Parents Complain About Disabled Children’s Show Host

Cerrie BurnellCerrie Burnell hosts a children’s show on BBC television called CBeebies. She has been the subject of a recent spate of parent complaints. Not because of her performance. Because of her disability. She was born without the lower section of her right arm.

The Independent reports:

One man said that he would stop his daughter from watching the BBC children’s channel because Burnell would give his child nightmares.

…[S]ome of the vitriolic comments on the “Grown Up” section of the channel’s website were so nasty that they had to be removed.

“Is it just me, or does anyone else think the new woman presenter on CBeebies may scare the kids because of her disability?” wrote one adult on the CBeebies website. Other adults claimed that their children were asking difficult questions as a result. “I didn’t want to let my children watch the filler bits on The Bedtime Hour last night because I know it would have played on my eldest daughter’s mind and possibly caused sleep problems,” said one message. The BBC received nine other complaints by phone.

Outrage! Outrage! Outrage!

Fortunately, many more people have contacted BBC to express their support. Now I don’t have to bang my head against a wall to fall asleep tonight. Continue reading

Who Not to Give Martyr Status To

1. White “nationalists”

2. Cult members

It will only lead to tears, I promise.

I have recently become aware of the case of the White Pride Mom from Winnipeg, thanks to Womanist Musings.

The Winnipeg Mother, who cannot be identified to protect her kids, has a house full of swastikas and other harmless ‘White Pride’ items (she claims she is not a white supremacist, simply proud of her white heritage). She sent one of her kids to school two days in a row with a swastika drawn on her arm. Teachers alerted the authorities and now the Winnipeg Mother’s children have been taken away, and her visitation rights revoked.

“They’ve made me more dedicated, more aware of the political oppression that we suffer in the country just trying to fight for freedom of speech for anyone.”

Alrighty, so I don’t really think what is at issue is freedom of speech here. Just as you can’t yell “Fire!” in a crowded theater, you can’t publicly support genocide against a group of people (drawing swastikas on one’s daughter’s arm, for example). In both cases, the safety of a large number of people comes before your ‘freedom of speech’.

What is at issue is a parent’s right to her children, which I believe to be one of the most fundamental rights in life. Clearly, Canada cannot start a trend of taking children away from their parents based on their parents’ beliefs, unless the children are in danger of physical harm. This is a) unenforceable, b) a rather scary power for a government to have, and c) probably illegal.

Oh, and d) the only real effect this action will have is to rally the forces of white nationalist hate around the Winnipeg Mother.

The Aryan Guard is planning another rally in Calgary next month. The mother said she will take the opportunity to raise money for her legal defence.

Helmut-Harry Loewen, who teaches sociology at the University of Winnipeg and is an anti-racism activist, said the organization of these various groups is in a bit of a tatters and they need this kind of case to mobilize.

“Clearly, leaders of the movement have identified her as potentially useful for their ultimate aims and she’s playing along with it,” he said.

Nooooooo!!! This is the opposite of what any reasonable person would want. It will only make white nationalists seem like an oppressed minority, give martyr status to this woman, and create a rallying point for hate groups.

For similar reasons, I was extremely dismayed when Texas authorities decided to take custody of 439 children from a Fundamentalist Church of Latter-Day Saints compound. They had a tip that child abuse had occurred at the YFZ Ranch (it turned out to be a hoax). Based on what I will call pervasive dislike of the FLDS Church, the decision was made to simply take all children away from their parents, instead of locating the person who had reported abuse toward herself.

This action was a) ineffective at solving the supposed problem, b) an extremely disturbing abuse of power by the government, c) definitely illegal, and d) only further entrenched the FLDS community against opening themselves up to the wider world and respecting secular authority. And again, I believe it violated the FLDS parents’ fundamental right to their children, a right which should only be breached in the gravest of cases where very convincing proof of abuse exists.

Common dislike towards a certain group or community should not be enough for them to be treated in a manner where their fundamental rights are breached. The effect will be to prove their disdain for the wider world and government authority founded, to provide a rallying point for the group, and to make them further entrenched in their questionable beliefs. In addition, we can never be sure when according to current standards, a group we feel part of will become the object of common dislike and be subject to breaches of fundamental rights. No need to start that trend now.