This is the post where I make a point relating to my good neighbor, Jim, who has a disability. Do me a favor, particularly if you are a reader who is not familiar with the disability rights movement or the social model of disability: Recall my post about Jim, and think of a few words you would use to describe him. Okay, got a couple of adjectives?
Now, let me share two quotes from a forum. The person posting works in the prison system. Understand, she is not a bad person. She is a funny, snarky person who feels that she is doing a service to society through her work as a corrections officer, and she does, in fact, stand up for inmates’ rights if she sees them violated. Whether or not you agree with the US prisons system, she is an individual who believes in herself and her work, and she is a good person. These quotes do not reflect a complete person. They reflect a use of language by her, a person whom I like, that, in my opinion, was hurtful and shocking.
In the first, an excerpt from a transcribed conversation, the context is that an inmate has just endangered himself by doing something very reckless. “Me” is the person who posted this; “IM” is the inmate.
ME: Mr [Retard].
ME: If you ever do that again, I will write you so many DR’s your children will do Seg time.
In the second quote, some inmates have been misbehaving by shooting spitballs.
The 2 cells I suspected were in the corner, so I watched them out of the corner of my eye. I asked the Porter (cellhouse janitor) if he’d noticed any retards throwing spitwads lately, and he said no, but he was tired of cleaning them up.
Would she– we’ll call her Sue– ever hurt my feelings, or the feelings of a person with a disability, intentionally? I don’t think so. I also don’t think she is aware that her words were hurtful. The forum I quoted these things from does not allow members to call other members out on their language.
The moderators require one to use a “report” button to report a post that is offensive. The moderators then make a decision amongst themselves about the complaint. I’ve reported similar posts for use of language in the past, and the decision has been that they will not take any stand against this word. In addition, I’m told that I’ll get an “infraction” for frivolously using the report button if I continue to report hurtful use of this word.
So, I can’t ask Sue if she would use that word to describe my neighbor. I can’t ask her if she would use that word within earshot of my friendly, gentlemanly neighbor, Jim. I can’t ask her if she understands that it’s a near-certainty that, at some point in his life, Jim has heard that word applied to him in a hurtful way.
That’s why I’m talking about it here, and why I asked you to think of a few words that describe Jim.
I think the point is made.