On Monday, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) apologized for using the word “retarded” when he described disabled kids during an appearance on a podcast over the weekend.
On Sunday, Schumer made an appearance on “1 NYCHA,” a podcast that considers public housing and other related issues, when the topic switched to past opposition to low-income and other forms of public housing.
“When I first was an assemblyman, they wanted to build a congregate living place for retarded children,” Schumer, who at the time represented parts of Brooklyn in Albany between 1975 and 1980. “The whole neighborhood was against it! These are harmless kids. They just needed some help.
“We got it done,” Schumer added. “Took a while.”
Video of the podcast was posted on the “1 NYCHA” Facebook page with the word “retarded” removed from the closed captioning of the video.
“For decades, Sen. Schumer has been an ardent champion for enlightened policy and full funding of services for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities,” Schumer spokesman Angelo Roefaro told the New York Post.
“He used an inappropriate and outdated word in his description of an effort he supported that was led by the AHRC to build a group home in his Brooklyn district decades ago to provide housing and services to children with developmental disabilities,” Roefaro added. “He is sincerely sorry for his use of the outdated and hurtful language.”
As much as I disagree with and totally dislike Chuck Schumer I won’t be upset with him for using the word “retarded.” It’s not the N-Word for disabilities as it was once an acceptable term used for many years and did not express any disregard for children with disabilities. I think political correctness has run amok and some people need to learn that there are plenty of decaffeinated brands that are just as tasty as the real thing. By contrast, the N-Word was never a decent or acceptable word used in any past context.
I used to refer to the radical progressives in the Democratic Party as the “extra-chromosome” wing of the party until one day a woman who read one of my stories wrote to me and, rightfully so, ripped me a new one. Until then, I hadn’t realized how I could be insulting families who have children with Down Syndrome. At first, I thought the woman was being a bit too sensitive because I never in my life would speak ill of children, especially children who suffer from a disability. And I never put two and two together to realize my slamming insult was describing that disability. It just never occurred to me. So, with that history, I can fully understand that Schumer didn’t mean anything untoward about children with disabilities.
With that said, since so many people are offended by the word we should try to catch ourselves when speaking about children with certain disabilities, but I won’t judge Schumer for making the comment as I don’t think a living soul who listened to that podcast can think he said it with any malice at all.
However, it has been alleged that when Chuck Schumer was first running for office in the Brooklyn borough of New York City, there were apartment buildings where black families lived in the Flatbush section. In the neighborhood, there was a group of white racists who wanted them out of the buildings. Was this because the black people living there were causing problems in the neighborhood? By all accounts, not at all. They lived peacefully in the buildings and never bothered anyone. The racists just wanted them out of their neighborhood.
In Flatbush, there is a subsection known as Midwood that runs from E. 1st Street on the west to E. 35th Street on the east, from a southernmost point at Ave. U to Ave. H on the north. This entire area was populated by whites, mostly Italians and Jews, and some Slavic immigrants. Right in the center of this box was a series of apartment houses on Avenue K, from E. 12th to E. 15th Street, whose tenants were nearly 100% black.
In 1974, word went out that there was a plan to evict the black families. At the time, a political kingmaker set up a number of meetings in the neighborhood and introduced them to a Harvard graduate named Chuck Schumer who was running to be an Assemblyman in Brooklyn.
The plan that Schumer came up with was if they elected him to the State Assembly, he would offer a bill that would create a number of provisions as legislation that would be that proposed to “help” underprivileged urban black people. His bill would identify the buildings on Ave. K as being in a state of dilapidation and close to being condemned and that it would require an extensive amount of work to rehabilitate the apartments.
The black families would be relocated into government-subsidized housing in other sections of the borough while the buildings were being renovated. By the time the renovations would be completed, the individual apartments would be reclassified as condominiums to be sold to private owners. Schumer’s plan was to show on paper that the black families would be given the original right to purchase the newly renovated condominiums, but he was sure the black residents would never be able to raise the money required to buy their former homes.
The plan assumed that the black people would have become “comfortable” in their new living spaces that would be subsidized by the government. In other words, Schumer would not only get rid of the black families for the white racists in Flatbush, but he would turn rent-paying black people into government-dependents living in a project.
Schumer was elected and he followed through with his promise to the white racists. Unfortunately for them, the black families were able to come up with the money to move back in, and there wasn’t a thing Schumer or the other racists could say because their the supposed intention was to do something good for the black folks living in poor housing.
So, Chuck Schumer may not have done malice toward children with disabilities through a slip of the tongue from old school terminology but what he did to get elected back in 1974 is unforgivable.
This has been reported as a true story by a man who was there when it happened, and you can read the whole thing here.
AHRC changed its original name from the Association for the Help of Retarded Children and now goes by the acronym only.