|Image description: in red captial letters "R-WORD NOT WELCOMED HERE" on pavement.|
What it did to me when you used the R-word today you made your bigotry my problem. And I resent that. The fact that you were providing service to me, a disabled man, and in the course of that service, in a moment of frustration you said that something was "freaking r#tarded" changed everything. I spoke you to you about it, just before I was about to leave, because I was too fearful to do it during the time I needed your support, in a tremulous voice. It wasn't easy for me to do. It wasn't easy for me to see the anger in your eyes at being called out. It wasn't easy for me to leave knowing that I will need your support in the future. I was full of worry of future consequences of what I did today. I have decided that what I need to do is write and tell you what you did to me today. I want you to understand the impact of your behaviour on me.
The moment you said that word he space around me no longer felt safe. I had always felt safe there. This is disabled space. This is a place where almost everyone, except the service providers, all of whom have been trained to provide service to people with disabilities, are disabled. There are few such spaces. This is one of them. And I felt safe here. Until you opened your mouth.
When you spoke, you used restraint, which proves you have restraint, because you didn't drop the F-bomb, you used 'freaking' rather than 'fucking.' Some part of you knew not to use that word. You stopped yourself. You chose a different word. But, I tell you this, I would have much rather heard the 'f word' than the 'r word.' But then, when you said the 'r word' you spat it out. Your anger was in voice, and your tone which communicated disgust and distaste and disrespect and the word that you found strong enough to carry that anger was the 'r word.' You knew what it meant, you used it in a way that clearly communicated that you knew what it meant, and you didn't care.
Don't tell me that 'I didn't mean it that way' ... of course you did.
And you were betting.
Betting on the fact that as I had a physical disability and not an intellectual disability that I'd be in your camp,on your side. You were betting on my being so wrapped up in my insecurities that I'd be pleased to be included with you, and not them. That I'd be one of the ones who liked it to be clear that 'at least I'm not r#tarded.' Well you bet wrong. I am a member of many minority communities. I remember when the gay male community went through a phase where 'straight looking, straight acting' was the goal and anyone less than that, or, more appropriately, more than that was outcast. 'Flamboyant' was the word they used with derision and disrespect. I didn't get it then there.
I don't get it now, here.
You were also betting on my silence.
Betting on the fact that I needed your support and that in my need came my dependence and in my dependence came my submission. And you were right, I kept silent, until I was at the door. I did fear you. You words told me that you had violence in you. I waited until I was free of you to speak. I waiting until I could escape you. I knew that my speaking out would flame your anger, that you would immediately feel victim of my offence. And you did. I saw in your eyes first your hate, then as you eyed me up and down, your dismissal of me and therefore my concerns.
You never apologized.
You didn't feel you had to.
That tells me something about you, or maybe it confirms what I learned about you when you spoke the way you spoke.
You were betting on one other thing.
You were betting that I had no power in relationship to you. You were wrong. Right about now you should be hearing from your employer, who was shocked at what I had to say.
But, whatever happens now, happens.
I wanted you to hear from me.
That word is a hateful word.
It destroys, for those of us within the disability community, any sense of safety.
It destroys, for those of us who have disabilities, any sense of trust that we are respected.
It destroys, and you should consider this, your character.
I'm still angry.
At the word.
At the fact that I had to receive support from someone, be touched by someone, like you.