On Ableism in the School System

I’m really fucking frustrated right now. I tried to tell my mom about today, how my teacher kept referring to a kid in our class as “retarded.” (I’m not going to star out the word in this post because it’s been directed at me enough times that I’m pretty sure I can say it myself, at least when referencing other people’s ableism. So trigger warnings all around.) My teacher then said “No, he can’t be retarded, because he’s nice. Retarded people are mean.”

I was playing sudoku, plus my teacher has a strong French accent, so I was still mentally processing what he’d said when a girl named Carly exclaimed, “Mr. G, that’s mean! You can’t say that!”

"What? How was I mean?"

"You said retarded people are mean! You can’t say that!"

Mr. G made a dismissive noise. I’d already decided to speak to him privately after class, but at this point I jumped in and added, “You shouldn’t use that word at all. It’s a slur.”

He scoffed. “Well, what am I supposed to call him? He’s retarded!”

(I would like to note at this point that making fun of this kid was being done in good fun. The student was not insulted and was laughing along with everyone else. Carly - the other girl who spoke up - and I were the only ones who seemed offended.)

Now another kid spoke up - Evan, who I have nicknamed the Super Sexist from previous conversations. His superpowers include being immune to logic and and leaping to conclusions in a single bound. “How is ‘retarded’ a slur?”

I turned to him and, having been fed up with his bullshit approximately three months ago, snapped, “Yeah, you gonna go up to a mentally ill person and call them ‘retarded?’ Think they’ll take that as a compliment?”

"But he’s not retarded, though." Another superpower to add to the list: the ability to sound like the word "dumbass" is attached to the end of every sentence while simultaneously sounding like the biggest one in existence.

"He ain’t gay either; you gonna call him a fag, too?" I demanded. His eyes widened and he held up his hands defensively, as I’ve noticed is typical when he has no actual line of defense but isn’t ready to surrender (read: always).

"Woah, you need to chill. That escalated /really/ fast."

I rolled my eyes, biting back the urge to scream about tone policing and all the other bullshit he does because I learned how to ~escalate~ things from the best. You wanna see escalating things? Try turning a single comment about a glass of sweet tea into a four-hour screaming match that ultimately led to my mother suing for full custody of me. Demanding I be treated like a human being and not some insult to be hurled at another person? That ain’t escalation, honey, that’s called normal. I could escalate things if I wanted to, and trust me, I do, but right now the desire to not be suspended outweighs the desire to punch your stupid face in. Don’t tip the balance, darling. It’s not good for your health.

But I let it go, return to my sudoku, and mentally rerun the scene in my head, versions in which the argument continues. Most have violent endings. After class, I stay and talk to Mr. G. He’s reasonable now and, once I explain that the word “retard” is essentially hate speech, he apologizes and promises not to use it again.

But I’m getting fed up with Super Sexist. The casual way he exerts his privilege is bad enough, but now I can add hate speech to the list. This, at least, is something I can reasonably present to an administrator without worry of the patriarchy telling me I’m over-reacting. Of course there’s still that chance, but my odds have greatly improved.

When I try to tell my mom about it, and ask her advice on whether I should go to an administrator, she started rolling her eyes. She told me I was overreacting, that I shouldn’t have yelled. She expressed surprise that Mr. G had apologized, saying “that was big of him,” when really it’s about the least he could do. She proceeded to tone police me and, even as I tried to explain to her that it is not my job to hold your hand while I tell you what a shitty person you are, continued to call me “morally condemning.” This is her favorite phrase when she thinks that someone is being too pushy when delivering their message. Finally I snap, “Sorry, I didn’t realize telling people to stop treating me like shit made me judgmental.”

To which she shrieked, “God - Ara, you ARE judgmental! You’re doing it right now!”

I stomped out of the room, infuriated.

I don’t know what to do right now. I’m pissed beyond belief. My mother and I are really close, and she’s usually really supportive about this stuff. But I’m so, so sick of her tone policing, and I don’t know how to explain it to her or make her stop or at least understand how telling a woman to deliver her message ~nicely~ is sexist in and of itself.

But anyway, I’m definitely going to an administrator tomorrow, and hopefully Super Sexist will be disciplined. At best he’ll be out of my hair for a few days, but since he is a SWG I’m guessing he’ll just get a lecture, if that. Oh well. A girl can dream, can’t she? Specifically about beating his face in with a a stack of five hundred essays about why he is an asshole.