So, again, there’s an entertainer, this time a comedian, who is using vile and hateful words in a routine about people with intellectual disabilities. I saw this several weeks ago, alerted to it by someone on Facebook and when I watched it I was sickened and felt immediately hopeless. I found the petition, signed the petition, and moved on. Then I received a message asking me specifically to blog about this comedian and give my take on his routine and his use of the word. I don’t write blogs on command, and I need to be clear no demand was made but I felt the pressure of the request combined with the sense that I should do something.
I know that he knows that the word is offensive, his defense is something akin to ‘but it’s comedy‘ and with that the suggestion that we should all just lighten up. But here’s the thing, he knows. I know he knows. Ruby and Sadie knew that name calling and mocking people was wrong when they were three. So. He knows. He’s making a choice. And, he’s making a name for himself at the same time. I’m frustrated because I don’t want my protest or our upset to advance his career and if you look him up, that’s what seems to be happening.
So. He knows what he’s doing. And. It’s working.
Some people are so desperate for fame and fortune that they don’t mind engaging in behaviour that children would be sent to the corner for. He’s one of those. His vile routine is vile. He knows it, we know it and this blog ain’t gonna make one bit of difference.
But, in the end, it wasn’t his routine that left me feeling hopeless. I felt all sorts of things, anger, disgust and incredulity at the level of hateful ignorance spewed, but I didn’t feel hopeless. What left me feeling hopeless was the audience. They were laughing. Some of them were laughing, hard.
And that, my friends, is our fault.
I took a stand against the r-word a very long time ago. I knew it as a hurtful word because of the work that I did in abuse prevention training. I’ve had that workshop stopped over and over again to find the audience of people with disabilities wanted to talk about bullying and they wanted name calling considered as abuse and the ‘r word’ as hate. They’ve been clear from the get go. A long while ago, in 2003 the BBC did a poll which asked people with disabilities what was the most offensive word used in relation to disability and, even then, the ‘r word’ was number one. So, it’s been a long while the people with disabilities have identified what’s considered offensive language. When a people state that certain words are hurtful and hateful, I figure the only response is to listen.
Now, back to the audience laughing.
I’m betting that every single one of them has in their social circles, those who have disabilities, those who parent people with disabilities, those who are siblings of people with disabilities, those who work with people who have disabilities … I’ll bet. Those people they know, that’s us folks. That’s the length and breadth of the disability community.
Why aren’t we using our voice and our power? Why aren’t we talking to friends and family and, everyone we can, about respectful language? Why aren’t we raising our voice when strangers use hateful words within our hearing? Why aren’t we making it clear that words hit, like a fist?
Let him spout his hateful routine.
Our job is to stop the laughter.
Our job is to create audiences that won’t accept bigotry and hate as humour.
Our job is to speak up, speak out and speak clearly.
Yes, sign the petition.
But I worry about these damn petitions, even though I think they are important, but I worry that people will think that they’ve done now. Petition is signed, contribution made.
No first sign the petition and then petition others to change how they use language and change how they respond to language and change how they react to hate.
I’ll tell you this, no on in my social circle would ever use the ‘r word’ around me. Never. Most of them wouldn’t have anyway but some have learned, from me, that the word hurts and, because of that, they’ve stopped. We can all do that.
It’ll take time.
But let’s take his audience from him.
That’s the most powerful thing we can do.