I was mystified by a billboard in East Dallas. "Erase the R-Word," it says.Nor do I, Steve. And here's his main point:
The sign features an "R" in a circle. At first I thought someone was trying to wipe out Radio Shack.
Slowly it dawned on me. "Oh! 'Retarded.' "
At www.r-word.org, I was informed: "The r-word is hate speech that perpetuates the negative stereotypes that face people with intellectual disabilities every day."
That was kind of a shock. "Hate speech"? Really?
I was certainly aware of other terms in use these days. But I sure never thought "retarded" had become hate speech.
And I still don't buy it.
In fact, in my estimation, the very use of terms like "hate speech" creates a kind of reverse prejudice.He goes on to relate a conversation he had with the mother of a son with schizophrenia; the mother got so riled up that Blow said her son was schizophrenic rather than that he had schizophrenia ("He's a person, not an illness") that it left him much less enthusiastic about hearing her story.
Some people seem to delight in pouncing on the innocent terminology of others. Instead of building good will, they undermine it..
And that's the thing: There are a lot of us out there who are perfectly willing to meet people with differing views halfway, so long as they don't continually pull the Language Police thing on us. Blow concludes with another excellent observation:
[W]e have to recognize that language changes slowly. And we don't need to accuse anyone of hate speech simply for not using the latest lingo.Maybe that's part of the problem: People who should be smart enough to recognize this are letting their righteous indignation get in the way of real communication. (And I should point out that if Blow--himself a survivor of a heart attack--can use the above term in a joking manner, other people in similar situations ought to take a little chill pill as well.)
For that matter, I don't think we should get worked up about the metaphorical use of disabilities either. "That's retarded." "Are you blind?" "How lame." "He's insane." "I had a heart attack."
That's just how we talk. No ridicule of real infirmities is intended by those expressions.
We're all smart enough to recognize when words are really being used to be hateful or hurtful.
As I've said many times on this blog, there is no Constitutional right here in America to not have one's feelings hurt. And when the speaker doesn't mean anything by the statement, like in the above examples, it's definitely not time to break someone's bones with sticks and stones for supposedly hurting them with words, which is exactly the opposite of what our moms told so many of us kids in this situation. On this occasion (among many), Mom was right.