from the makers of Mouth magazine

What American would come out in favor of segregation in this day and age?


People are likely to be in favor of segregation when they thrive on our being set aside and sent away. They are nursing home owners, institution operators, and middle managers in the helping industry. Some are women and men who earned advanced degrees in how best to keep Those People out of sight.

Some segregationists are family members who dump their moms or brothers or kids in institutions. A number of charitable organizations which purport to represent our interests in fact sustain their treasuries with segregation. For-profit or non-, they get fat government contracts to run what are called residential facilities and day programs and sheltered workshops. Others are low-level workers in the enormous "care" industry. Some unions which represent these workers work to preserve segregation. Some segregationists are high-level state employees who simply don't know how to accept us as full human beings with human rights.


It is only fair to say that in all of those groups, some members -- only a few, to be sure -- would like to see every American live in freedom. But, for the most part, even our friends within the system keep their heads down.


The most powerful of the segregationists are also the major contributors to political campaigns. Elected officials see all of the above as the taxpayers they were elected to represent. People with disabilities and their families, on the other hand, are seen as tax consumers.

Together, the segregationists hold hostage the1.9 million dis-labeled people currently "placed" in institutions and nursing homes. It is taxpayers who keep the ransom rolling in.


On April 21, 1999, in a hearing of the case of Olmstead v. L.C. and E.W. at our nation's highest court, segregationists said it out loud. All but lost in a sea of handicapped verbiage was the crucial subtext of their argument:

You can't let those people
run around loose.

photo of Tommy Olmstead looking jovial and ... well... ignorant
Tommy Olmstead, former Commissioner
Georgia Department of Human Services
photo of Frankie Sue DelPapa looking like a deer caught in your headlights
Frankie Sue Del Papa
Attorney General, State of Nevada
photo of William Pound looking well satisfied
William Pound, Executive Director
National Conference of State Legislatures
photo of Polly Spare when she's feeling especially righteous
Polly Spare, President
Voice of the Retarded

The players: Olmstead is Tommy Olmstead, at that time the Commissioner of Human Resources for the State of Georgia. L.C. and E.W. are Lois Curtis and Elaine Walsh, adult citizens of that state who have been stuck with two scary labels: retarded and crazy. They sued Georgia for the right to live in freedom, in their community, not in the state hospital. Georgia, in the name of Olmstead and with his enthusiastic support, appealed the case all the way to the United States Supreme Court.

Olmstead, representing Georgia, told the Court that people with disabilities are dangerous or at least unable to care for themselves. They are better off with their own kind, put away somewhere.


Some of the most powerful groups in America joined Olmstead in his appeal to the Court. They included:

  • National Governors' Association
  • National Conference of State Legislatures
  • Council of State Governments
  • National Association of Counties
  • National League of Cities
  • U.S. Conference of Mayors

If the nation's highest court had ruled in Olmstead's favor, disabled Americans would have lost their civil rights for real and forever. Any of us who needed assistance could have been legally imprisoned in any state for the crime of having a disability. There would be no appeal.

Yes, Olmstead et. al. lost their case. In an ideal world, that would be the end of it. But states won't change the way they do what they do unless their citizens require them to. Worse yet, the commonsense-sounding arguments -- with that crucial subtext -- have not gone away. We will hear echoes of those arguments in every meeting in every state as we work to have the Olmstead ruling enforced. Those arguments, not the people who speak them, are our real enemies.


To read damning excerpts from their petititons, click here.


Get to know what was said in favor of our freedom, so that you can speak truth to power. To hear how advocates for freedom argued the Olmstead case, click here.


What does it take to close down the certifiably evil institutions?


Just for fun: To see the Polly Spare puppet, click here.

Link to the issue where these articles appeared in our Attitude Catalog store.