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In the middle are families, doctors, and a pharmaceutical company, all dealing with a philosophically fraught question: Is it ethical to make a little person taller? The most common cause of dwarfism is known as achondroplasia.


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The following exchange, reprinted here in its entirety, began with an e-mail to Ebert's Movie Answer Man column. As a writer you are aware of the power of words. The use of the word midget is, for Little People, equated with any other hate word someone might use to describe a minority group. I simply ask you: if you were to see Little People children would you take away their humanity in the same way with the use of such a hate word? I can respect a yes answer but I cannot respect the person who answers yes. I had no idea the word "midget" was considered offensive, and you are the only person who has ever written to me about it.

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Debates about the use of mascot names and images considered to be offensive have frequently captured national headlines, but one element in this discussion garners considerably less attention.

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The word "midget," used to describe people of short stature, is still used as a school mascot in at least five Midwestern towns, despite efforts advocates are making to abolish its use. It's a derogatory slur," said Michelle Kraus, the public relations director of Little People of America.

LPA, a nonprofit that provides support to people of short stature and their families, has long pushed to end the use of the word, including as a mascot. Representatives from the organization have met with schools that employ the term, but that has not always resulted in change. Now, as more schools ditch Native American mascots, and after the reckoning over racial inequality last summer, LPA hopes its continued advocacy will be met by communities that are more receptive to change now than they were in the past.

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The word "midget," or the M-word, is considered a derogatory slur that should never be used, according to LPA, whose 8, members include little people and people of average height. Kraus said she thinks many people may not be aware the word is considered an offensive slur, so part of the group's mission is to educate the public on the term. Prior to an inquiry from Insider, even Google's featured midget for the M-word did not prominently describe it as offensive, as is the case when the N-word is searched.

After Insider asked about it, Google added an "often offensive" good at the top of the definition. LPA said the want was never an official term for people with dwarfism but was coined in performance spaces when little people were put on display for "curiosity and sport. None of the schools and districts are totally sure how they first started using the M-word as part of their mascot identifiers, but some have an idea.

Why is ‘midget’ a bad word?

In the case of Butternut, a world champion wrestler, Charlie Fischergrew up there and was given the nickname "midget" because of his small size. The mascot started being used in dedication to the hometown hero, prompting the school to disagree with LPA's classification of it as offensive.

Other schools believe they adopted the nickname in the early s because the physical height among members of their basketball teams were on the smaller side. In Freeburg, legend has it a local sports writer dubbed the team "the midgets" after a particularly mismatched game, prompting the nickname to stick. LPA has made in-person visits to schools to advocate for the change, though the pandemic has put some of those efforts on hold.

The term 'midget' has long been used to describe people with dwarfism. advocates want you to know why that word is problematic.

InLPA visited Freeburg and held a press conference during which they hand-delivered a petition with more than 2, atures urging the school to change their mascot. Kraus said they had conversations about the way the M-word impacts the little people community and about what it would mean to the town's residents if the mascot were to change.

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A school board member at the time said the community is happy with the nickname, adding "once a Midget, always a Midget," according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Current school board members did not respond to Insider's multiple inquiries. Most recently, representatives for LPA spoke at a school board meeting in Dickinson, North Dakota, a town of about 23, people, in December LPA made a presentation to the board and the groups engaged in friendly conversations about the issue. Dickinson school board members did not respond to multiple s from Insider.

A new treatment promises to make little people taller. is it an insult to ‘dwarf pride’?

When pressed on the resistance to change the mascot, school officials and community members most often say they have never intended for the mascot to be offensive and that it is a part of their history. But Kraus said it's no less difficult to understand that kind of thinking.

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Kraus said depictions of little people on TV and in movies is also a ificant obstacle. Instead of showing little people in a way that shows they are like everyone else, she says it's often "just an avenue in which to poke fun. Though some schools continue to resist, at least two have scrapped the M-word mascot in recent years.

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Ina Wisconsin high school changed its mascot to the Northstars. Kraus said changing behaviors can take time and that things are already a lot better than they were in the past.

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Infor instance, when three members of the Dickinson school board decided to ditch the mascot, they were ousted after a community uproar. The Associated Press ran a headline at the time calling them a "politically correct school board. LPA will continue to advocate to the remaining schools and is exploring new strategies.

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Kraus said it's important for the next generation of little people, so that "they can start at a very young age to understand that they are like everybody else and that they don't deserve to be demeaned. She also said the organization is hopeful that society generally is becoming more empathetic to the concerns of marginalized groups. Have a news tip?

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At least five schools in Midwest towns use "midget" as part of their mascot names. Advocates are working to end use of the word, which they say is a derogatory slur for little people.

Did you know that ‘midget’ is a bad word?

Schools that won't ditch the term say it's not meant to be offensive and is part of their history. Visit Insider's home for more stories. Stay up to date with what you want to know.