Friday, October 10, 2008

ElderSpeak, RaceSpeak, DisabilitySpeak

Wheelchair Dancer has written this post by that title about the power of language. Here is a very small part of it:

Well, OK, then. Words have effects. Detrimental effects; they can transform you into someone else's negative image of you. True enough. I'd like to see this go fullscale. I'd like to see recognition of the power of language to create negative space in which others must live, must see themselves, and must accept if they are to gain access to some of the basic needs of everyday life. Why limit the discussion to just senior citizens? We know it is true for people of colour; I (and I suspect many of you) know exactly how this kind of language works for disabled people.

It is hard to enter a room, a conversational space, or a professional environment if you know that you will potentially be considered defective by some of those with whom you must interact. The thought gets in the back of your mind; you push it away. It persists; you tell it you're not. You tell it to go away. You look down; you remember the pain; you feel the hurt. It all tells you that, at the very least, you aren't like them. Are you, possibly, less than them? It goes on. And soon, the thought gets into your head. You stumble in your answers to the questions, because, well, you know. You are worried about them thinking poorly of you, you want to do well, but then you stumble and then you *Know* they were right; there is something wrong with you after all.