability after joining a boycott of a scientific conference in Israel. As most people probably know, Professor Hawking has Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, or ALS (a.k.a. Lou Gehrig’s disease).
After I read this story, I was totally outraged that a disabled brother is subjected to this type of abuse just for taking a political position about a subject he is passionate about; this state of Israel‘s unlawful abuses of Palestinian human rights. These reactions over Stephen Hawking’s exercise of his free speech says volumes about how some people react when disabled people “step out of our place.”
Given that most of these people are supposedly well-educated members of the scientific community, makes expressing their anger at him over his political position by making ugly comments about his disability even more outrageous and unacceptable. Disagreeing with him is one thing, but using his disability as a weapon against him is another. It is pure ableism rearing its ugly head yet again.
Some of these people actually even have the gall to label Stephen Hawking as an anti-Semite, just because he dares take a position against Israel; something that I also have personally been accused of because I am also opposed to the state of Israel’s mistreatment of the Palestinian people.Â Remarks such as, “someone should release the hand brake when he’s on a hill”, “he should die already”, and “he is also crippled in the head” are not in any way acceptable to use, just because these people (if you can call them that) disagree with his position.
What is equally appalling is the fact that most media outlets probably won’t even bother to mention this story, let alone cover it in any real depth. For example, if someone had attacked Professor Hawking because of his gender, race, nationality, or sexual preference, nearly every media outlet in the world would be screaming this story from the rooftops. Why is attacking someone personally over their disability any more acceptable than the examples I mentioned?Â And why doesn’t the media have enough good sense to recognize this hypocrisy and double standard in the reporting of this story?
Unfortunately, this entire ugly story just further accentuates how marginalized and disrespected people with disabilities are in our society. Just when I think that disabled people may have taken another step towards equality, something like this happens and I wonder, have we really made any real progress? Even though I realize that these few people who made these ugly and hurtful statements against Professor Stephen Hawking are only a minority, it still hurts me to see my people, so cruelly attacked in this way.
I say this because I truly believe that if you hurt and insult one of us, you are hurting and insulting all of us.