On a segment of ABC’s “What Would You Do?” that aired Wednesday, customers in a Brooklyn grocery store found themselves trapped in a checkout line behind rude shoppers who berated a bagger with Down syndrome. The customers didn’t know that the clerk and the rude shoppers were all actors. Hidden cameras recorded everyone’s reactions to abusive language that the show described as happening “all too often” in real life.
“You’re absolutely retarded, dude! You have to go faster,” an actress shouted.
While some customers ignored the abuse, others spoke up in defense of the clerk, played by actor Josh Eber. “He’s a person, the same as you and I, with feelings,” said a woman identified as “Karen”, a teacher who has taught children with disabilities. “Everybody deserves an education. Everybody deserves a job, and everybody deserves a chance in this life. And you should be ashamed of yourself.”
Madeleine Will of the National Down Syndrome Society underscored the hurtfulness of insults like the word “retard.” She called on the public to speak up against verbal abuse.
“When we’re silent, our silence condones the language,” she said. “It’s important to say, again and again, this is wrong, this is not fair, this is not how we treat other people.”