Sally Phillips has strongly criticised online trader Amazon over the sale of “hatewear” targeting the Down Syndrome community.
The actress, 51, who is perhaps best known for her role in the Bridget Jones film series, said the t-shirts sold on Amazon, including messages such as ‘Let’s make Down Syndrome extinct’, are an example of eugenic ideas “really taking a hold” as she joined the Down Syndrome community’s call for Amazon to ban such products from its platform.
“Eugenic ideas are really taking hold — the idea that there is this subclass of humans and it is better we get rid of them. If you have a world view in which you regard academic intelligence or money-making possibilities as the ultimate goal…then you feel perfectly justified in saying these things,” said Ms Phillips, a Christian whose eldest son Olly, 16, has Down Syndrome.
“It would break my heart if Olly saw anyone wearing those t-shirts,” she added.
Ms Phillips’ comments came as 43 Down Syndrome and learning-disability groups, including the Down’s syndrome Association and Mencap, published an open letter calling on Amazon to take steps to halt, once and for all, the sale of the t-shirts, which they referred to as a hate crime, on their platform.
‘We hope to see Amazon helping the Down’s syndrome community stand against hate crime. We would like to work with you on this and sincerely hope we hear from you soon regarding the matter of tightening up your policies,’ the groups said in the letter.
Last week, Cristina Bowman of the Diff-Ability Cumbrian Community group organised a Change.org petition to alert Amazon to the problem which has already amassed well over 60,000 signatures.
The petition has received newspaper, TV and radio media attention and Heidi Carter, a prolific Down’s syndrome activist, when asked by the BBC how she felt about the t-shirts with the offending messages, said: “I would say that I feel very offended and very upset and when I first found out I was nearly crying my eyes out.”
The open letter to Amazon, calls on the commercial giant to take action to recognise that diversity should extend to those with a learning disability, ensuring that they are respected as a part of an inclusive society. To include this group in the Amazon discrimination policy would go some way to addressing that problem.
Lynn Murray of Don’t Screen Us Out said: “Our supporters, people with Down’s syndrome and their families, have been offended by the ongoing availability of t-shirts calling for people with Down’s syndrome effectively to be screened-out of society.
“Nevertheless, we’ve been blown away by the support from the public and the media.”
Ms Murray revealed that her daughter Rachel, who has Down Syndrome, calls the t-shirts “nasty”.
“We understand that not everyone realises that people with Down Syndrome and their families are happy with their lives. This community is trying to shake off an old stereotype that Down Syndrome screening programmes have failed to tackle.
“If Amazon were to change their discrimination policy to include protection for people with disabilities this would go some way to help improve the profile of this minority group. We are also calling on Amazon to make a guarantee to our community that they will ensure that they will never sell any product in the future that discriminates against our community,” Ms Murray added.
Sign the petition at: https://www.change.org/p/amazon-ban-amazon-sellers-inciting-down-syndrome-hate-speech
Picture: Sally Phillips. ( David Jensen/EMPICS Entertainment).