Monday, October 20, 2014

R-Word. Stop.

I thought quite a bit before writing on this topic. There are several reasons why I have felt the need to be less particular about the use of this word. The fact that I myself used this word not too long ago without giving it a second thought. The fact that a lot of people who use it mean no harm. The fact that most people use it in their daily lives to indicate humor, more than a negative intent.

But something changed it. And I decided to write about it.

This year’s Buddy Walk was A-M-A-Z-I-N-G. I love it when people show up to support us, our kids, our community. I respect it when they change whatever they had planned for their day to join us. I understand it supports us and Samaira. And I also understand it broadens the horizon of every single person who attends the Walk. Being amongst incredible people who are truly inspiring and people who show us that a diagnosis does not determine the things that you can achieve, is special, to say the least. So, yeah. I love the Buddy Walk. Everything about it is incredible and extremely close to my heart. This year, as we were almost done with the walk and were about to go home, we were approached by a beautiful young girl, maybe in her teens. She asked if Samaira has down syndrome and we said “yes.” She asked us if we like the R-word, and we immediately responded “absolutely not.” She then said “I don’t like it either.” That. Right there. Changed my opinion. On whether or not I wanted to write on this topic. It doesn’t matter if it was a part of my vocabulary before. It doesn’t matter if it is a part of other people’s vocabulary now. It doesn’t matter if the intent behind this word is harmless most of the times. When that young girl told us “I don’t like it either,” something stirred inside me to say “spread the word.” I thought someday, it could be Sammy in her shoes. Or it could be Rehan. Detesting the word because they will be called so. And it will hurt them. And it will hurt me.

So here. For a very selfish reason. I have decided to talk about this word. And why it hurts. And why we shouldn’t use it. And why it is absolutely not ok to use this word.

There are things that we do. There are things that we don’t do. And then there are things that we absolutely must never ever do. Use of R-word is one such thing that we absolutely must not do. At first it seems like a harmless, innocuous thing to do. People say it with an air of funny attached to it. In most cases I rank intent over impact. But in this case, I can’t. It doesn’t frikkin’ matter what your intent was. It absolutely does not.

Your impact matters.

You can read more about the campaign to “Spread The Word To End The Word” here.

Having a conversation to raise awareness about this word may sometimes be tricky or difficult. But the best way to do it is to indicate that the use of R-word is not ok, especially when used as a synonym for idiot. This word has been used for people with intellectual disabilities for long enough that even when you are not using the word in that context, it actually demeans a whole bunch of people without you even knowing about it. It is therefore not just a figure of speech. It goes beyond that. Trying to look for a word to replace the R-word in your dictionary will be a good start to show respect to a huge community that truly deserves it. 

Words can hurt you. Words are not harmless even if we wish to pretend they are. So it is never too late to begin. I figured why not spread the word because it will shape the society and the culture that my kids will grow up in. It will impact the people who will be their friends and companions. So why not take this step to help people understand the gravity of this word they take for granted. This word should be erased from our minds. Our vocabularies. The Oxford dictionary. Whatever you may. Let us stop our kids, our neighbors, our family, our friends, our colleagues, our community – everyone – from using this word. Please.

My Positivity
I have broken out of my shell and decided to talk about the R-word. I had hesitated so long thinking that maybe I am extra sensitive about it now. But it is no big deal when people don’t actually mean any harm. I tried to convince myself that going mainstream about it will somehow mitigate the impact of this word because there is something to be said about giving people the benefit of doubt. It can’t be that bad. Getting over my denial phase about this word. Realizing how truly negative it is. That is my positivity. I feel liberated in a very strange, incomprehensible way. It feels good.

No comments: