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Saturday, April 6, 2013

Comments with the "m" word

I didn't think it would happen so soon. Both times it took me completely by surprise, as I suppose it always will. Neither was directed towards Belalu, and so were conversations I happened to overhear.  The first time was about two weeks ago. We were at the Y, and it was someone who occasionally watches Belalu in the daycare center there. We were going into the daycare center and she was holding the door open and commented to a guy she knew: "I figured basketball's going on with all you tall guys coming in- I feel like a midget!" Essie had to go the bathroom, so I hustled him in, thinking about how I could approach her about it. But when we came out of the bathroom, she was gone. I thought about it a lot for the next few days. I decided that it was important to talk to her about it, since she could potentially spend time with the kids and may use the word again. Or even use the word in front of her kids and they would think it's ok to use, too. Or what if one or both of the kids had heard and understood? What kind of example would I be setting for them if I just let it go without talking to her about it? So, I wished I had said something. Then, I saw her again a few days later (I don't usually see her so often) and thought about talking to her then, but just didn't. I chickened out.

The second time was last night. E and I went to his first play. It was on campus, and we had a great time. As we were leaving, we passed the student who has dwarfism (I'm guessing it's acon, but I don't actually know), and stopped to talk to her about the show. Then we went further down the hall and E got fascinated with an antibacterial soap dispenser. The hall was pretty much empty, and as I was standing there with him, a group of three guys appeared and one said in a a low voice to the other two, "did you see that midget?" His friend said, "yeah, she's a theater major." They were speaking amongst themselves, she was already gone, but the hall was so quiet I heard them clearly. But again, since it was not a comment I was "supposed" to hear, I didn't say anything. However, my mood immediately plummeted. I was sad the rest of the night. Sad for what I heard them saying about her, and really disappointed at myself for not saying anything.

I'm not a confrontational person. I don't usually talk to people I don't know or intentionally draw attention to myself. If I had been part of the conversation in either case, I would have spoken up immediately. And after the fact, I know I should have said something even though I wasn't part of the conversation, but in the moment I just couldn't get myself to do it. It took me too long to get over the shock of the comment and then formulate how to respond, and by then the moment had passed. In the case of the first comment, though, I actually got a second chance, and I still didn't do anything. I feel like I have let my children down. I'm not setting a good example, and I'm not being Belalu's advocate. I've been unexpectedly thrown into a role that challenges me and my sense of self. Clearly, I have a lot of growing to do.

2 comments:

  1. I am not going to give you (and I) excuses, yes, I think you are right you need to bring it up with the lady at the Y. I am not sure about soemone else's private conversation. On the other hand, (now come the excuses), I think for linguists this is hard. The word is offensive, it shouldn't be used to describe a person and when used to describe something else, the use normalizes the word. Yet, I didn't write to the Economist about their recent use of describing Cyprus as a "Mediterranean m..."

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  2. Hey my friend! Don't let people and the use of their words get you down. Just because you didn't say anything doesn't make you a bad advocate.

    The thing is we can't control how others talk and we can't control what words they use. I have heard black people call each other the "N" word in public. I have heard people say all different things that others would otherwise think was offensive but the truth is unless it is directed towards my daughter I have no reason to say anything because I just don't give a crap! But you better believe if anything was said to any of my children "mama bear" is coming out! Until then I just ignore stupidity! :)

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