Friday, June 20, 2014


You know the feeling. Someone has used the 'R word' or has used 'tard' as in combination along with another word and you, because you promised yourself you would, know you have to speak up. A feeling of 'oh shit' I'm about to be tagged as 'over sensitive' or 'insensitive' or as the 'word police' or as 'against free speech'. I'm about to be told 'I didn't mean it that way,' or 'I wasn't referring to people with disabilities' or 'you are taking it the wrong way.' And, of course, I expected to be 'defriended' virtually or 'unfriended' socially. But, that's the shit that goes with the territory.

So, in response to someone's comment using a combo word, on the topic of gay price, I wrote this:

I work with people who have intellectual disabilities, who until very recently have had their sexuality monitored, their relationships destroyed, their bodies subjected to surgery without consent to eliminate the possibility of parentage, lemon juice shot into their mouths - or contingent electric shock to stop them from even masturbating. The use of the word 'tard' in part or the longer 'R*tard' continues the idea that this is a group that it is acceptable to hurt, harm and disparage. I would suggest that if we want it to 'get better' for those in our community subjected to bigotry or bias we may want to act in ways that communicate we respect and support others also struggling to find acceptance and safety within society at large.

Imagine my surprise, then, to find that I wasn't unfriended. In fact the person whose facebook page this happened on called me a 'lovely person.' I almost fell over dead at that reaction. I expected, and am used to, some kind of debate wherein I'd face a shitstorm of reaction.

Imagine my further surprise when the person who wrote the comment to which I responded. Flat out apologized and said:
Dave: you're absolutely correct. I apologize for my poor choice of language and insensitivity. I should know better.

Who ARE these people??

I can say, definitively, that in all my years of challenging the use of disability disparaging dialogue that I've never, once, had this reaction.




But ... I liked it.

It has always seemed obvious to me, as a person who grew up being called a 'gear box' (I never understood that one) or a 'pansy' or a 'sissy' or any number of names that calling someone a name or using someone's identity as a put down was simply wrong. Obvious. Yet, I'm used to having to defend my defence of something indefensible.

Not this time.

I immediately liked the person, who I do not know, who apologized. They are obviously very cool if they can react calmly with apology when called on something. I immediately respected the person whose page this happened on who immediately supported me and my expression of opposition.

Who ARE these people?

The only answer can be - decent, thoughtful souls.


Anonymous said...

Pure AWESOME! Thanks for sharing this Dave! I too, cringe and then SPEAK UP when I hear anyone use the "R" word! I too, have been called over sensitive, on my soap box, emotional - you name it. Thank you for sharing this exchange!


Jayne Wales said...

Yes good on you and him/ her. I spoke out last week and was us friended with a comment if you knew me better you would know I didn't mean it! A carer too. What an example yo others! So good on this person and you of oursex have a nice weekend

FunMumX3 said...

I had a similar experience with a lesbian-feminist-political-journalist blog that I follow when the writer used F and "tard" to express hatred and disgust at someone. When I emailed the blogger (nicely) she was horrified and said that she had never ever realized. She vowed to never use the word or any of it's variations again. As a journalist, she was a consumer and producer of words and was willing to own the blunder and commit avoiding such words in the future. Was nice.

Ettina said...

I saw a similar exchange on a forum recently. An autistic guy was complaining about 'retarded psychiatrists', and when others called him on it, he apologized and agreed his choice of words was a problem.

Kristine said...

And with that, the world is a slightly better place than it was before. Delightful. :)

I wonder what makes us humans so naturally defensive, and how we could start retraining ourselves to have some humility when we listen. Start jumping to self-reflection instead of self-defense, so that we can realize even in the moment that "Wow, you're right, I messed up, and I'm sorry..."

ecodrew said...

I know what you mean, you almost brace yourself for a sh!tstorm of vitriol when you call someone on the r-word. Nice to hear you got the rare intelligent response. I got a similar response from a coworker recently - some people are truly just ignorant to how hateful the r-word is, and are genuinely sorry for using it.

CJ said...

My sister disinvited me from her granddaughter's graduation because I politely commented on her 40 year old daughter's FB where she was laughing at a comment that used the R word. I'm tired if excuses for using that word.