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An Open Letter to Netflix CEO Reed Hastings

RE: Tom Segura Comedy Special Disparaging Individuals with Down Syndrome

January 29, 2018

Reed Hastings
CEO, Netflix & Netflix Canada
Netflix Corporate Headquarters
100 Winchester Circle Los Gatos, CA  95032

Dear Mr. Hastings,

I am writing to express my deep disappointment and concern that through your company’s actions, by making the Tom Segura comedy special available, you are ignoring your basic corporate social responsibility. Promoting and making available extremely insensitive programming which clearly targets the Down syndrome disability community contributes to the ridicule and marginalization of a vulnerable segment of society. In doing so, you are being socially irresponsible. 

We urge you to remove this program from your lineup immediately to demonstrate that Netflix values common decency and understands the need to protect vulnerable members of our society from those who choose to mock and ostracize them. Mr. Segura suggests that because his material does not refer to a specific person, he should be allowed to use this terminology to describe a situation. His material includes references to the extra 21st chromosome, a characteristic specific to individuals with Down syndrome. To suggest this is somehow okay because it is not targeting one particular individual displays, at best, ignorance; or worse, willful and purposeful direction of hateful comments toward individuals with Down syndrome. It begs the question: would he apply the same logic to the use of terminology about child abuse to describe a situation? Would he suggest that because his comments are not directed at a specific child, they are acceptable? Would Netflix?

This is not about political correctness, being too sensitive or silencing free speech. This is also not complicated. Making fun of individuals with a disability is simply not acceptable, in any form. Attacking vulnerable people is not okay.

Sadly, we live in a time when certain high profile individuals, through their actions, believe mocking or poking fun at people with disabilities is acceptable. I trust that you, someone who is also known as a philanthropist, by definition someone who demonstrates a love of humanity by exercising their values to care and nourish others, do not hold this belief. As members of society we all have a responsibility to be better and do better. In this moment in time, you have an opportunity to be and do better by removing this program. It is the right thing to do.

Also, while defined as a rare genetic condition, Down syndrome nonetheless affects a significant number of people in Canada, the United States and around the world. Approximately 1 in every 750 babies is born with Down syndrome. Today, more than 40,000 people in Canada live with Down syndrome and in the U.S. the number is estimated at close to 250,000. Netflix employs nearly 4000 people. Safe to say, some of your employees will be touched by this disability. Is making fun of individuals with Down syndrome a corporate culture you choose to encourage?

Sincerely,

Wayne Leslie
CEO
Down Syndrome Research Foundation

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