The R-word

I’m back!  I haven’t been able to write a post for a while now because I have been trying to find what it is I would like to say.  For those of you who know me, it may come as a shock to you that I am having a hard time trying to say something…period.  For the first time in a long time, I’m stumped.  I’ll get to my point…

It’s been quite some time that I have focused on the “right thing to say” because too often I am hearing the “wrong” things.  I, too, have been guilty of saying the “wrong” things.  I have found in the last six months that words can be wonderful, uplifting, and healing.  They can bring in sunshine and warm your heart.  Unfortunately, there are times when words cast a dark cloud over even the most joyous of things.  Like people.  Like this beautiful person…

And while almost everyone I know holds a place in their heart for this girl, there might be some absent mindedness in words people choose to use.  I think you can guess what word I am referring to…the r-word.  Retarded.  It makes my fingers cringe to even type it.  Let me just say that I am no saint.  In the past, I vulgarly used the awful r-word when I definitely could have made better choices in vocabulary.  It’s unfortunate that it took my daughter to show me what a terrible word it truly is.  How ignorant of me.

So I had to question myself…do I really have a place writing on this matter?

Sure I do.  Why not show people what it means to me and many others when we hear it.  I have been thinking for so long how to put into words the message I want to get across the board.  Part of my advocating my daughter will be this–cautioning people to choose their words wisely.  While many times, I believe there is no direct malice behind phrases such as:

“She is so retarded.”  Or…”I am such a retard, I left my coat at home.”  Or…”That’s retarded,”

I have to tell you that it makes blood boil when I hear it.  This is something I have been confronting for months now.  When it is said around me, I realize there is no implication regarding my daughter.  But it offends me just the same.  It’s the context in which it is used that is too frequently forgotten.  I think the best way I can get my point across is by sharing this with you from,

“How “retardation” went from a clinical description to a word of derision

When they were originally introduced, the terms “mental retardation” or “mentally retarded” were medical terms with a specifically clinical connotation; however, the pejorative forms, “retard” and “retarded” have been used widely in today’s society to degrade and insult people with intellectual disabilities. Additionally, when “retard” and “retarded” are used as synonyms for “dumb” or “stupid” by people without disabilities, it only reinforces painful stereotypes of people with intellectual disabilities being less valued members of humanity.”

Let’s be honest, the word is dated and so are the old stereotypes of Down Syndrome.

I know my daughter is not now and never will be a less valued member of society.  Do you?

Words like this are offensive.  Words like this are hurtful.  Words like this are hateful.  But yet they are used insultingly to mock and judge people who have no control over what has been given to them…like an extra chromosome.

So I challenge you.  Tomorrow, (March 7, 2012), marks the annual day of activation for the “Spread The Word To End The Word” campaign.  All across the country, our government leaders are taking action and removing the r-word from medical terminology and encouraging others to use respectable words.  Students are taking action.  Mamas and daddys are taking action.  You can too!

Take the pledge and pass it on.  Educate yourself.  Educate your friends.  Take action and stand up for your peers.  You can be the voice that stands up Tessa and so many others.

Go ahead, visit and take the pledge.  It takes seconds, but lasts much longer.  Stand by your pledge.

My message is simple–Don’t say it.

We are so much better than we let on sometimes.

Take retarded  out of your vocab. 

8 thoughts on “The R-word

  1. So touching. I’m so guilty of using this word….it makes me feel horrible that I have even said it around you without thinking. Which makes me think, by being aware of our own vocabulary it can bring awareness to more than just that word but to understanding, compassion and education of people like little Tessa. Keep up your amazing writing on here, you are helping all of us following to become better more aware and caring people. Love you! ❤

  2. Thanks for making us all more aware of our actions. We do and say so many things without “thinking”. I know I’m guilty of it and just to see someone write this out like you have in your own perspective, will make me more conscious of my words/actions. We all need reminders like this!

  3. Thank you so much for all of your posts. Your daughter is beautiful! My sister, Jenni, has Down’s syndrome & I have been fighting the R-word for over 20 years. I know having a sister is different than having a daughter with Down’s, but I do understand & back you with every feeling & thought you have.

  4. Even I struggle with this word. I was one of 6 siblings and we called each other this awful word all the time. We were never told to STOP! Apparently, my parents didn’t realize or care how ignorant or hurtful we were being.

    Sometimes even now as a 34 year old, who lives to fight for social equality – in a moment with my friends or siblings, I almost slip. Using that word is ingrained so deep, if it’s allowed as a child. My kids would be punished, if I heard them say it!

    I continue to work on myself, but the cycle stops with them. Thanks for your lovely post

  5. This was a great message. My mother (Madonna Schroeder Bowden) taught us to always respect people with disabilities, and when I was growing up we were never allowed to use the R-word. To this day, it has never been a word I’ve used. Today, I teach in a high school, and I hear the word being used by my students frequently. To be quite honest with you, I’ve heard it so much that over the years I’ve just started to tune it out. You have reminded me that it is my responsibility to take every opportunity to teach my students that is is wrong to casually throw that word around. I pledge that I will never again “tune it out.” I will address it every time I hear it from now on. Thanks for reminding me of the important lesson my mother once taught me.

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