So here’s the thing. As a blanket statement, I would have told you that I vowed never to write one of those blog posts that is an “open letter,” or “here’s what you need to know about [fill in the blank], or generally angry posts. As a generality I get the vibe that some of those authors just need to go have a real conversation with a few real people and not air their junk for the world. I thought about that exact thing as I felt compelled to write this particular post. And when I questioned myself about who I needed to have this particular conversation with I was able to come up with a short list….of people who I knew I did not have to have this conversation with. Which shows me that this is really a wide ranged cultural issue, not the personal offense of a few in my own personal life.
I don’t even know how to start this. My instinct on this subject is to go guns blazing. I’ll start by explaining what I’m talking about. I’m talking about the r-word. Using the word retard or retarded to refer to something or someone as “less than.” And while we are at, throw in all jokes about special needs, short buses, and special olympics.
So now you know what on earth I’m speaking about. Let’s jump in.
Using the r-word to convey that you think something is stupid or dumb is the worst possible choice. What is the most upsetting is that it’s socially acceptable. I’ve heard the kindest people, the closest friends, the smartest people, and people who say they love the people Jesus loves…all use this word. I’ve seen people use this word so much and so often, and that it is so engrained in their vocabulary, that they will even say it in front of a person with special needs. If you don’t see the problem, then let me ask you this…Have you EVER heard that term used in reference to a compliment? Picture the times you have said it or heard it said. What was the context?
Now here is where we will take a little time out. A little pause for clarification. There are two groups/contexts that this word is commonly being used.
Context #1: Using the word retard to describe a person who has some type of disability or apparent difference
Context #2: Using the word retard or retarded as a synonym for “stupid, dumb, or ridiculous”
To the people of context #1: Please change your language. You may be honestly naïve, in that case I would encourage you to educate yourself. This website is a great place to start.
To the people of context #2: You should feel ashamed of yourself and your actions.
I know that seems harsh, and it is. But using cheap and derogatory language to target a person or group is far more harsh. Using hurtful language about a group of people who (as a group) are not capable to defend much less retaliate…is shameful. For most of us, there are two prevalent reasons for avoiding minority slurs. The first and hopefully foremost reason for not using slurs is because it is hurtful and wrong. The second reason is that we know that in most cases, we won’t get away with it (and shouldn’t) because that group or individuals from that group will make sure that our bad behavior is corrected. But who is coming after those who degrade citizens with special needs? Who makes sure that when you make a joke about a short bus, you regret it? No one is afraid that people with special needs will lash out with the full force of their time, people, and resources…Why? Because some people in this group are dependent on caretakers and some people in this group aren’t capable of taking on that fight on their own. It kind of dissolves that “fear of retaliation” thing. So it’s time for us to get offended. It’s time for those of us who stand beside those who live with special needs to get offended. My biggest regret is that I never said the words “That’s wrong,” and “you can’t spend time in my home if that word will be a part of your vocabulary,” and “that word is hurtful,” and “I don’t care if you meant it like that.” I wish I had let the offense sink in more than the awkwardness of confrontation. So from now on, I’m just gonna get awkward and do the right thing.
I wanted to write a blog that was so smart, that had the strongest reasoning and debate. I wanted you to see past my personal motives and hear the call to live rightly. I wanted this to circulate and raise awareness. But the truth is, this word has hurt my family and me and it’s insulted my sister and so many others. If you need some big in depth explanation for why the r-word isn’t “PC,” then you should really think about what that says about you as person. If the simple fact that this word hurts others isn’t enough for you…then I’m not even mad. I pity you. I’m disappointed over your lack of care for your fellow man. And I’m sad in the life you miss out on by not caring for others outside yourself.
So let's change our language. Let's love all our fellow men and women. Let's call ourselves and our friends to a higher standard.