Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Choose Your Words Carefully

I might belabor this point a bit on here, but I feel it needs to be belabored because obviously people don't get it.  They just don't.  I rail on about it, yet people still do it.  They get defensive when I try to politely point out the harm in what they've done.  I don't understand how it is so difficult to get people to listen.

Yet, at least 2 - 3 times a week, I see or hear someone using the following word:

retarded

I've had family members do it.  I've had friends do it.  I've heard it used to get a laugh.  I've heard it used to get a reaction.  I've heard it used as a straight-up insult.

It is also a word that people have used in reference to my child.

I will tell you that I cannot describe how hurtful it is when you hear someone use this word in reference - in derogatory reference - to your own child.  While I don't want to rehash my first experience hearing someone say this about my child, I'll direct you to click --> here <-- to read all about it.

Because it's simply to painful for to put it out in type again.  Because I know that, in our society where we give so little regard to our most vulnerable of citizens, I will likely hear this word used to describe my child again.

Here is the thing that you must understand, that word is no longer even used as a medical term by many people, but what if it were?  Does that make it okay for you to describe something in the following way:

That song/show/person/thing/object is so retarded.

or, when someone hasn't done or said something right

I'm so retarded.

So you say that you didn't mean it that way, right?  Okay, well, you're using a word that is and has been used to describe children - like mine - who are developmentally disabled.  Yet, you use it as an insult?  I promise that my son is a much better person than most people I meet, so you are not doing an effective job of insulting anyone or anything if you say that they are like him.

Oh, so I should lighten up and not be so sensitive?  I get that a lot, too.  Surprisingly enough, most of the people you will hear that still use this word

retarded

will find it offensive if someone uses this word

gay.

Both are terms that either are currently used or have been used to describe groups of people.  Both have also been used as derogatory terms in common slang.  Yet, why is it acceptable to use the former when people find it so offensive to use the latter?  Is it because one group can speak for themselves and the other struggles with that same degree of self-advocacy?

Here's the thing - they are both offensive.  I consider that equating the word "stupid" or something derogatory to either group of people is horridly offensive.  Surely, you can be more creative with your insults than that.  Surely you can find a way to offend the target of your aims while leaving other people - good people - out of it?

Or, better yet, you can speak only kind words.  That's truly the best way to live.

This is what you should know - it's not funny.  It's not cool.  The attention you get from using it doesn't make people like you more.  When you use words like that, you are hurting the public perception of someone's child - someone's baby.  You are throwing barbs right at the heart of mamas like myself who bear the weight of the world on our shoulders for our children.  We want to give our kids a more just world full of tolerance and understanding, rather than insults and slurs.

Because you would be privileged to be as good of a person as our children are - as good of a person as my boy is.  You would know about hard work and perseverance and triumph and struggle and love and all of the messiness that comes in between it all.  You would know what it's like to wear your heart on your sleeve and send it off on a bus each day with the hopes that it comes home unblemished.  You would know how sweet one word, one smile, and one hug can be.

That is no insult.  That is living life to the fullest.  So watch your words, because they may hurt someone more than you can even imagine.

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To hear more about why this is so incredibly offensive to special needs parents, please read my previous post on The R Word by clicking --> here <--, or better yet, take the pledge to end using that word by going to Spread the Word to End the Word --> here <--.  We can all make a difference by choosing our words carefully.

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