Archive | May, 2014

It’s not Funny

9 May
The rock outside our house

The rock outside our house

I wish to live in a world where having gay friends is normal and multi-culturism means more interesting potlucks not conflict. Boys and girls can grow up to be whatever they want to be and folks with different abilities are included and accommodated. Not that it’s always perfect, but when it’s not we work to remedy it.

In general, I spend my time in the company of folks who have similar goals/feelings on such things.

Which brings me to the focus of this post and my own struggle: what to do when the world isn’t nice to folks?

We’re raised, or at least I was raised, to be kind, don’t make waves, maybe even grin and bear it. But what if someone is speaking unkindly to another person? What if that person can’t or won’t stand up for themselves? What if the comments are general but the words would be hurtful if they were heard by the parties being discussed?

A couple weeks ago, someone who I was working near was joking with another co-worker. He was acting dumb and said he spoke with his hands. I asked myself what was the course of action I wanted to take. I moved to where this conversation was happening and I said “no one makes fun of special needs people in my presence or of people who speak with their hands.” I then went back to my tasks. The young man soon after sincerely apologized and added that he’s an adult and should know better and he’s going to do better.

I thought, in all, that was a good outcome. I don’t think that he was trying to be mean or put down someone, he just had never thought of it from another perspective.

And I think that is the basis of a lot of the hurtful or unkind things that people say. People just don’t realize what they are saying. Maybe they have never known someone in the ‘category’ they are marginalizing, maybe they just hear the word in the world so much it’s slipped in unconsciously.

The other day some co-workers were joking around like people do, “Hey, I think you missed the bus on that one” (haven’t we all) “Yeah, the short bus” (oh oh) that went from hey you made a mistake to hey you’re stupid like the special ed kids in a moment. Hopefully I don’t need to tell you dear reader that many kids on the special ed bus are there for reasons other than IQ.

Sure, being the sibling of a special needs person does make me more sensitive to this, but this is not the only topic that makes my hackles rise. There seems to be no limit on the ways that folks can find to marginalize other folks. I have already written a blog about my feelings on blonde jokes, then there are LGBTQ topics, and a host of areas relating to race and countries of origin. Heard anyone say ‘Indian giver’ lately? I have. Heard someone assume the worst about someone because of their skin tone (and are teaching their kid that)? I have.

There have been big pushes the last couple years to ban ‘gay’ as a derogatory word, ie: “that’s so gay” and the ‘R’ word, the formally clinical term to mean mentally delayed that was being used for anything the speaker didn’t like.

I would like to think that when I hear these kinds of things, that the person speaking them, and the people who are complying with their silence don’t understand what it’s like to be on the other side.

Maybe they have never watched their parents, doctors, and teachers try to figure out how to help their sibling be able to learn and thrive when their different abilities are always throwing curve balls.

Maybe they have never overheard classroom conversation about beating up the gay guy at the dance when you know the person in question is your best friend.

Maybe they have never supported a loved one struggling with mental illness.

Maybe they have never been told they can’t because of which body parts they have, or the color of their skin, or the region associated with their name, or their level of education, or the God they chose (or are perceived to chose) to worship, or the level of their parent’s bank account.

I don’t think it’s possible to gotten to high school or older and not experienced some of these things or have had them effect someone they care about. And it has to stop. Instead of people reacting from their pain and causing more pain, we have to learn to respond out of compassion. We have to look at the hurt we feel and use that to fuel us making it better for the next person instead of taking our pain out on them. It is time to make it stop.

We don’t have to be mean, and we don’t want to become the new oppressor, but it’s time to stand up and say, “hey I don’t feel comfortable with that reference, could you find another way to express that please?” No, it’s not always comfortable, and some people will not understand what you are saying, but some people will. And it will make a difference. Each time someone chooses a kinder word, it makes a difference. Staying silent means you are saying it’s ok.

I’m not saying it’s always easy, I’m not saying I expect each person reading this to get it perfect, (hey I’m not perfect either) but tell me that I goofed up and I’ll be happy to do it better and more mindfully next time. That’s all I’m asking.

I’m here to co-create a world that works for all, some may say that I’m being too sensitive, lighten up, take a joke. But I ask you, how is making another person bad, wrong, or stupid funny? I love to laugh, my laughter isn’t quiet, but I just don’t see the funny in oppression.

We can do this, we can create a world where people are safe and free. One baby step and one honest conversation at a time. It takes a village, a community, a world. Are you in?

Love you

Ra