Friday, June 2, 2017

I Was Called the R-Word...Now What?

I was a freshman in high school when I was first called the R-word.

I was leaving the cafeteria, and a guy - maybe a junior or a senior because I had zero idea of who he was - walked by me.  He looked me right in the eyes and told me matter of factly:

"You're an ishy retard."

Then, he kept walking, getting quickly lost in the crowd.  In a school where my graduating class alone was 600-some people, I never learned his name.  I never saw him again.

But the sting of his words had a lasting impact.

Because, how could somebody who didn't even know me casually hurl such a hateful slur and go about his day?  How could that be okay?

Well, it wasn't.

It wasn't okay in 1996 and it's not okay in 2017.

[Image: a pile of wooden Scrabble tiles reads NO HATE]
So what now?  What do you do when such a violent word gets used on you?

First, I want you to know I am so proud of you.  However you handled the situation.  Whatever you said or didn't say - could or couldn't say.

How do you move forward?  Well, here are some options:

1) Tell a safe person.  Tell someone you can trust.  Someone who values you as a whole human being.  Who loves you.  Who sees you.  Who gets what it is like to be you.  (If you don't have somebody like that, send me an email.  I'm here, should you ever need to talk.)


2)  Treat yourself gently.  After encountering violent words meant to reduce and dehumanize you, it can be easy to keep the negativity going.  To reinforce it.  But imagine you're talking to your most loved pet, or most cherished baby relative.  Would you use angry words on them after they were already scared and hurt?  No.  You would make sure they were comfortable.  Safe.  You would talk softly to them.  You would tell them it's not their fault.

It isn't yours, either.

3)  There is no limit to how often you need to talk about what happened to you.  What happened to you was not okay.  No one should treat you the way you were treated.  You deserve so much better.  And it's completely reasonable that an injury like this would take some time to process.  Take that time.

Remember that you are important.  You are needed.  You are worthy of love and respect.

You are.

Really.

Trust me.

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