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What Now?

  • Posted by Dave Hingsburger
  • 7 Jan 08, 2:54 PM

Stares? Yep. No big deal.

Glares? Yep. No big deal.

Being ignored, pushed aside? Annoying, frustrating ... but I can cope.

But hatred. Right out, down deep, fear of violence hatred, that's a different story. On Friday of last weekend I had an encounter with a young man just outside a store where I had shopped. Joe had pulled the car up close to the door (without blocking it) because it was snowy and icy and difficult to maneuver the chair. As I was getting in he came out and began acting in a very hostile, hateful manner. As he advanced towards me, he scared me. I thought he was going to hurt me. It takes a lot to scare me, but he did.

His face did.

His body did.

His hands, which flexed and tightened into white fists, did.

I backed down fast. Knowing animal psychology I didn't look him in the eye. I didn't want that kind of contact, I didn't want to see what was at the back of his eyes, I didn't want to spur him on. I apologized, though I believed I had done nothing wrong. I just wanted to settle him down, get him to back off. He spouted how we 'disabled people' took advantage of our disability, how we used our disability to trample the rights of others, how we saw ourselves as the exception to every rule. He was spitting mad.

After I had backed down, he slowed down, then stopped his advance. He was close enough that I could smell his cologne, see the sweat on his neck and feel the strength of his presence. Then, thankfully, he backed away. On the way back into the store he looked back at me and said "******* cripple"


I had never been called that word by another before. I've called myself that, always jokingly, I have heard other disabled people use it, always with a wink. But I'd never heard it this way before. A term spat out. Hate curled around the letters and the word for the first time hurt. Really hurt.

I don't know that I can use that word, ever again.

I don't know that I can joke like that, again, when I've heard the word spoken with hatred.

What now?

Do I let him take this from me? Or do I give it willingly? Or will a day or two change my mind.

I don't know.

I'm curious, those of you who use the word 'cripple' ... why? Those of you who don't ... why not?

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  • 1.
  • At 10:37 AM on 09 Jan 2008, Boris the Spider wrote:

Great and thoughtful post, Dave. I use the word 'cripple' - or perhaps the trendier 'crip' - because I find every single one of the politically correct alternatives cringeworthy and unacceptable. But that might just be me, I guess.

I use it, always positively or jokingly. I also use lots of "profanity" very casually and positively among friends. Words are words, its the intent that makes them hurtful, demeaning, including, or uplifting.

I use it, always positively or jokingly. I also use lots of "profanity" very casually and positively among friends. Words are words, its the intent that makes them hurtful, demeaning, including, or uplifting.

  • 4.
  • At 08:17 PM on 10 Jan 2008, Eliza wrote:

I used that word to, till I had a similar experience to yours. I was called a "cripple" in a train station. However I did not back down and quickly muttered the excuse that she meant it as a joke. At witch point I said okay, *&^%$, I'm sorry I mean THAT as a joke. Mind you it was at 6 am and I was not quite coherent.
I started thinking of what right did she have to use that word. It carries a lot of history with it and should not be used. I got the excuse of that she was an old lady doesn't know any better. Then I remembered that I use that word too.
What made it okay for me to use that word and not for others? It is now a challenge that I set out for communities when you hear any word used in a jokingly manner you need to take a step forward. If we offer an excuse of the word to be used then it will continue to be used.

  • 5.
  • At 08:19 PM on 10 Jan 2008, Baz O'Connell wrote:

I was attacked by a group of mrn in my local pub, why they reckon soft target easy they thoguht -----------wrong I was in the Royal Navy + I am a old fashion East End lad, I gave them back what they did not expect I stood my ground, when one hit me in the face I hit back. The only way they did the damage was outside after, but though I got a bit of walloping the plain fact was they could not pull me out of my chair. Plus the old bill did get them I saw the main ring leader get two years in December. So if someone feels we in the chair means we are soft then send for me.

I never use the word "cripple" but that's because I'm not a cripple and I don't want to be insulting. I read this blog with interest and I think you've got a good point about loaded words. Personally, I think the best strategy is to take insulting words and use them to describe yourself, as gay men and lesbians did with "queer", and as I do with the word "spinster". There's a lot of power in taking an insulting word and making it your own. Good luck to you.

  • 7.
  • At 09:27 PM on 13 Jan 2008, Brian wrote:

I am a Cockeny, therefore I use the word 'raspberry ripple' about myself and avoid all the shocked stares, except from those in the know. :)

  • 8.
  • At 12:11 PM on 15 Jan 2008, Myrtle wrote:

Some people can be so cruel. Thought-provoking post, Dave. Thank you.

  • 9.
  • At 02:46 PM on 15 Jan 2008, kayleigh wrote:

hi dave my name is kayleigh just to let you know i know what you are going through see i'm in a wheelchair myself and somebody who was soposed to be my freind called me a cripple so i know how much it hurts but we have just got to stay strong

  • 10.
  • At 11:56 AM on 23 Jan 2008, boye wrote:

I think people should betaught early how best to appreciate diversity and how not to labell what you do not fully understand. People with disability should not condone the use of the word. thanks

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