Nickelpicklemama's Blog

October 23, 2009

The R Word

Filed under: Uncategorized — by nickelpicklemama @ 1:16 pm

When I was a kid, probably around 7 or 8, I had one of my first real foot-in-mouth moments. My very best friend was my neighbor Rachel. She was a few years older than me, but that didn’t much matter. We spent every single spare moment together, inseperable and as close as two friends can be.

Around that same time I had picked up a new word. I’m not sure where exactly I had heard it, but I’m guessing it was at school. The word was “Jew”, and it meant someone who was extremely selfish. I’d never ever use this word now, but at the time, I truly had no knowledge of it’s origin. To me, it was just another way of calling someone a “jerk”.

I don’t even remember what Rachel and I were arguing about that day, but I do remember the look of shock and disbelief on her face when I blurted out, “Dont be such a Jew, Rachel!”
Her eyes filled with tears, and I immediately felt remorse. She was a great girl, and with wisdom beyond her years, she asked me if I knew what that meant, and why it was so hurtful. I didn’t know; so she told me.
Rachel was Jewish, and I am Catholic. That day, Rachel taught me a very important lesson. I have never uttered that word again.

When my nephew was born with Down Syndrome, there was a new word to repent for and regret using. That word was “retard”. I shamefully admit that before Peter was born, it was a word that I occasionally used, completely without thinking. I’d never used it to purposely demean anyone, but I had used it casually in conversations.

After Peter was born, hearing the word became like hearing nails on a chalk board. I cringe every time I hear it. I know how much if offends me personally, but I also know now how very much it hurts people with disabilities. I vowed to never use the word again, and I try to spread the message to everyone I can. As Maya Angelou once said, “We do the best we can with what we know at the time. When we know better, we do better.”

I’m no better than anyone else. I too once used that awful word, but now I know better, and so do you. Let’s stop that word from being socially acceptable. It is a word that for decades has been used to ridicule and degrade people. It is wrong, and it is hateful. We know better; let’s do better.

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