Students sign to pledge their support of ending use of the 'R' word. (Contributed photo)

LETTER: Autistic woman says use of the R-word is a degrading reminder of how cruel the world can be

‘I am a person with autism and I know how it feels to be ridiculed, laughed and even feared’

When my brother and sister and I were little kids and on the rare occasion we shared a racist joke or even made racist slurs it often resulted in a sound spanking or getting our mouths washed out with safe non-toxic dish soap by our mom.

As we grew older we had the opportunity to meet people from various ethnic and religious communities and even to learn about the meaning of the those awful slurs in our school classrooms as we were educated about the darker chapters in history in the hope that such tragedies like the holocaust, institutionalized racism toward black people and the interment of innocent Japanese Canadians and even some Italian Canadians during war time would never be repeated.

So, a simple apology from Chilliwack school trustee Barry Neufeld for using the R-word might be satisfactory and earn Neufeld some forgiveness.

READ MORE: Chilliwack school trustee under fire again – this time for offensive slur at journalists

However, it would really serve Barry Neufeld well if he could be exposed to people with developmental disabilities, their caregivers and/or parents and spend some time either in a classroom watching kids with special needs or even with adults who are affected by autism to Down Syndrome as they go about their day in paid employment or volunteer work and try to live their lives as best as they can with the challenges they face within the communities they live in, which is not always such a kind and accepting environment.

I am a person with autism and I know how it feels to be ridiculed, laughed and even feared as a result of stigmas and some people’s prejudice and ignorance.

The R-word might just be a slur but to people like me it’s a degrading reminder of just how cruel the world can really be for some people who don’t fit into this outdated idea of what “normal” is supposed to be.

Leslie Benisz


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