I have been reading about D.L. Hughley ‘s response to being confronted by Miz Kp and Mama Be Good on Twitter regarding his use of the r-word in his show. Apparently, Hughley uses this word to refer to his son who has Asperger’s Syndrome.
Miz Kp sent Hughley a tweet saying she enjoyed his show on Netflix-until the end when he calls his son the the r-word. She tells Hughley this is hurtful. Hughley defends his remark, questioning how Miz Kp could presume to know what his son’s reaction is. He goes on to say that his son is a tough young man and doesn’t shrink from a name…
His reaction is so disappointing. Ok, his son is “tough”. Why would Hughley call him something that he needed to be “tough” to hear? How does his son feel about the r-word when other people use it? How does the rest of his family feel?
I read a bit more about Hughley and autism. I came across this from an article in the Hartford Courant.
“He becomes serious when talking about how proud he is of his children, his daughters Ryan, 24, who wants to go into politics, and Tyler, 20, who writes music, and his son Kyle, 22, who writes and directs films. Kyle has Asperger’s disorder, and Hughley isn’t shy about discussing it. “I never really looked at him as an autistic boy or an autistic man,” he said. “I see him as a young black man making his way in the world with both advantages and disadvantages, like everybody else.”
This doesn’t sound like the guy who tweeted to MamaBeGood that refraining from using the r-word is “PC bs”.
Maybe Hughley became defensive and embarrassed when confronted by Miz Kp and MamaBeGood and didn’t feel he had a good way out of this? Maybe he wants the publicity? Neither justify his reaction, but they might help explain it.
Would approaching Hughley in a different way have elicited a different response? I think Miz Kp’s reaction was great and I’m glad she and many others spoke out, just wondering if another approach would have impacted the comedian differently.
What if Hughley was asked how he feels about other people calling his son the r-word? More importantly, what if he was asked how his son feels about other people calling him the r-word?
Is Mr Hughley ok with other people calling his son the r-word?
When his son was young a boy, just diagnosed with Asperger’s, how would he feel if he heard another adult call him the r-word? How would Hughley have felt about it? What about kids on the playground calling him the r-word? Would that be okay? Probably not.
If Hughley looks at it from this perspective, maybe he will rethink his position about using the r-word. Maybe he will stop using it in his show. Maybe he will think about the fact that when people hear him use it to refer to his autistic son, they feel better about using the word themselves.
If Mr. Hughley takes a step back and thinks about the vast number of people that are labeled with intellectual disabilities who have said how hurtful the word is to them, maybe he will choose not to use it anymore.
Obviously, I don’t have the answers. I wish I knew what would help other people see that words hurt. Words that marginalize any member of our human family shouldn’t be used. It doesn’t matter if the person using them sees the word as a harmless.
This quote from last year’s PSA from Spread the Word to End the Word says it well. “The r-word is the same as every minority slur. Treat it that way and don’t use it.”