Why Don't We Say The Name Of The Disabled Reporter?

We should never erase his disability, but we shouldn’t reduce him to it either.
01/10/2017 10:21 am ET Updated Jan 11, 2017
 Serge F. Kovaleski is a Pulitzer Prize winning investigative reporter for the <em>New York Times</em>.
Source: Facebook
Serge F. Kovaleski is a Pulitzer Prize winning investigative reporter for the New York Times.

On Monday morning, Meryl Streep was present all over Facebook, and her name trended in the highest position for much of the day. This, of course, was in response to her Golden Globes speech the night before. Many people were moved by her words as she expressed the importance of empathy, honored immigrants, and advocated for journalists and a free press.

At the heart of her speech, she called our attention back to one of the most disturbing moments of the 2016 presidential campaign. Without mentioning the name of the president-elect, she referenced the terrible moment when Donald Trump mocked a disabled reporter during one of his campaign speeches. That shocking action, caught on video, was deeply concerning to many. Across the nation, people shared it a multitude of times and highlighted it as a particularly low moment of the campaign season.

I was very touched by Meryl Streep’s speech. Without ever mentioning Donald Trump’s name, she called him to account. But as I considered this speech, a question emerged within me as well: Whenever this moment is referenced, why is it so rare to hear the name of reporter?

The man’s name is Serge F. Kovaleski, and he is an accomplished investigative reporter at The New York Times. His work is phenomenal. In 2009, he contributed to investigative reporting that won a Pulitzer Prize. He was born in Cape Town, South Africa and spent his early childhood in Sydney, Australia. His family moved to New York City in the 1970s.

Serge Kovaleski has a condition called arthrogryposis multiplex congenita, which limits flexibility in his arms. Though Donald Trump denies mocking him, the video from his campaign clearly indicates otherwise. When this took place, people across the nation were shocked and appalled that he would publicly mock a disabled reporter in this way. People still raise concerns about this very moment.

And it makes sense to do just that. It is truly shocking and appalling. Meryl Streep was right to say, “There was nothing good about it.”

But it’s also important for us to remember that this disabled reporter has a name. He is Serge F. Kovaleski. We should never erase his disability, but we shouldn’t reduce him to it either. “Donald Trump mocked a disabled reporter,” we tend to say, and most often, we leave it just at that. We need to say his name more often.

Donald Trump publicly mocked the disability of an accomplished journalist named Serge F. Kovaleski.

This piece was first published at Smuggling Grace.

Renee Roederer is the founding organizer of Michigan Nones and Dones, a community for people who are “spiritually curious but institutionally suspicious.” This community in Southeast Michigan includes people who are religiously unaffiliated (the Nones), people who have left established forms of institutional churches (the Dones), and people who remain connected to particular faith traditions but seek new, emerging visions for their expression.

Please visit Smuggling Grace to subscribe to Renee Roederer’s blog. You can also follow her on Twitter: @renee_roederer.

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