|Loaded for bear|
The offensive line was written by some human resources guru. The writer had penned a column on how to maximize your web presence as it relates to online job hunting. Specifically, the article listed simple mistakes that make job candidates look bad when creating an internet profile (i.e., short biography).
It was decent information. The items listed seemed reasonable enough, except for one thing; or rather one word.
What had chapped my hide was embedded in one of the article’s bullet points; it included the word “lame” to describe what not to do.
“Lame” is loaded with meaning, beyond the simple Webster definition of the word. Used in certain ways, it has come to be quite damaging and not for reasons obvious to most nondisabled people. In fact, it can all seem largely invisible or even irrelevant. That is, until you think about it.
Using “lame” and certain other words as negative descriptors casts an implied deficit toward people who are disabled. Initially legitimate clinical terms, such words are or have been historically used to by nondisabled people to describe those who are disabled. Over the decades they have been hijacked by mainstream language some of the worst ways.
“That movie was lame.” “How could you have been so blind?” “It’s crippling to think that way.” “You’re insane.”
In each case, there’s nothing positive about what’s being described, insinuated or stated. For those of us who are nondisabled, we live with a privilege that embodies a presumed competence. In other words, we wrongly (and arrogantly) assign a “can’t” to persons who, for instance, use a wheelchair, walker or cane.
As a result, we unwittingly project false negative connotations to physical and mental conditions in which some people live. That’s a travesty. Who are we to define the quality of another person’s life?
For most folks it’s easy to let such harmful references slip past and ignore it. Yet in doing so, that’s one more statement that unconsciously reinforces a form of silent oppression. This toward a group of human beings who have historically been ignored, institutionalized and marginalized and oppressed by elements of nondisabled society.
|Just a typical fun-filled day|
Equally important, I am monitoring myself, for I have been as guilty as the next nondisabled person in their use. I invite everyone to hold me accountable when I fall short, which I surely will.
It’s only by continuously pointing out the damage these statements cause that we can change our way of thinking about inappropriate word and phrase usage. I am no longer willing to let them go unrecognized for the oppressive messages they are, unintentional or otherwise. Will you do the same?
Follow J.R. on Twitter @4humansbeing or contact him at email@example.com.