Monday, August 31, 2009

Ignorance At Its Best

My buddy, Esbee, over at the Life in Forsyth blog, emailed me to let me know about one of her blog posts that she thought might interest me. Her comments in the mail definitely piqued my curiosity. She said she was still ‘sad’, two days after the event she detailed in her blog.

I immediately went to read her posting, and while I understand ‘sad’, what I was when I read it was ‘angry’. I moved a little closer to ‘sad’ the more I thought about it though. Sad that even in this day and age so much ignorance still exists about people with disabilities – sad that people have no trouble sharing their ignorant views, even if their views might emotionally harm someone, especially a child.

Take a few moments and read Esbee’s post and let me know what you feel. Then come back and let met share one of my weekend encounters. I’d also like to know your thoughts about that.

Sunday afternoon, Chip, Ashley and I went to a local bookstore – one of the big ones with a name you would recognize. Chip had selected his books for purchase, and I was pushing Ashley in her wheelchair through the aisles while waiting for Chip to pay.

As I went down one of the aisles, a young African American girl – probably about 14, the same age as Ashley – turned and stared at Ashley. It wasn’t just a short stare – those kind I have learned to ignore most of the time. This girl stared as we approached her – as we passed within 12 inches of her – and then turned and continued to stare as we started to pass by. This was a stare I just couldn’t ignore.

I asked the girl is I could help her with anything – did she have any questions? She got an angry look on her face which I admit did start to make me angry. I said, “You were staring so much at my daughter that I thought you might have some questions you would like to ask.” She made a disgusting noise and walked away.

As I went to the end of the aisle and turned back towards the cash register, the girl was angrily whining to her mother about the ‘weird lady who told her to stop staring.’ The girl’s mother was immediately irate and approached me in typical trashy talk show form and asked me what my problem was. She told me that I shouldn’t talk to her daughter, and that if I had anything to say, I should say it to her. Well, okay then.

I said, “This is my daughter, Ashley. She is 14 years old. She is deafblind, has three brain tumors, and needs this wheelchair to get around. Are they any other questions your daughter might like to ask?”

She said, “You’re a crazy b*tch and stay away from my daughter.”

I rolled Ashley away, and as they family left through the parking lot, the mother turned and used a type of sign language we all know.

Funny thing though, Ashley signed also. She signed “crazy b*tch and pointed outside the store.


Trish said...

You know, sometimes I really hate people.

Azaera said...

Oh My Goodness.. I have no words for how angry that makes me. I would have felt the extreme urge to clock that woman. I am SO sorry you and Ashley had to go through that.

MMC said...

Deborah, I think your willingness to answer questions and educate people about disabilities is admirable. But some people, you know, just ain't worth the time of day. Or the food and water they consume to keep themselves alive. Wash their dirt off your feet and put them out of your mind.

As far as what happened with your friend, that other woman was incredibly ignorant (as in both unknowledgable and stupid). But at least she had the redeeming grace to be embarassed. One can only hope that next time she will put brain in gear before engaging mouth.

Janet said...

I read both posts to my 5th grader. She LOVED Ashley's response. She couldn't believe the hand-lady because with Luke we use some sign w/ our spoken words becuase it greatly increases his ability to figure out what is being said (austim!).

Our question is -- how would Ashley and/or you like someone to ask you about her? I know there are times when people ask me "stupid" adoption questions (all my kids are adopted and we are a mixed-race family) because they want an opening to share a wonderful adoption story from their life. I've had limited questions about Luke and his autism for somewhat similar reasons -- a close friend or family member also has a developement disability.

Anonymous said...

People are nuts. That's really all you can say about your encounter. The world seems to be full of people, when caught behaving inappropriately, go into shrieking mode. Not to mention rude things with their fingers. Your response to the girl was spot on, and I just bet she will think twice before she stares her eyeballs out of her head again. Keep it up. I doubt you need the validation, but you are doing the right thing in trying to educate the ignorant, and that was CLEARLY that girl's problem. She got it from her mother.

Along the same lines, I work at times at the children's shoe store a friend owns. I know you will believe me when I say that parents get very confrontational with us at times about the childrens' behaviors. We stay out of the sassy mouth, disrespectful, disobedient stuff but when it goes into safety issues we must speak up. When a mom's back is turned and her toddler is climbing the shoe display we will speak up. The snarls. The screeches. The name calling. The storming out of the store...we've seen it all. Because the parent was not watching the child and we intervened before the child got hurt. So. We have a motto at Tootsie's Stride Rite:

People are nuts.

PS I'm really sorry this happened to you and I hope it didn't spoil your day. Also, I love Ashley's comment. She pretty much nailed it.

Ashley's Mom said...

Janet, I don't mind if people ask me questions, especially children. I am more than willing to explain both the differences and the ways in which Ashley is the same as everyone else.

mommy~dearest said...

You go, Ashley! ;)

Terri said...

Mostly I encounter good... then there is a run of this stuff that curdles my blood. I think Ashley's assessment is right on the mark!