Monday, January 12, 2009

Petition to protest humanitarian award for Jerry Lewis

A petition has been launched to protest Jerry Lewis being awarded the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award by the American Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences at next month's Oscar awards ceremony. Many people in the disability community are protesting this award because they feel that Jerry Lewis, who runs the annual Telethon to raise money for people with muscular dystrophy in the US, perpetuates and entrenches negative stereotypes and prejudices about people with disabilities. American disability activist and author Laura Hershey has written the petition which will be delivered to the Academy. Here is an excerpt:
To: The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences

This petition has been launched to object to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ announcement that it will give Jerry Lewis its Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award at the Oscar Awards ceremony on February 22, 2009.

During his decades of hosting the Labor Day Telethon, Jerry Lewis has helped to perpetuate negative, stereotypical attitudes toward people with muscular dystrophy and other disabilities. Jerry Lewis and the Telethon actively promote pity as a fundraising strategy. Disabled people want RESPECT and RIGHTS, not pity and charity.

In 1990, Lewis wrote that if he had muscular dystrophy and had to use a wheelchair, he would “just have to learn to try to be good at being a half a person.” During the 1992 Telethon, he said that people with MD, whom he always insists on calling “my kids,” “cannot go into the workplace. There’s nothing they can do.” Comments like these have led disability activists and our allies to protest against Jerry Lewis. We’ve argued that he uses the Telethon to promote pity, a counterproductive emotion which undermines our social equality. Here’s how Lewis responded to the Telethon protesters during a 2001 television interview: “Pity? You don’t want to be pitied because you’re a cripple in a wheelchair? Stay in your house!”

To read the entire petition and sign it, go here:

(via SDS listserv)