over the years, i have created a list of words that i will not use in day-to-day communication. in any communication, actually. they are words that i find mean, harmful, and inappropriate. i'll drop an f-bomb like it's nobody's business, but i will not use these words. and if i catch myself using them (or even thinking them), i'm very disappointed in myself.
i stopped using the word "gay" about 10 years ago. people use the word to describe something that is weak or lame. by using the word "gay" to describe those things, we are essentially saying that gay=weak. this is hurtful to gay people. imagine if someone said, "dude, that's so erin" when describing something that was lame. that would hurt me. when i came to this realization, i stopped saying it. i also would yell at my friends if they used it in my presence. several of my friends did stop, and i know they've also gotten other people to stop.
i also stopped using the word "retarded" a few years ago. again, i came to realize that i was using the word to describe things that were dumb or stupid or weird. and people with retardation are not those things. they have physical or mental disabilities, but that doesn't mean they're dumb. many of my friends also stopped using it, and to this day i still yell at people who use it around me. one of my friends had stopped using it for a long time, but when we recently were at their house, she said it several times. i was really shocked. matt and i even talked about it on our way home, and my theory is that her 5-year-old son is picking it up at daycare and now she is picking it up again. but i was honestly surprised by my reaction to hearing her use it - it felt like a punch to the gut almost.
i do not - and have never - used the word "jew" as a verb, as in "he jewed him down." even as a child, i knew that just felt wrong. matt occasionally says it, and i do not hesitate to correct him. he grew up hearing his father use that phrase, and so to him it never seemed wrong.
matt's family says other things that i think are inappropriate, and i do my best to point it out to matt when he says them. but he and his brothers came up with "code words" to replace the actual hurtful words, so to him, it doesn't seem so bad. like they say "reek" instead of "retarded." sometimes i'll correct him and he'll say "but i didn't say it!" maybe not, but the intention is the same. matt and his brothers hold many prejudices and make snap judgements on people based on those stereotypes. when i catch matt making judgements, i'll discuss it with him and try to understand why he's made that conclusion and then i'll try to make him understand why it's incorrect.
i really hope to raise our children to not use those words and not hold those prejudices. i also hope to raise our children to not be afraid to correct their friends who use those words. i do not want to teach our children to be colorblind, but rather to see and embrace the different races and cultures that make our world so beautiful. if you raise a child to see nothing but sameness, they will never fully appreciate the beauty of the things that world has to offer. teach a child to see differences and they will never stop learning and exploring.