That’s What It Means

“She called me that word,” she said pointing at a woman about retirement age. “She said I should be out alone. She said that she shouldn’t have to see people like me when she goes out.” Her distress came from a deep dark place. She was one of the people who had lived much of their lives locked away from society. One of the ones kept out of public view. It was obvious from where I sat that she was devastated.

The staff who had been nearby had only heard the woman use the ‘R word,’ but was insistent that no other conversation had happened. That the woman in question didn’t say anything about being out alone or being locked away. The staff thought that his client was, at best exaggerating, or, at worst, telling a lie to get attention. The staff was annoyed.

When talking to the woman, she was confronted. Yes, someone who had just suffered social violence isn’t supported but confronted. The staff asked her bluntly what the woman had said to her. Again she said the the woman had used the R word and that she shouldn’t be out alone, and the she shouldn’t have to see people like me.

“I was with you, you weren’t alone.”

“She didn’t see you with me, she saw you on your phone.”

“I may have been on my phone but I did hear her speak to you, and the only thing she did was call you a bad name.”

“It isn’t just a bad name.”

“You need to just take a breath here.”

“No, I need to scream.”

“She did wrong, she shouldn’t have called you a name, but the other stuff never happened.”

“You don’t understand do you?”

Puzzled look.

“That what the word RETARD means!” she is crying now, “It means I don’t belong, it means I should be shut away, it means that I shouldn’t be out, it means that I deserve everything that happened to me. It’s a word that hurts me, deep.”

“Oh, you are making too much out of this. Outing is over, let’s go home.”


Some people don’t listen. Some people don’t learn. Some people don’t care to listen or learn.

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