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Rwandan Disability Activists Protest Offensive Song

May 24, 2009
Map of Rwanda
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In Rwanda, people with disabilities have organized to protest a song by Kitoko Bibarwa which uses a derogatory term for people who cannot speak or hear, ikiragi. Blogger from Beyond reports that the musician explained his use of the word thus:

When I wrote this song, I did not mean to offend the deaf…It’s just a song about how I fell in love with a girl, but lots of people were apparently opposed to the relationship and they tried to convince her to break up; yet she decided to give them a deaf ear, and we continued seeing each other. That was the essence of the lyrics, not what people have come up with.

The problem, then, in addition to the use of an offensive term, is that he chose to use a disability as a metaphor for his own life. When an artist uses another’s experience not as something worth exploring its own right but as a symbol, it implies that that experience is not important; this may not seem to be a particularly important problem, but it becomes so when those who have had such experiences belong to a group already ignored or belittled. To combine that with the casual use of a slur is to engage in a particularly pernicious form appropriation.

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  1. November 14, 2009 5:31 pm

    благодарю вас… я действительно млею от вашего сайта или как ещё сказать… я целый день прожила тут… читаю и сохраняю в сердце.. думаю Вы не против…

    • November 15, 2009 10:24 pm

      Thanks! We are so happy to hear that people from other countries are reading this.

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