To the editor:

I wish to take exception to the mean-spirited, and perhaps politically motivated, finger pointing at Salem’s Ward 7 Councilor Steve Dibble who used the outdated word “r-word” during the course of a recent wide ranging interview on zoning changes. When told of his mistake, Steve immediately apologized and is taking steps to turn his gaff “into a tool to raise awareness and to educate people living with and without disabilities.”

It is worth noting that every single “ARC” in the United States was originally named “Association of Retarded Citizens” in the 1950s and 60s when parents of developmentally delayed children successfully united to rescue their kids from residential warehousing and provide services for them at home. Surely these parents are were not guilty of “slurring” their children with disabilities. Similarly, NAACP is the acronym for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Still its legal name, still in use today. Still doing a lot of good.

Terms morph over time. Perhaps Steve was simply tired from the summer of 2020 he spent buying and distributing PPE’s on his own dime and time, while supporting his wife Jean who is a nurse at NSMC treating COVID-19 patients every day.

Let’s use Councilor Dibble’s embarrassing slip as a “teachable moment” and be a little less gleeful while slurring a gentleman with decades of public service in disability advocacy, city planning, and service to Ward 7 and Salem’s City Council.

Anne Sterling




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