I am a disabled autistic adult, and I am writing to protest the use of the phrase “feebleminded” in your recent article about autism [“Profiles: Living Full-circle with Autism Spectrum Disorder,” June 25, Xpress]. This phrase is a very derogatory euphemism for a person with intellectual, developmental or cognitive disabilities.
It is rooted in eugenics, forced sterilization (for which North Carolina was well-known), abuse, institutionalization and bigotry.
It is a slur against an extremely vulnerable minority community. And is so hateful that it should not have appeared in print. This is not a phrase that describes any human being.
The disability rights movement is just as much a civil rights movement as the civil rights movement or the work of the LGBT community. If you wouldn’t publish a slur against those communities, then you shouldn’t publish one against the disability community.
The term feebleminded appeared in the following context: “And while his unfailingly friendly and timid demeanor may make him seem feebleminded, Nicholas is far from it.” While the writer meant no harm and was not using the term to describe her subject directly, we regret any offense caused by this admittedly out-of-date and inappropriate word choice.