I have been thinking a lot lately about how people talk, the words and descriptions that people and I use, what’s politically correct and what’s not, and mostly – what hurts and why?
Now, firstly let me say that I was never a big fan of politically correct, and I’m also known to throw in a few swear-words for good measure every now and again (which I’m trying to curb, now that Malakai is around). So, I’m no angel… not by a long stretch.
But, since having Malakai come into my life, my ears have become much more sensitive to words such as ‘downs’, ‘retarded’, ‘disabled’ etc. But I think by far the most hurtful description used for my son is ‘they’. This word is usually used in place of ‘downs people / people with Down syndrome’, and it’s just shortened to ‘they’. For example ‘they usually don’t sleep through the night’ or ‘they are such happy children’ etc.
So, I have to ask myself why the word ‘they’ hurts so much? I have used ‘they’ to describe people from different backgrounds / ethnicities, like when I say ‘they have such beautiful hair’ of my friend who is Indian. So what’s the problem?
Well… the problem is that by saying ‘they’, the person who is speaking is separating themselves from the person being spoken about. It’s a case of ‘us and them’, a word that represents separation.
But I use ‘they’ all the time, and I do not mean it disrespectfully of the person/people I am referring to, it’s just a grouping. So, is it as bad as I think?
What I do think is that I have become more aware. I have now realized how hurtful labels are, how hurtful generalizations are, how hurtful it is when we rob someone of their individuality by lumping someone with a whole group of other people – as well intentioned as it may be.
All Indian people have beautiful hair? Really? Have I met all the Indian people on the planet? No. Can I therefore say that ‘they’ have beautiful hair? Absolutley not! Can I say that my friend, ‘So-and-So’ has beautiful hair? Yes, because I know her and think her hair is beautiful!
What’s my point, I hear you ask? Well, it’s that if I don’t want people to generalize about my child, and generalise about him as a ‘they’, then all I need to say (as nicely as possible) is, ‘Have you met every individual on the plant with Down syndrome? No? Then I would appreciate if you could refer to my child as the individual that he is. Thank you for understanding’.
And as for me – I am going to eradicate the word ‘they’ from my vocabulary in an effort to celebrate every person’s uniqueness, including my beautiful magical boy!
Thank You Lord 5 years NED 16 January 2013
4 years ago