Making Chromosomes Count has been a vocal campaigner against hate speech for some time with our Raise Your Standards campaign gaining momentum across social media and in Parliament. MCC aim to influence social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook to improve their standards when it comes to hate speech against those with a disability.
The campaign has gained further momentum this week as parents, advocates and celebrities expressed outrage and anger at shopping giant Amazon, after a T-shirt, promoting hate speech, reappeared on their website.
In March this year, we featured an article about two Mums who had identified an offensive T-shirt for sale on Amazon. The clothing item had the words ‘Let’s Make Down Syndrome Extinct’ emblazoned across the front. Caroline Wylde and Rachel Mewes, who both have children with Down Syndrome, petitioned Amazon to remove the offensive T-shirt. And in an important victory for the Down syndrome community, the item was taken down from the website.
However, over the weekend, Mum Stacey Corrigan was “disgusted and horrified” to discover that the T-shirt was available to purchase once again. Stacey, whose six year old son, Daniel, has Down Syndrome, said “It’s unbelievable that they are allowed to be sold again. You can also get this stuff on mugs. It’s hate speech and its heart-breaking to think how anyone with Down’s Syndrome would feel if they came across this.”
Parent and founder of Diff-Ability, Cristina Bowman, was so outraged by this product that she has set up an online petition calling for Amazon to permanently ban sellers from their platform should they be promoting hate speech towards minority groups. The petition, which has garnered nearly 40,000 signatures in just four days, is asking Amazon to support the Down Syndrome Community in their fight against hate crime. During an interview with ITV News, Cristina said “Diversity is what we should be aiming for, not extermination of a minority.”
The Down Syndrome Association has provided Cristina with their support and in a Tweet published yesterday they said, “We were appalled to see another highly offensive T-shirt at the weekend. We’ve signed Diff-Ability CIC’s open letter to Amazon calling on them to prevent it reappearing.” The Down’s Syndrome Association (DSA) have also penned a letter to Amazon advising they will not tolerate hate crimes against people with learning disabilities.
Further weight was added to the topic when actress and comedienne, Sally Phillips, described the T-shirt as ‘hate wear’ and claimed the design was an example of eugenics ideas ‘really taking hold’.
Yesterday, disability rights activist, Heidi Carter, appeared on BBC News with Victoria Derbyshire and spoke of the hurt and offence this T-shirt has caused for her, “I think I would say I feel very offended and very upset. When I first found out I was nearly crying my eyes out. I am someone who has Down Syndrome and I don’t like people saying mean things about me.”
Heidi’s Mum, Liz Crowter, went on to clarify that Amazon’s own Hate Speech Policy does not include any caveat to protect those with a disability.
Amazon themselves said, “All sellers must follow our selling guidelines and those who do not will be subject to action including potential removal of their account.”
Making Chromosomes Count will be working closely with Diff-Ability to campaign for the removal of these offensive items of clothing from Amazon and other sites. A letter of complaint will be delivered to Amazon from both organisations with the hope that Amazon will sit up, pay attention and act.
The BBC News interview with Heidi Carter, Liz Crowter and Victoria Derbyshire is available here. Interview is 49 minutes into the footage.
The BBC News article is available here.