I’ve rallied, advocated, and some may even say ranted against people using the word retarded. I’ve argued that given the multitude of words available to us, we can say so many alternatives to the cruel and hurtful “r” word. But our culture is so saturated with the word—it’s used in movies, television, music and books—so much so that the “r” will cross a person’s tongue thoughtlessly, with no regard for how truly hurtful it is to others.
What do I do when a person says it to me? Do I endlessly berate them? Shun them? Equally hurt or humiliate them? You know what happens when people are lectured too much? They stop listening to what you saying. They may become even more inclined to do what you don’t want them to do out of spite. So what do I do when someone says the “r” word to me? I say, “That’s a hurtful word to me.” And then I forgive them. That’s right: I forgive them. I fight the “r” word with forgiveness as much as I do advocacy.
So why is there no forgiveness for Paula Deen? The word she used is atrocious, disgusting, appalling, and all other negative labels you can attach to it. So she has lost all the respect she once carried; her livelihood is shambled, and her good name has been destroyed. And still there are editorials, blogs, and comedians continuing to flog her. I am not condoning her conduct, but two points. For one thing, she said the word thirty years ago, a time in which (no justifying it) the—we all know what she said, so I won’t allude to it—saturated our culture as much as the word retard permeates our society today. And two: her use of the word was taken out of context. She said the word in the heat of a moment, in a peak of anger. A nasty truth about human beings is that when we are angry at an individual, we want to say something that will hurt them the most. We want to go for the jugular. We want to call a disabled person a retard or retarded or we want to call an African American that dreadful word. Even if the word never flows out of our mouths, we—if we are being truly honest with ourselves--want to say it, because we want to hurt them.
Why do we do this? Because we are human beings, flawed creatures who make mistakes. So why is the public still crying for more of Paula Deen’s blood? When someone is mean to their child, do parents teach these children to be mean back? Do they teach to keep hate going? I can’t speak for all parents, but mine taught to forgive. Forgiveness is the hard road to take, I know, but I believe it is more productive than hate. So for all that say the “r” word to you, forgive them. And for all of you still trying to chastise Paula Deen, give it up already. Enough is enough.