How To Respond When You Hear Derogatory Language Around Disability

What an interesting 24 hours it’s been. I am ever hopeful that I am bringing my children up in an era in which society is becoming more enlightened. That humans have an abundance of compassion and respect for their fellow people, animals and the earth. I believe that the majority of people have a desire to learn, evolve and gain understanding. I know every human definitely has the capacity to learn. I get things wrong and I’m learning all the time.
There will, unfortunately, always be the minority who don’t want to evolve.
I’m also ever hopeful that educating each other will bring about change and respect. David Attenborough said that when Blue Planet ll aired, he had no inkling that so much change would occur as a direct result. So many people around the world doing their little bit to reduce single use plastic waste and helping to reverse the damage being done. It took just a handful of women to  speak out courageously about the sexual harassment they had endured to create the MeToo movement. It has snowballed and thank goodness it has.
Speak Your Truth
If we always shy away from speaking our truth, nothing changes. Hearing people speak up can make others feel awkward and intimidated. In my opinion, when you speak your truth, it shouldn’t be through anger, it should be with compassion. There is, therefore, no need to feel awkward and intimidated. You might be embarrassed and respond in a way that shame creates but really it is best to be open to new points of view. I know that I will have people passing comment and being unkind because I stood up and said it’s not ok to use derogatory language, especially in a public space. To be honest, I don’t really care because it opens up the conversation. It is worth it if I can change the opinion and language use of just one person. It is worth it if it reduces the likelihood that my children will hear bullying language either passively or directly. It is always worth it to stand up for those more vulnerable than ourselves.
In the past 24 hours, I have had an exchange with someone over social media who thinks that it isn’t offensive to disabled people to use the term ‘window licker’ in a ‘joke’ fashion. I have pointed out that saying “it was just a joke” when using derogatory terminology is simply taking away any responsibility for using the terms in the first place. I have talked about this in the past via my blog.
I think it is everyone’s duty to enlighten each other to help grow a compassionate and inclusive society. I know we have an extremely long way to go but little by little, change will come. History is proof of that.
Over the decades, society has had to be and continues to be educated in respect. We learn over time what is disrespectful. Using derogatory phrases about people with special needs and disabilities is offensive. Using those terms to ‘take the piss’ out of others (“she is such a retard”, “you look like a window licker”, “he was behaving so special” you get the idea. I hear these sorts of things all the time) is offensive. There is no way you can think otherwise.
My Advice To You – Be Brave
If you use this language and someone calls you out on it, I’ll give you some advice. The best approach to take is a humble one. Listen to what is said, understand why it’s not ok to say ‘special’, ‘retard’ or ‘window licker’ etc (the list goes on) and be brave enough to admit you got it wrong. Change your language and educate others. Pass it on. It takes guts to admit when you are wrong. Don’t justify your actions with flimsy excuses and nonsense. People always see through those tactics.
On the flip side. If you come across someone who uses this language, it’s totally ok to politely call them out on it. I don’t think there is any need for anger or rage about it, just explain so that they have the chance to understand and make a change. Progress is what we are looking for. Take a look at this article published by The Anti Bullying Alliance. Through it’s research, it found some incredible statistics to back up people’s ignorance. “Most adults are ignorant of the meaning of offensive bullying language.” “Four in ten (44%) of adults use the word ‘spa’, ‘spastic’, ‘retard’ or ‘mong’ in casual conversation; half of whom justify doing so as part of ‘banter’. Incredible!
It’s totally ok not to understand the meaning behind words and not realise the offence caused but it is definitely not ok to refuse to acknowledge it. Often, people who stand up for themselves or for others are called snowflakes. I’ve had it in the past and it hilarious really.
Apparently it refers to the young generation of the 2010’s. I’m definitely much older than that!
 
Generation Snowflake. Generation Snowflake, or Snowflake Generation, is a neologistic term used to characterize the young adults of the 2010s as being more prone to taking offence and less resilient than previous generations, or as being too emotionally vulnerable to cope with views that challenge their own.
For those of you who haven’t met me personally, I can tell you, I am definitely not too emotionally vulnerable to cope with views that challenge my own. I have built a huge amount of resilience. If I hadn’t, I’m sure the comments of some people would crush me and bring me to tears. That’s not my response. My response is to encourage education. To encourage people to dare greatly in what they are passionate about. Don’t mistake speaking up for my son and his peers as being emotionally vulnerable. I’m speaking up on behalf of the vulnerable people in our communities.
By the way, for anyone not sure what ‘window licker’ refers to, here is the link to Wiktionary which also states it is offensive.
This is my gorgeous son, Freddie. He gets the bus for disabled children to and from his special educational needs school each day. So yes, for very obvious reasons, I do take offence to that term.
Hopefully, the more we talk about this and the more we educate each other, the more enlightened we will all become. Be brave, be bold and be compassionate. xx

SWAN UK Blogger

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