In the midst of a busy day spent preparing for the brutal onslaught that is finals week, I decided to get away from the books and travel to that one special place that gets my mind off of everything: Target. The place was extremely busy, with Christmas sale tickets lining every aisle and display case in a bird’s eye view. The checkout lines were as long as Dining Services when they are serving the infamous chicken strip dinner.
I had about 12 or 13 items in my cart, so I couldn’t jump in the express line. A woman, who acted as a traffic controller, instructed me to go in line behind a group of six individuals. It just so happened that each of these men and women had some sort of disability. As time progressed, my line became larger and larger. These individuals were struggling to count correct change and the cashier was beginning to lose her patience. As they completed their transactions, a woman with a sparkling reindeer hat wished me a Merry Christmas and went on her way. Just as I was thinking to myself how incredibly positive this time of the year is, the woman behind me whittled out a very gruesome comment directed at the disabled individuals walking out of the store.
My family and I have a lot of experience dealing with individuals who are less fortunate than us. My brother, Chase, has a vast array of learning and social disorders that cause him to stand out just like the Target shoppers I met that day. He struggles to fit in with society and is constantly ostracized for being himself. His obsessions with Harry Potter wands and Marvel superheroes often cause people to ignore or poke fun at him. He has dealt with this ridicule for his entire life. I knew it was time for me to speak my mind, seeing as this could have been my brother Chase in any instance.
So what did I do? I felt it was my job to confront the issue at hand. There is absolutely no place for the word “retard” in this world. As soon as I spoke up, the woman immediately stopped in her tracks. She was shocked that someone would recognize her act of indecency. She avoided eye contact, looked at her phone, and went to another line after a half-hearted apology. I wanted so badly to go up to that group of people and thank them for their courage. I wanted to let them know that I would be that voice for them no matter what. But the truth of the matter is that one person can only do so much.
The purpose of this article isn’t to recognize my ability to criticize another person for a hate crime. Rather, it is to highlight the blatant reality that society struggles with acceptance more and more every day. Ranging from heinous stereotypes being brought to the Muslim community to the injustices placed upon the homosexual community, our nation is continuing to discriminate against those who do not fit the stature of a “normal” citizen. Whatever that may be. We cannot be patient enough to wait a few extra minutes for someone to check out at a department store. And this is supposed to be the happiest time of the year.
What I ask you, the reader, to do is to confront these issues as soon as they arise. No longer can we stand in line and allow others to badger those who have done nothing to deserve this mistreatment. Don’t allow your friends to get away with saying the R-word. View those around you for who they are: people just like you and me. It is time that all of us reflect on our personal values and begin the new year with a much different attitude.
Be that person expressing yourself with a goofy reindeer hat, wish others a happy holiday season, and thank your friends and family for putting you in a position that so many would kill to be in. You are fortunate enough to have the capacity to think critically about complex issues, and your voice is incredibly important in this fight. Stand up for those being treated improperly. Go the extra mile and compliment an individual who looks to be down on their luck or less fortunate than you. This is the season when kindness is supposed to reign supreme. It is time we spread Christmas cheer that is loud enough so even those being ridiculed can hear.
This article was submitted by Justin Odney, contributing writer.