The R-Word and Jane Elliot

The first time I ever heard The R-Word (in case you didn’t know the word I’m talking about is ‘retard’) was on the train. There were a bunch of high school kids opposite, & all but one were randomly taking pictures outside of the window. The one who wasn’t taking pictures said: “That’s so retarded.” I asked mum what the word meant, I could tell it was an insult, or a word to put somebody down, and to make what they were doing sound worthless. And also I knew that it was offend full, because a girl replied back: “Shut up” The real meaning of the word is ‘Retardation‘ is meant to mean ‘the act or result of delaying.’ But people have started using it as an insult. Unfortunately it’s very commonly used as an insult in America. And sadly it’s becoming common in the UK, too.

Agi K eyeI want to try and explain the hurtful effect of using the R-Word as a put-down or insult to you. Because people have said to me: “What does it matter? It’s just a joke.”  Well to those people who don’t have a intellectual or developmental disability maybe it doesn’t matter, they probably haven’t stopped to imagine what impact it would have on them if they had a lifelong condition, and the name of that condition was commonly used as an insult all around them. So here is my example to help those people imagine what it might feel like, and hopefully get them to stop using the R word.

Imagine you had brown eyes (like me) and you were walking down the street and you  were waiting at the bus stop. There are two girls also waiting at the bus stop and you overhear their conversation: “Ugh that boy who fancies me phoned me up for the millionth time last night!” the other girl replies: “I don’t know why you put up with him, he’s so brown eyed!”                                                                                                                     The bus pulls up and you get onto it, the bus is delayed because of a car thats been stopped in front by the police. There are two men behind you who say: “I’m going to be late for my shift. This is SO brown eyed” you sit down next to young man who is on his mobile: “Sorry I was so brown eyed this morning, I forgot to ask how it went. I’ll be back soon just going to grab a coffee.” A girl opposite realises she has boarded the wrong bus, and gets up and runs for the door, tripping over a boy’s foot, the boy mutters grumpily: “Brown eyed!”

None of these insults have been directed at you. But you have always had brown eyes, and you always will have. How would you start to feel about yourself and how others view the worth of brown eyed people?

If you still don’t believe that it “doesn’t really matter” whether people use the R word as a putdown or not. Then research this, that my mum told me about; she said that when she was doing her teacher training, she learnt about Jane Elliot and the discrimination experiments she did to demonstrate the impact of using words negatively or positively.

Jane Elliott in 1968 as a response to racism in U.S.A. when Martin Luther King was assassinated tried an experiment to teach her students about racism.

She divided her class by eye colour and on the first day praised all the blue eyed children, and gave them privileges but ignored the brown eyed children and criticised them. The next day she reversed the roles with the blue-eyed children being picked on while the brown eyes were praised. On both days, children who were treated as inferior started to behave and believe that they were inferior students failing in their tests and other work.

See here & watch the documentary ‘A Class Divided’ and find out more including teaching resources here: Jane Elliott and a class divided
What you read and hear is powerful and really goes in! You tell yourself that you’ll just forget about it – but quite often you don’t, it’s always there at the very back corner of your mind and you’re trying to squeeze it out through a pin prick of a hole in your mind, but it just keeps bouncing back. So when I came across Jump! Magazine for girls, a few months ago, I was pleased to read something which didn’t make you feel lacking but instead made you feel good and positive to be who you are!

So when I was contacted by the editor and asked to write an article about Down’s syndrome for the magazine, I was delighted! You can read it here:

Agi K writes article for World D.S. Awareness Day

I highly recommend Jump!Magazine, because it has interesting and intelligent articles, great female role models, NO adverts! and a great ethos: “Fluff free and Bieberless” I think it’s so bad how the average girl’s mag in the supermarket is all pink stuff, make up, One Direction & celebrities and stuffed full of adverts aimed at making you feel worthless unless you have their product. I think when girls read those magazines it makes them want to be something they don’t look like, or have something they can’t. A lot of girls then feel depressed. I think it must be really hard for girls to get away from all these pink magazines, they are EVERYWHERE!

Even walking into the supermarket they’re right in front of you, with big bold headings and bold pink covers. I also think that how right next to these pre-teen and teenage mags are magazines for woman and men with really rude covers and photos, I don’t think it’s good how both sections should be put together! And all those images are not just going into people like my age’s heads, but little children’s too. It’s not just magazines that are making us feel like we should be something else, it’s also the advertising on websites everywhere, from somewhere social like Facebook to somewhere you just want to get some lyrics for a song from!