Saturday, September 5, 2009

Post 2: Don't Touch that, Retard!!

This is Post 2 for Comm 300 but also a personal reflection on a day I will never forget...

So as some of you might already know (and those who don't are about to find out), I work as an advocate for adults with mental disabilities. I make sure that they are treated fairly, with respect, dignity, to live responsible and as independent as possible as well as being a contributing member of our society. Its a very satisfying job, one that takes a high degree of patience, and a lot of the time. Some of them are survivors of the old ways where they were locked up in government or state facilities and treated as less than human. But now we live in a day and age where they have just as many (if not more) Rights than everyone else and are a minority group (in my opinion) in the world.

Due to the sensitivity and nature of this situation I am about to explain, I will be vague enough to protect the individuals yet convey the power of the message. I took one of these individuals that I advocate for out for personal time out in the community. They often enjoy going out and being active in the community. So on the way back from an outing I decided to stop by a convenient store to pick up a few items. The resident that I advocate for was simply browsing through magazines, looking at the covers, and reading them to himself (he is very literate for his disability and derives IMMENSE pleasure from reading and looking at the pictures) as I shopped. We frequent this store since the residents home is about 7 minutes away, so the store owners are used to us (as well as other in our program) stopping there and giving them our business. This particular day however someone new worked there and it ended up being a very difficult situation.

The store employee saw my resident handling the magazines and reading them while waiting for me and the resident dropped the magazine by mistake. Immediately the employee shouted at the resident.

"Hey! Hey don't touch that!"

I quickly, instinctively, and protectively looked up and watched/listened at the store employee as they made their way towards the resident saying the same thing.

"I said don't touch that!" as they turned to another store employee following behind them and adding the comment "... these damn retards..." low enough for other people (except me) to hear... but clearly loud enough for the resident to hear.

To make a long story short I got the individuals name, reported him to our organization, filled out a incident sheet, and allowed legal matters to take over.

I mention this in my post because I witnessed the unfair treatment and abuse personally, of a minority living in our country. But it hurt more than things I had read and watched in our class material so far... because these individuals have almost no protection of themselves. If they didn't have people like myself there to watch and help... who would observe their rights? Who would stand up for them in a world that treats helpless individuals like that??

At the end of the day I couldn't help myself... I saw the scene replay in my mind... the face of the accusing store employee... and the face of the resident I advocate for (knowing full well the derogatory meaning of "retard" considering their literate background) and I let myself softly cry for a few moments in privacy.

Now more than ever its apparent how people like myself, and others who have the conscience to do so, need to change this world for the better of those who have no voices or are misrepresented and sadly still mistreated. I am hoping that this class course will further help me appreciate minorities struggles and allow me the knowledge and understanding to help them accomplish what they struggle to preserve and protect.

An emotional day, a hard day, and eye opening day that will be engraved into my mind forever.


  1. It is sad that others have to go to such great lengths to make themselves feel special. Maybe the issue is that instead of pointing out others, we should try and look at ourselves openly and honestly.

  2. In the building behind where I work they drive around people with various disabilities (mental or physical). Many of the drivers have to stop by the gas station at the end of the day and, often, I will hear one of them using terms like that. It pains me just as it pained you to hear it, even though I do not work close with these people. Even at the age of 22 I can still understand that such language is wrong, whether to the persons face or behind their back (and sometimes behind their back is much worse). But the drivers who say these things are in their late 40s or 50s... it's unbelievable...

  3. I personally hope that the employee gets what's coming to them. I mean, I work in a place where there are magazines, and it doesn't matter if they are touched or dropped you just let it go. And for them to say that!!!! Just wondering... did you say anything to the store employee??

  4. Hey guys, a little update on that situation to give you all some closure haha:

    Katie: Yes I did say something to the store employee, as I said I made it as vague as possible due to sensitive personal information on all parties. But the employee was actually terminated from their position. Some think that may be extreme, but I feel very protective of these guys and gals I advocate for and I felt termination was a justified action. I made the argument that calling a mentally handicapped person a retard is the same as calling a black person a nigger. Its extreme, its rude, and its wrong... and I stick by that argument.