Thursday, May 28, 2009

Do The Right Thing

I had something happen last night... and I thought of my blogging friend Lisa. She has 2 blogs. One is about her "everyday" adventures in motherhood as a mother to 6 kids (including a set of twins and a baby with Down syndrome). One is dedicated to her son Finnian. He has Down syndrome.

Lisa has written on the subject of language a few times. Specifically, how it feels for her, for her kids... when someone glibly uses the word "retard." Like this post. And this one. And this one.

Let me start by saying that it isn't a word I use... but I have to admit that it has probably slipped into my vernacular from time to time.

Last night, we had our weekly dinner at church. As we lined up to head through the food line, I hear 3 teenage boys in front of me.

"Huh-huh. Look at the plate. It looks like a happy retard face. Huh-huh."

"Yeah. Retard. *snort*"

"Yeah. Happy retard. Heheheheh."

I'm not happy. I don't like the language.

But hello!!! Duh! This is my church and we are all about community and raising each other in Christ and all that jazz.

I take a step forward, look at each boy, and say "Please stop using that word. It is offensive to a lot of people. You might find it funny- but it really isn't. Please stop."

The 2 older boys stop. They look down, appearing a little embarrassed. The younger teen, who is somewhat known for being obnoxious, I think, and who seems to think he will impress the older boys... looks at me and says "What word? RETARD?"

Little shit. I oughta...

But I figure a teen boy is like a dog. When they snap at you, they are expecting you to back down. So that they then assert themselves in a pack leader role.

I don't fall for it with dogs. I'm not falling for it with this boy. Afterall, I know his mother is here!

So I keep eye contact, never flinch, never blink. I lean forward and say "Yep." I lean in further, grit my teeth (because I'm the alpha female, thank you) and say "That's the word."

He backs down- stops laughing, breaks eye contact, looks at his feet.

Alpha female wins.

Anyway- my point is that I stood up for what was right. Even if it would have been easier to ignore them, easier to act like I didn't hear them. After the fact, I realized that I'd done this in front of my kids. This was a good lesson for Teagan. She maybe didn't understand everything that was going on. She maybe wasn't following what Mommy was doing... but no matter... she saw Mommy choose the right thing vs the easy thing.

Do the right thing.


Joanie said...


mimbles said...

One of the guys I work with uses gay and retarded as insults all. the. frigging. time. I'm absolutely certain he's never had it pointed out to him that what he's doing is wrong.

And I haven't said anything yet. I want to, I feel like I need to. But he's kinda sorta one of my bosses and I don't really know him all that well yet. And that feels like a really crummy excuse.

Teenage kids I reckon I could do, I certainly have no difficulty calling my kids' friends on their language!

Eternal Lizdom said...

Mim- love that new pic!

Here's my thinking... with a teenager, I could be the dominant one. With a boss, not so much. But if my boss was saying things that I found to be offensive, I would politely ask that he/she refrain from using that language around me because I find it inappropriate and hurtful.

C. Beth said...

GOOD FOR YOU! A friend of mine who has a daughter with Down Syndrome made me aware of how offensive this is. I now notice it and it bugs me, but I don't usually say anything. Maybe I should.

Garret said...

I'm guilty of saying "tard" from time to time. Even when it's just between Jim and I in the privacy of our own home, it's still a hateful thing to do. Meanwhile, I'm one of those that don't like the word gay to mean odd, strange, stupid or whatever hateful why it's used.


Boozy Tooth said...

Like my stud-muffin, Garret, I am shamefully also guilty. I use the word in jest of course, but I promise I will be more careful. Although the root of the word just means stunted, I see that the vernacular expression has a hurtful connotation and is unappreciated much more than I realized. Thank you for the reminder Liz. I hate that I'm an offender, but what did you expect? I use the word gypped too. {winking at Garret}

Garret said...

Alix, I too thought about "gypped" as I read this post... {sigh} But the word brought us together.

Eternal Lizdom said...

I remember the "gypped" fiasco as well.

Language is so powerful. I guess if someone comes from a family of gypsies, gypped would be insulting?

But I think there are words that are used inappropriately and in unintentionally, and intentionally, hurtful ways. Retard, faggot, the n word, the c word... we all have things that hurt.

Maybe it's better to just not call names and try to refrain from derogatory language overall (now THERE'S a challenge!!).

Garret said...

Wow, that is a challenge.

Amy said...

Way to go, Liz! I have an aunt who has cerebral palsy. She is my mother's age, but behaviorally, she relates like a 3 year old. Because of Aunt Patty, I've always disliked the "r" word.